Originally posted September 3rd, 2018 in New Orleans Living Magazine
Have you ever stood in front your closet and you think you hear the shelving and hanging rods screaming for mercy?
Do you stand in front of an overflowing closet but you swear you have nothing to wear? Are you hoarding clothing that you adore but have not worn in years or decades or own items that still have price tags?
In the world of fashion, the month of September is the equivalent of Jan. 1. Now is the time to detox your wardrobe and make room for clothing that delights you. Your closet should be a source of inspiration rather than trepidation. If any of the above questions struck a nerve, it is time for a good purge. There are obviously items in your wardrobe that would be happier elsewhere, and it is probable that there are designer and contemporary pieces that do not fit into your current lifestyle. However, these pieces may prove to be a value to someone else. Consider consigning and get some bang for your Balenciaga, and dollars for your Dior.
ALG Style has worked with Swap Boutique for nearly nine years. On both a personal and professional level, we have relied on this boutique to find our fashionable pieces and our clients’ special items a loving home. Swap opened its original location on Maple Street in Nov. 2008, expanded online in 2010, and opened new locations on Magazine Street in 2011 and Baton Rouge in 2012. Here, Michelle Reinhart, owner of Swap, provides valuable information on how, what and when to consign.
ALG Style: Define Swap.
Michelle Reinhart: Swap is a high-end consignment shop stocked with designer and contemporary labels. You’ll find brands like Vince, Rag and Bone, lululemon, Helmut Lang, Tory Burch, DVF, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin. Customers sell clothes, bags and shoes to make commission and can shop for designer labels at huge discounts. Buyers appreciate the intrinsic value of resale apparel, and consignors are making big returns on their designer wardrobes. Swap is a haven for women who love fashion.
ALG: What led you to open Swap?
MR: Early in my career, I was inspired by the boutique-like consignment stores I discovered while traveling. This consignment concept made luxury brands accessible and affordable to me, and I was hooked. New Orleans women exude style — all types of style — a collage of the traditional and avant-garde. Imagine these fashion-forward women sharing beautiful items from their closets. Also, the resale market is the newest fashion trend. Billions of pounds of clothes end up in landfills. Recycling apparel is in. The eco-conscious clients are driving the sales in our shops; they understand the environmental impact.
ALG: How do you start the consigning process at Swap, and do you have any tips to getting the best price for your pieces?
MR: Barely worn, still in style and freshly laundered are the perfect criteria for your sell pile. Separate items by season. Buyers are looking to purchase items that are ready to wear. Call Swap for an appointment, and our team can go through the consignment terms. Once your items are consigned, you can sit back and wait for your check. You have the option of picking up items that do not sell or donating them to a local charity.
The first big tip: The clothes must be cleaned! Wrinkled clothing that has been sitting in the hamper will never sell. Customers are shopping for like-new items, so make sure they are appealing. Bring in styles relevant to the savvy shopper. Lastly, if you have not worn the item for an entire season, consign it. Holding on to an unworn item only devalues the item over time. The perfect time to consign is at the front of each season. We recommend consigning each spring, summer, fall and winter. Update the donate and sell piles regularly.
ALG: There are online apps now for re-sale. How one would benefit from consigning with Swap?
MR: Our consignors find that they collectively make the most money with Swap. We consider each consignment appointment a true partnership. Our goal is to make you the best return on each item, paying 40 to 70 percent commission on each piece. Every detail of our pricing model is communicated up front, and we have a detailed inventory system if the consignor wants to track what has sold. We have donation accounts for those who want to donate their earnings to a named charity, and we provide front-door service for large appointments.
ALG: Swap also carries Mardi Gras and prom dresses. Discuss the value both as a consignor and purchaser?
MR: We begin to collect floor-length gowns for Mardi Gras and prom in October. Most women only wear a formal gown once, making it ideal to consign. On the shopping side, it is hard to justify spending too much money on a formal dress because many of the gowns get ruined at the ball. Our shoppers are able to get some incredible gowns at half of the retail price. You are also unlikely to see the same gown twice because all of our gowns are one-of-a-kind.
ALG: What is the wildest thing you have been asked to consign?
MR: The craziest repeat offender is undergarments, yet the most amazing consignments were two vintage, limited-production Chanel pearl necklaces! I still regret not buying one for myself.
ALG: What have you discovered about consignment and owning a small boutique?
MR: Consignors help inspire the shop’s selection and keep Swap stocked with amazing labels for both classic and on-trend pieces. Letting go of our things can be a very emotional process. For some, consignment is easy. For others, relinquishing items that were meaningful or costly can be paralyzing. Holding on to an unworn item only devalues the item over time. It is better to consign the items and get a bit of a return, than to hold on to the item and allow its value to diminish entirely. Consigning your items promotes sustainability, reduces clutter in your home and gives you money to spend on new trends. There is an intrinsic value and monetary value of passing on the items we no longer need.
The joy of owning a small business comes from my clients and staff. We share stories, promote each other and laugh together; it is because of this camaraderie that Swap does not feel like work. Owning Swap is more about service than it is about clothing. It is possible that you can own a business and be a mother of three if you have an amazing staff supporting you.