Photos by Brevin Blach
The economy is on the rise, so perhaps having had a pretty good year means splurging on a haute couture designer handbag this holiday season. But, zut alors! (that’s something like a four-letter- word in French), the retail prices of bags made by, par example, Louis Vuitton, Herme?s, or Chanel are, well... pretty darn haute.
What to do?
“The only way to get (a designer handbag) cheaper than retail is to buy it used,” says Sarah Davis, founder of Fashionphile. com, an online purveyor of pre- owned luxury handbags and accessories. “The brands that we sell don’t discount at all. There’s no such thing as an outlet (store) for Louis Vuitton. There’s no wholesale sources. There’s no (sales) events or irregulars.”
Davis started Fashionphile in 1999, when pursuing a law degree at the University of Maryland.
“My husband and I were both in school and so we had lots of money going out and no money coming in. So I actually started selling my own things on eBay,” says Davis. “I realized very quickly that there’s money locked up in these pieces. Women’s luxury accessories really retain their value.”
Davis admits that, despite always having considered herself entrepreneurial, she never felt like a businessperson.
“I always joked that I don’t know what a profit-and-loss statement is,” she says. “And I don’t want to know. I decided I wanted somebody onboard who knows what it is and finds it important and does all that kind of stuff.”
That somebody was her brother-in-law, Ben Hemminger, a graduate of Brigham Young University and UCLA’s prestigious Anderson School of Management. Hemminger brought his business acumen to Fashionphile in 2006 and now serves as the company’s CEO.
“It started with people asking us to help them sell their stuff, handbags specifically, and so we started taking things on consignment,” says Hemminger.
Today, Fashionphile receives its gently used inventory from sources in the U.S. and from China, Australia, Dubai and other faraway locales.
Fashionphile has three physical locations (Carlsbad, Beverly Hills, San Francisco) where folks looking to sell their bags can have their wares reviewed in-person. Another option is to upload photographs of bags for sale to Fashionphile.com.
“If the bag passes Fashionphile’s painstaking scrutiny,” Hemminger says, “We give them a price and, if they like it, we pay them.” Voila!
After purchasing a bag, Fashionphile photographs it inside and out, making sure it’s authenticated, priced and tagged properly.
“We give (customers) a 30-day return policy - for any reason, or no reason at all, (they) can return it,” says Davis. “For authenticity, we have a lifetime guarantee.”
In the luxury-reseller race, it seems Fashionphile is winning the purse.
1819 Aston Ave. Ste. 101, Carlsbad