It's no secret that I covet certain designer pieces more than is considered healthy (yes, I'm looking at you, McQ draped tartan dress and Vivienne Westwood pirate boots...) but, try as I might, I haven't yet managed to do one of those fashion diets where you live off economy baked beans and fresh air for eighteen months in order to save up for a Chanel handbag. The thing is, I just like eating and buying cheap crap too much to show that kind of religious devotion.
If you're anything like me and you don't plan on robbing a bank or marrying a senile millionaire anytime soon then you might like to consider second-hand designer sales - nicely bridging that gap between paying full whack on your credit card or going on eBay and being conned into buying a fake. This is also a great idea if you're looking for something from previous seasons which may now be in your price range. So, here's a guide to the hottest cut-price sites where you can find some verified Versus or genuine Gucci.
The Vestiaire Collective
A slick website with a buzzing online community, The Vestiaire Collective is one to watch. If you're not able to afford an item you can still add it to your wishlist, which is a nice touch and makes you feel more involved, and you can also follow an item's price reductions in case you're able to get it for a discounted rate.
A taster of the website: my search for Celine included these options
- Pros: Tons of stock from across Europe means that there's a high chance you'll find what you're looking for. Items are individually verified so don't panic about being lumbered with an expensive copy of the real thing - you're getting the original.
- Cons: Photo quality varies so some products look less desirable than others if they have been caught at an unflattering angle.
Created by Sally Ormsby, a stylist who has experience in the music industry, The Dresser was established in 1986 as a business and the website complements the physical shop near Marble Arch in London. Garnering some serious fashion press and appearing in the re-launched Clothes Show TV program, the store itself becomes accessible to a bigger audience thanks to the handy website.
- Pros: Prices are incredibly reasonable, such as £80 for a graphic print Dolce & Gabbana bag and £95 for Miu Miu heels, all of which are in top-notch condition. If you want something then get in there quick!
- Cons: The website layout is a little small in terms of typeface and image sizes on overviews so you might be squinting quite a bit.
This great British charity isn't just good for stocking up on paperback books and cool Christmas presents (their alternative Christmas catalogue is brilliant for a friend who has absolutely everything, though). The Oxfam website has a strong selection of clothing in both the main Womenswear section and the Vintage range, where I spotted Aquascutum and Jaeger, amongst others.
An example of my finds, all reasonably priced.
- Pros: You're supporting a brilliant cause and giving something back, whilst grabbing a bargain; an Aquascutum trench is just £80 and will last decades. It's easy to get specific in your request, searching by colour, brand or amount of wear.
- Cons: If you want really high-end brands then it might be better to visit the charity's shops in affluent parts of London, such as the Kings Road branch of Oxfam, where I spotted lots of designer labels on a trip there earlier this year.
Champagne and Lemonade
Branding itself as a 'luxury online fashion broker', Champagne and Lemonade takes pre-owned clothing and accessories and then professionally dry-cleans them before placing on the website. Customer satisfaction is aided by the policy of unlimited free returns, so it's easy to impulse buy knowing you can be flexible.
- Pros: There are some more affordable high-end brands including Acne, Paul + Joe Sister and T by Alexander Wang. One particular section will appeal to fussy buyers: 'Never Once Worn!'. This means you're the one to break in those new shoes or that amazing jacket, not a previous owner.
- Cons: If a designer is out of stock then it directs you to a blank page, which can be a little uninspiring. To keep customers converting into sales (sorry, I'm in website technicality mode) it would be worth considering some kind of overview of previously sold items, which will keep people excited about what kind of pieces have been available in the past.