The stigma behind wearing second-hand clothing and accessories is fast becoming a thing of the past as consignment stores and online discount platforms are now becoming the go-to for discounted designer items. This week we speak to Sore Martins of The LuxeEvo, who talks about getting into the consignment space and how important it is to make sure you are buying the real deal with pre-owned luxury items.
Consignment stores have, over the years, become a recognised fashion retail outlet, especially for luxury goods. Tell us why did you decide to go into the business?
I have always been interested in luxury fashion because I grew up with my grandmother, who owned a fabric store in the 70s late into the 90s, and I used to sit in her stores for hours as she discussed with her customers the styles they had in mind for the fabrics. I started my business by selling new designer bags and shoes at discounted prices, which helped establish me as a reputable person when looking for authentic yet discounted luxury fashion items. But then I was quick to notice, like myself, that a few people who bought from me would either get bored with their bags or want something else. Back in the day, we would dispose of the bags by giving them out or simply throwing them away, which is bad for the environment as they are not disposed of properly, and that is why we are very much about sustainability. I moved to the UK and soon realised there was a market to tackle this, and I grabbed the opportunity.
What was your background in fashion before, and how has it helped you successfully establish and run The LuxEvo?
I would say my grandmother laid the foundation for my fashion background. My grandmother loved quality and loved to stand out. It’s still one of the reasons I struggle with fast fashion or trending items to date cause everything needed to align with her and not just because it was trendy. I enjoy thrifting as I love finding unique pieces, and you often get an interesting story about the items found. My fashion journey started early in the 2000s when I did a work experience at a fashion retail store which helped to familiarise me with designer brands, especially those I had never even heard of. After that, I worked as a stylist for a few years, and I went on to own my clothing label for a while. Fast forward to 2014, I started dabbling in preloved/preowned proper, and that’s where my consignment journey started alongside my authentication journey. I had to ensure all I got and resold were the real deal.
What are the risks of the business, and how can they be managed?
The biggest risk is letting a fake item slip through your door. There are some super fakes, but thankfully we are well equipped to know the difference. People tend to focus on a mistake, no matter how small. They will forget all the good and only remember that error. One slip up, and the business is tainted. One must be careful always to authenticate an item. If unsure, seek 3rd party opinion. Another factor is dealing with trust. Oh, there is no way this person will ever buy or own a fake bag. No, thank you, just like customs at Heathrow departure, everyone gets checked at The LuxEvo, well, in this case, every item, lol.
Authenticating products is a big part of consignment. How do you ensure at The LuxEvo that consumers are getting the real deal?
I am a certified authenticator, forever studying, forever learning. I never act like I know it all. Once a course is available, I enroll and learn. Authentication is a rigorous process. It is not just looking at a bag and nodding. I pay attention to the stitching on a Chanel bag, the number of diamond squares on the flap, the feel of the leather on a Goyard bag, and what the serial number means on a Dior bag. For instance, does it correspond with the year of production? I can sometimes tell from how a bag sits, the puffiness, and so many things not so obvious to the ordinary eye. As I said, I may not know it all, so we use independent 3rd party authenticators and a site that uses AI. We use this for our top-of-the-range purchases. For Hermes, we also use one of the most trusted authenticators in the world. Our customers rest assured as they know our authentication process is extremely thorough.
What are the certification courses one can take to help with identifying fakes, or how does one go about acquiring the skills?
There are a lot of courses floating around that one can take—some from reputable sources, some from people just looking to make a quick buck. Many people rely on google and YouTube, too, because there are lots of videos to learn from. But you must never forget everyone is teaching from their own experiences. I may teach you how to read and understand a date code, while another course will teach you how to identify the different types of leather that a particular bag is made from. Studying and learning the history of that particular designer and their classics is important. For instance, knowing what year Louis Vuitton changed the format of their date code, when Karl Lagerfeld replaced the chain initially used by Madam Coco (Chanel), or when Hermes moved the code on the Birkin and what does it even mean. You must know these things. They are all part of the authentication process, and things keep changing with so many designers and new creative directors. As I said, I am learning every day. Even when I research for my training, I stumble on new items and acquire knowledge.
What advice will you give anyone who wants to buy from a consignment store so as not to be sold a fake for real?
Buy from a reputable person or store. Familiarise yourself with what you are buying. If in doubt, ask questions ask lots of questions. If the seller is hesitant, they don’t have enough experience as an authenticator to assure you, or they are simply trying to pass on a knockoff. Either way, walk away. I must make sure that whatever I am selling to you is authentic, so I must make you comfortable in your purchase by answering all your queries/enquiries, and I always encourage and welcome lots of questions. I still get a few; how are you sure, and then we move on to a more extensive research and explanation. As an independent authenticator, I charge a small fee, so you can also contact me should you need such services.
Though consignment stores have been around for a while, many still have misconceptions. What common misconceptions do people have about consignment shopping, and why are they false?
Consignment stores are resale stores. Most serve as a middleman between buyer and seller. If you want to sell your item, I’ll do that for you at a commission. I take off the headache of haggling and doubt about the authenticity of the item being sold or bought. The biggest misconception in Nigeria is the superstitious belief that wearing something already worn by another means that you are stepping into their unknown destiny. I would say laughable, but it is a very serious thing, quite spiritual for some. That superstition is a significant hindrance. Also, thinking because one wears or buys preloved, they are poor. Some items are no longer readily available in stores, and you can only find them on the second-hand market. Chanel has stopped using exotic leather, and so has Burberry, so where would you find such? On the resale market. Even celebrities buy preloved and flaunt it, so I have no idea why people turn up their noses at preloved. Another misconception is thinking everything in a consignment store has been used or worn. No, we get many unworn items in their original condition, as they came straight from the factory. That is the difference between preloved and pre-owned.
In your view, what factors drive the resale market’s growth?
The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters of the environment, second only to crude oil. The resale market promotes and encourages sustainability. We practice what we preach. The growth can be primarily attributed to a change in consumer demographics. We now have Gen Z and millennials, who buy the most today. This new generation are more environmentally conscious compared to previous generations. Most of them believe that sustainability is key and apply this when shopping. In the resale market, we offer significant cost savings on retail products and help customers play an active role in protecting the environment while saving money. Over consumption is detrimental to the environment; this is very much what fast fashion is.
With so many players in the resale market, why should consumers buy from The LuxEvo instead of turning to other competitors?
The LuxoEvo is an established, experienced and trusted reseller. We have just recently launched a site where customers can upload their items and sell confidently, so we have moved from just being another consignment store. All items are authenticated before being sent to their new owners.
I do not take my job as an authenticator lightly, I have all sorts of certifications from numerous training courses, but the learning never stops. With continued learning, our expertise is second to none, our reputation is key, and gladly it is solid. So, buyers are rest assured all their purchases have passed all checks before landing on their doorstep and in their closet.
What advice do you have for someone who may want to go into the consignment business? Make sure you have an in-house authenticator and are also familiar with what you sell. Never take on an item based on trust; you must check and ensure it is what it should be. Engage independent authenticators when necessary. In this business, you can only establish yourself as one who doesn’t sell fakes. That is when customers trust you. Discretion is also key. Celebrities and private buyers prefer anonymity. There is still a lot of misconception regarding preloved in Nigeria, so people like to deal quietly.