Reselling luxury clothing and accessories is more popular than ever

The luxury consignment market, estimated at more than $25 billion in 2020, is predicted to grow at a 10 to 15 percent rate per year over this decade. Here's why business is booming in metro Atlanta.

Agora Vintage
Airee Edwards has owned Agora Vintage for more than 20 years.

Photograph by Wedig + Laxton

In August, Airee Edwards, owner of Agora Vintage in Athens, had Covid—no problem: She just sold a red Hermès Birkin bag on Instagram Live for $9,900. The work-from-home era hasn’t stopped the growing demand for luxury preowned goods, especially in Atlanta, where you can now find a local “concierge” consignment boutique, Jerrimiah James, and a national luxury reseller, the RealReal, just steps away from Hermès itself in Buckhead.

According to a McKinsey report, the luxury consignment market, estimated at more than $25 billion in 2020, is predicted to grow at a 10 to 15 percent rate per year over this decade. Patricia Andrews, the owner of the Finer Consigner in Johns Creek, sells everything from classic St. John Knits to contemporary Zimmermann. She’s been in the business for more than 30 years and believes today’s shoppers are “smarter with their money.”

And there’s good reason to invest in luxury. A study by online consigner Baghunter found that, between 1985—about the time Hermès introduced the Birkin—and 2015, the iconic bag increased about 14 percent in value per year—compared to gold, which increased just under 2 percent. Appreciation is even greater if you didn’t buy new. Edwards says, “The prices are almost always fluid in consignment. Some discounts can be significant. Depending on condition, we regularly sell items for thousands less than retail.”

Reselling has also become more appealing as it’s become clear that fast fashion is harmful for the environment. For example, fashion production now accounts for 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, and 85 percent of all textiles end up in landfills each year. “Coming out of the pandemic, we’re seeing more and more that people are shopping their values and are striving to live more sustainably,” says Kelly McSweeney, women’s merchandising manager for the RealReal. “Now more than ever, consumers understand the benefits to the planet of keeping items in circulation.”

Agora Vintage
Agora Vintage in Athens stocks rare finds like this Porosus Crocodile Hermès Birkin with palladium hardware (price upon request).

Photograph by Wedig + Laxton

Sarah Davis is founder and president of California-based Fashionphile, which has a Selling Studio inside Neiman Marcus at Lenox Square. Their stores purchase sellers’ inventory up front rather than consigning it. Davis notes that recycled fashion is nothing new—the Salvation Army introduced thrift stores in the late 1800s. “What we have now, though,” she adds, “is technology and scale to add to an already attractive model.” Sales at her company rose more than 100 percent between 2020 and 2021.

Buyers know their stuff and are getting very specific with their requests, says McSweeney. For example, from 2021 to 2022, searches for Tom Ford–era Gucci increased by 138 percent, she says, adding that, in Atlanta, Gucci is the top brand. Classics like Chanel are also consistent bestsellers here, as is Hermès, with Atlantans preferring their Birkin and Kelly bags in bright colors over neutrals. Atlantans “gravitate towards bright, colorful accessories and brand signatures like logos and recognizable hardware details,” she says.

For Carrie Fowler, an Ansley Park–based interior designer, luxury consignment is a way not only to satisfy her love of the hunt but also to enjoy purchasing new items efficiently. “You can reconsign items as your taste and needs change,” she says. “It’s not uncommon that I recoup more than 50 percent of what I purchased [a piece] for when I resell it.” She gravitates towards mostly jewelry, shoes, and handbags from Chloe, Celine, and her “holy grail,” Chanel.

This article appears in our October 2022 issue.