The only thing better than investing in a designer bag is finding one at a discount. But the problem is that brands like Louis Vuitton historically do not mark down products (in order to control brand image and value), and you’ll rarely find a Chanel bag on clearance in-store. The loophole? Shopping secondhand. We know, we know—this seems like an obvious, sustainable solution, but the task can be daunting.
The fear of being scammed is real. “Super fakes” or “triple-A fakes” are almost indistinguishable from authentic luxury goods, and even a pair of trained eyes can be confused by the quality. As scary as that sounds, there are ways to shop smart. We spoke to experts in the field to help navigate the search for your dream bag, including where to shop and helpful tips on how to avoid being duped.
First things first, do your homework
“Researching is the key to making a successful secondhand purchase,” says Charles Gorra, CEO and founder of resale platform Rebag. “If you don’t have dozens of tabs open on your web browser, then it’s possible you haven’t done enough research.” He suggests checking blogs and forums for peer-to-peer reviews and cross-comparing resale sites to ensure prices are legit. Remember the age-old adage: if it seems too good to be true—i.e. the bag costs way below its resale market value—it probably is.
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Buy from reputable sellers
The best types of sellers tend to have detailed descriptions of the bag with plenty of information, plus a variety of photos showcasing it at different angles. Gorra suggests looking for “sellers that are responsive and willing to give more information.” You’re looking for complete transparency from the seller, because they should have nothing to hide. Sasha Skoda, head of The RealReal’s women’s department, agrees. “If you’re investing in a luxury handbag, you want to be positive you’re buying from a legitimate source that authenticates bags and has an authenticity guarantee,” she says. “Make sure you’re clear on the site or seller’s return policy, so you know what your options are if something is off.”
Know the value of your bag
“You will get back a substantial ROI for a luxury brand, compared to an aspirational luxury brand,” says Gorra. Chanel’s flap bags and Hermès Birkins are classic handbag styles because their superior quality makes them outlast others. Skoda shares the same sentiment, noting “Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Prada, and Goyard are some of [The RealReal’s] most popular handbag designers—and that demand translates into strong resale value for consignors.”
When it comes to contemporary labels, you’re likely to get more bang for your buck. “If you’re hunting for a great deal, consider a style that speaks to you but is from a few seasons back (like the Loewe Puzzle Bag or The Row Hunting Bag) or bags from more emerging designers—we love Staud and Cult Gaia,” says Skoda.
The last option is going vintage. With brands like Dior dipping into the archives for inspiration and reissuing iconic shapes like the Saddle, “the participation of brands in ‘vintage revival’ has resulted in the popularization of the original vintage pieces, thus increasing their resale value within the market,” says Gorra. You’re still on-trend, because what’s old is always new again, but at a fraction of the cost.
Now that you’ve had a quick 101 lesson on shopping secondhand, use your newfound knowledge to shop 13 reputable sites below.
The idea behind Rebag is to refresh your wardrobe constantly. Here, you’ll find everything from hard-to-get Kelly bags to kooky Chanel accessories you only saw on the runway. It’s a veritable candy shop of designer goods, where every item is examined by an in-house team that inspects, vets, and approves all bags sold.
1stdibs, a mega destination for antique furniture, jewelry, art, and fashion, can feel a little daunting at first. Think of this online marketplace as the middleman between you and vetted shops and galleries around the world. Treat it as a one-stop destination for that Roly Poly chair you’ve been eyeing on Instagram, authentic vintage fashion in incredible condition, and designer bags at every price point.
Recently expanding from its sneaker roots (also an active re-sale marketplace) to include bags in its stock market-like format, StockX is where the hypebaes shop. Once you find a bag you love, you can place a bid below the asking price and wait for the seller to approve. It’s similar to eBay’s “make an offer” option versus “buy it now.”
Based in San Francisco, this tech-first company is one of the most well-known resale sites. Browsing the plethora of consigned goods on The RealReal is all about spontaneous discovery, with offerings like handbags, clothing, and even housewares. Its brick and mortar locations are a playground of quirky styles, and the Soho store even has a secret Hermès vault filled to the ceiling with colorful Birkins.
Vestiaire Collective is a community of over 3 million users both buying and selling pre-owned items. Once you add items to your cart, the product goes through rigorous authentication and quality control processes to ensure it’s exactly what you expected before it’s sent to you. If any issues occur and there are discrepancies about the product’s description, the company will help you and the seller haggle the price down, too.
Founded by two former fashion editors, Paris-based Re-SEE offers a highly curated selection of covetable secondhand and rare vintage bags. You won’t have to sift through pages of seemingly identical Neverfulls and 2.55s to find a special piece that’s effortlessly trendy. Each item is handpicked by its editors, then authenticated and restored by a team of experts in an effort to make sure that great fashion stays in circulation.
Farfetch is one of the luxury e-commerce forces that brought pre-owned items back to the forefront of fashion. Ever since the global platform—which connects shoppers with independent boutiques around the world—rolled out its Second Life designer bag selling program in 2019, the site has become a destination to find some of the most iconic vintage bags out there. Whether you’re looking for pristine Hermès Kellys from the ’70s, iconic Chanel styles from the ’90s, or that limited-issue Dior bag you just couldn’t manage to get your hands on, you can find it at Farfetch.
Bag Borrow or Steal
We all remember Bag Borrow or Steal’s iconic cameo in the Sex and the City movie back in 2008, and the service is still going strong over a decade later. While it still offers rentals (like the one Jennifer Hudson’s character took advantage of), you can also opt to buy a bag.
Thanks to a rigorous authentication program, you can now be assured that the luxury bag you finally tracked down on eBay is worthy of a bid. Any listing stamped with the marketplace’s “Authenticity Guarantee” goes through a multi-point physical inspection by eBay’s team of authenticators and receives a NFC-enabled authentication card for you to learn more about your bag.
What Goes Around Comes Around
WGACA is one of Los Angeles and New York City’s most beloved vintage stores. It makes sense, then, that it’s frequented by celebs like Beyoncé and the Kardashians, who love the tight edit of well-kept Chanels, Guccis, and Saint Laurents of designers’ pasts. It feels like shopping from someone’s (really good) personal closet, in pristine condition. These high standards mean you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
Founded in 1999, Fashionphile originally started off selling high-end items on eBay before it became the luxury resale giant it is today. You can buy and sell on its sleek site simultaneously, meaning you can use your credit to fuel your continuing fashion addiction. If you happen to be in California, its three real-life stores are not to be missed; for city dwellers, there’s a newly opened 60,000-square-foot HQ in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. Fashionphile also partnered with Neiman Marcus, redefining the resale industry as an inclusive experience, dubbing the venture as a new strategy for “recommerce.”
There’s always something new to browse over at Yoogi’s Closet. The authenticating process involves sellers sending in bags, which are then examined and photographed before the team posts them on the site for you to shop. This site is known for top-notch customer service, so you can be certain you’re in good hands.
The Luxury Closet
With discounts up to 90 percent off retail value, you don’t want to miss out on The Luxury Closet. Based in Dubai, the retailer focuses on everything from designer shoes, clothing, and, notably, handbags—you can find it all! Specifically, peep the wide-ranging selection, from classic LVs to Gucci’s collaboration with Comme des Garçons.
Justine Carreon is the market editor at ELLE.com covering fashion, Dutch ovens, and fashion again. When she isn’t approaching style through a modern, accessible lens, she’s scouring eBay for vintage Levi’s and pretending she knows how to surf. Before joining ELLE.com in 2015 she worked as a freelance writer and stylist in New York City.