The Second-Hand Shopperis a new franchise that sees Who What Wear’s shopping editor, Joy Montgomery, join forces with some of the industry’s coolest vintage brands to show you that second-hand does not have to mean second-best. This series will give you exclusive access to sellout second-hand drops, which will be hand-selected by our editor and styled to show how you can wear them for the season ahead. Prepare to get clicking because these pieces won’t stick around for long.
There haven’t been many times in my life when I’ve been asked to wear a pair of white gloves to handle an inanimate object, but as I reached into the dust bag of a £13.5K Hermès Kelly in the basement of Sellier Knightsbridge, I felt rather grateful for the thin layer of cotton protecting me and my sweaty hands from any threat of financial ruin. Welcome, readers, to the high-stakes world of preloved designer handbags.
Founded in 2010 by mother-and-daughter duo Hanushka Toni and Dina Ibrahimova, Sellier Knightsbridge is a luxury second-hand fashion store that sits on a quiet street just off south London’s bustling Brompton Road. With its narrow shopfront and white-washed exterior, it would be easy to walk straight past it (which I did twice before realising my mistake), yet inside it is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of preloved designer gems. While you will find plenty of Chanel tweed jackets and Gucci platforms hidden in its depths, the majority of its sales—roughly 65%—come from handbags, which is precisely why I was there, cradling a tiny handbag like a newborn baby on a sunny September morning.
As I studied the immaculate craftsmanship of this holy grail of handbags, I was told that 90% of Hermès bags are sold within three days, with the most expensive ever sold being an Hermès Kelly for a whopping £15,000—three times its RRP. No biggie. Indeed, Sellier is known as the number one reseller of Hermès in the UK, a thriving and lucrative market due to the scarcity of new models that are released every year. (The store manager told me about a client who was on the waiting list for seven years.)
And while Sellier is certainly regarded as a go-to for such rare pieces, it is also a gold mine for sought-after contemporary handbags from the likes of Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent and Prada. The brand has also recently set up a website in an attempt to expand its reach, and despite its prestigious reputation, the store manager is keen to impress on me the range of their clientele: from Gen Zers looking for a sub-£300 Simone Rocha tote to people investing in a long-awaited Chanel 2.55. In the first month, online turnover was just shy of £90K.
The vintage and second-hand industries have gone from strength to strength over the last year, but it’s not without its pitfalls, and unsurprisingly, counterfeits are aplenty within the preloved-bag market. I have always wanted to include a designer-bag specialist in my Second-Hand Shopper franchise, but when I did, I wanted to ensure that it was a brand that had all the right credentials, which, thankfully, Sellier does. I spoke with Toni over email about navigating the murky waters of authentication and the changes she has witnessed in the preloved world over the last decade. Scroll down to read the interview and to shop my exclusive Sellier bag edit.
What inspired you to set up a preloved fashion brand?
We have always been passionate about the idea of preloved luxury. However, we found ourselves increasingly frustrated by the experience of shopping preloved when so much of the market was filled with old, tired and undesirable pieces. We wanted Sellier to feel like a beautifully curated gallery where everyone, irrespective of their budget, could find something truly special. To this day, our pieces are carefully curated by us, meaning that they are in amazing condition, still relevant from a style point of view, the right price and, most important of all, authentic.
How has the vintage market changed since you launched?
It’s amazing how much the market has changed in all but a few short years. We have seen a greater awareness amongst consumers about the importance of sustainable shopping habits and also a greater appreciation of the sorts of pieces one can pick up preloved. Where that is most evident is with “best-in-class” vintage handbags. We have seen an increased appetite for vintage Chanel, to the point that vintage Chanel pieces now trump more recent pieces for popularity and resale value.
How do you guarantee authenticity when it comes to selling second-hand designer bags?
We have a three-stage authentication process, meaning that each product goes through several thorough stages of verification before it is offered to our clients. We firstly rely on our in-house expertise to carefully inspect each piece. We use all of our senses to examine all aspects of the item including the accompanying dust bag, packing paper and box.
We also have a designated brand expert for each of the superbrands we sell. This means that we do not have individuals authenticating across all the brands. We instead have leading experts for each brand authenticating that brand and that brand alone.
As an additional layer of authentication, we use the latest cutting-edge authentication technology to give our clients that additional peace of mind. The technology we use takes microscopic images of each bag and compares them to a cloud-based database of images before an AI algorithm evaluates the authenticity and provides us with a result in real time.
By ensuring our authentication processes make use of both technology and decades worth of human experience, we can be sure that we only ever offer our clients beautifully curated pieces that have been carefully vetted. Meaningful authentication lies at the very heart of what we stand for as a business and is the reason we can offer our clients a full-money-back guarantee in respect of each and every sale.
Up Next: How to Find the Best Vintage Pieces, According to a Second-Hand Expert