Inside the booming Irish market for pre-loved fashion

“There is often no need to choose between affordable and luxurious when it comes to pre-loved,” states Ella De Guzman, founder of Siopaella, a boutique that specializes in second-hand Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès accessories. One of the most well-known faces on the Irish preloved scene, Ella honed her craft in her native Canada before spotting a gap in the Irish market.

She made a bold move opening her first store in Dublin at the start of the recession, but has never looked back. “The meaning of the Irish word row is ‘other’ so I felt the name was a perfect fit, as we represented another way to shop high-end accessories when we first opened,” Ella says.

The appetite here at home and across the globe for pre-loved investment pieces has skyrocketed since. According to The RealReal 2021 Resale Report, it is “expected to grow faster than the broader retail clothing sector by 2025.” This US site is just the place to buy a piece of fashion history, be it “old” Celine square-toe mules in Phoebe Philo’s minimalist signature style for under €125, or a Dior Saddle Bag from the 2000 collection by John Galliano for just over €2,000.

When buying second-hand, try asking the seller if they have an interesting backstory on the design, brand or the previous owner that will add value. “We enjoy every second of nerding-out with our clients,” admits Terri McInerney of Irish jewelery reseller Inné. Building a network of sellers that know your style is not far off having personal shoppers on hand, and Terri says, “If there is a particular piece of jewelery you are looking for, give us a shout and we will hunt it down.”

Laura Liena Elizabeth, founder of Belgian online vintage store Untitled 1991 specializes in nineties revival mainstays such as Ralph Lauren button-downs (starting at just €49), Hugo Boss boxy blazers (from €119) and the increasingly difficult-to-find Levi’s 501s (barely worn for €59). She explains that stores like hers “do all the hard work for you by curating each collection. All you have to do is find a store with a similar aesthetic to your own, and chances are that the stock will speak to you now or in the future.” Armelle Mitchell of designer consignment store No 38 in Ranelagh explains that for this reason, it’s a good idea to keep coming back. “The turnover in a shop like mine is much greater than in main street shops as we get new drops every week. At the moment, I have three classic Chanel jackets in stock including a black bouclé four-pocket one that is off the charts and won’t last long.”

Following your favorite boutiques on Instagram means that your feed has more second-hand options, and as Katie-Ruby Robinson, creative director of Rêverie spells out, “No two collections are ever the same, so social is the best way to stay up to date.”

If the lack of returns puts you off, then try buying from boutiques like Sign of the Times, which will refund you in full. (It’s a favorite spot of supermodels and British Vogue 2022 cover star Kristen McMenamy.) Expect to find London-based designers at a fraction of their original price; for example, a strapless ruched Molly Goddard top for £164 (approx €196), around half its original retail price, or a blue striped frill shirt and trouser set by Simone Rocha with a saving of £677 (approx €812).

Admittedly, it takes a modicum of patience to scroll through the mega-sites, but Dublin native Jessica Garland-Blake, one of the most fashionable event managers in London, has a penchant for Vestiaire Collective and knows how to get the most out of it. She explains, “I have alerts set up for a few items at all times. My favorite finds in the last year have been an amazing 16Arlington dress with feather cuffs, and major pink suede Prada platforms.” Take a leaf out of Jessica’s book and identify the gaps in your closet, know your measurements, and the fits, designs, patterns and brands you love and set up the alerts to match. You can also keep an eye out for those items that got away. For Jessica, “it’s a silk Dries Van Noten open jacket from the SS16 show, where he showed off his love of brocades, jacquards and shot silks. I was loaned it for Fashion Week and I still kick myself for not splurging!”

Finding the latest trends using these alerts or the keen eyes of boutique owners means that whatever is top of your list is sure to be sourceable second-hand this spring. For a frilly collar shirt, check out Pandora Sykes’s favorite prairie shirt seller Strange Moon Vintage on Etsy (starting at €39), or if an oversized trench is what you’re after, try Vintage Magasinet on ASOS Marketplace. Often the catwalks take their cue from the past. Noted Irish designer Helen Cody gathers “a significant part of [her] research and inspiration from treasured vintage pieces from the 1880s, 1900s and 1920s”.

Ella of Siopaella advises to “ask for additional photos of the neckline, armholes, cuffs and interior hemlines for wear and tear. When it comes to handbags, you have to be mindful of the straps and if there’s any cracking in the leather.” For this reason, checking the fine print is a must. If there is a visible tear or scuff, try showing your local tailor or cobbler the images before you buy to see if they think they can bring it back to its former glory.

Pre-loved fashion shopping in Ireland has come a long way since Ella set up her eponymous store in 2011. She reveals that since then, Siopaella has “resold more than 150,000 items to over 19,000 customers,” and the way we view vintage in Ireland has changed dramatically. The difference, she explains, is in our attitude to clothes. She sees herself as the protector, not the owner, of her wardrobe. “I have always purchased clothing knowing that I would be reselling, so it was important to take care of it,” she says. It seems like an ideal mantra: buy quality, care for it well, and find it a new home once it’s served you. The best part is, it’s now easy to find a (not) new piece to replace it.

The Directory

Our top 10 pre-loved sellers…

Cobbler’s Wardrobe This collection is full of hero investment pieces: think Dior J’Adior sling-back pumps and Ganni leopard print dresses. cobblerswardrobe.com

Dirty Fabulous Kknown for retro-cool dresses with feminine flair, this sister-run boutique will have you wedding-ready in seconds flat. dirtyfabulous.com

Inné Jewellery For good value gold, discover Terri McInerney’s edit of exquisite pieces, from the perfect gold hoops to one-of-a-kind opals, for a steal. @innejewellery

From 38 A designer-heavy curation full of coveted brands that doesn’t disappoint; be inspired by Armelle’s curation online and in her Ranelagh treasure trove. from38dunville.com

Dreams If you’re looking for something on-trend, find fun pieces like rhinestone Prada logo tees from this Irish-owned online store. Keep an eye on Instagram for their drop dates. shopreverievintage.com

Sign of the Times Your fun-filled wardrobe starts here, with color courtesy of Rixo and cool cuts care of Jil Sander. wearesott.com

Siopaella Specialists in designer handbags; the perfect place to meet your perfect plus-one, with an impeccable collection and reputation. siopaella.com

The RealReal No matter the season or trend, this US mega-site stocks classic styles that promise to stand the test of time for all budgets. therealreal.com

Untitled 1991 Bring some Scandi retro flair to your wardrobe with androgynous oversized blazers and straight-cut jeans. untitled1991.com

Vestiaire Collective Learn a thing or two about alerts and let this Aladdin’s cave do the work for you. vestiairecollective.com

This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of IMAGE Magazine.

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