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Manolo Blahnik, Chanel, Hermès—these are just a few of the brands that Vaunte co-founders Leah Park and Christian Leone sort through on a regular basis. Park and Leone launched their online luxury consignment shop after meeting and working together at Gilt Groupe, an experience that taught both fashion world pros about the ins and outs of e-shopping. Now, they are plundering the closets of the type of women who were Gilt's early adopters—monied, stylish and really into shopping—for their new venture. Racked sat down with the duo on their first West Coast buying trip to talk about what it's like browsing the wardrobes of NYC's (and now LA's) most wealthy women.
What's the most impressive thing you've tracked down in someone's closet?
Leah: For me, it's not one item but it's that this one starlet [aka a consignor]—her entire closet that she gave us was vintage Chanel. Every single item.
Christian: We took about 40 to 50 items. She had probably 300 items and we're actually going to replenish the closet [online]. She wanted to see how it would sell, she wanted to test it. And we've done really well with it. It's a lot of nineties Chanel.
Leah: It's vintage Chanel she's worn once.
Christian: She has two daughters, both of which are in high school, and for a long time she was saving it because she wanted to give it to her daughters. And they are just not interested. They want Alexander Wang. And she's like, 'Honestly, I don't think it's going to change.' When I was young, all my girlfriends wanted to borrow their mother's Chanel chain bags. These days, teenagers want to dress a little funkier.
Have you ever come across a piece in someone's closet that you wanted to buy for yourself instead of putting it up on the site?
Leah: Absolutely. And when the clothes come in, every single girl in the office walks over and combs through it. All the girls are obsessed.
Christian: I unfortunately can't buy anything, but so many girls call me and are like, do you think I should get this? Be honest.
Leah: They [the women featured on the site] buy from each other.
Christian: I was at a part right before Christmas at Bronson Van Wyck's [in New York] and Meredith Melling Burke from Vogue was there and Jill Kargman was there and Veronica Beard was there. And we'd profiled both Veronica and Jill. And Meredith was like, 'Veronica, I bought your Chloé dress.' And she's like, 'You did?! I bet it didn't fit you, I'm so much bigger than you.' And Meredith said, 'No, it fit me perfectly.' And Veronica said, 'I love your little Dennis Basso fur' and Jill was like, 'I know, it sold the first day!' Then Jill said, 'I saw that Chloé dress—it's not really my style but I loved it.' And it was fun to see how they all were talking about these items and their closets. This was a month after we launched and a designer, a writer and a Vogue editor were all talking about something that we did.
How do you decide how much things are going to cost?
Leah: We value pieces by wear and tear, brand name and the style. Is it current, is it going to sell? It's typically discounted; sometimes, though, pieces go up in value. I purchased a Chanel bag at Bergdorf while I was working there and it was a very special one with perforations but a classic look. And I sold it for almost a thousand dollars more than I bought it for. And its value is going up and up.
What's the most expensive item that you've sold?
Leah: That Chanel bag for $3,000.
What brands are your biggest sellers?
Christian: Chanel, Gucci, Chloe, Hermes. Chanel ballet flats? Poof, gone.
Leah: Chanel, Louboutin. But our ready-to-wear sells well, too, because everything is brand-name and in amazing condition. And we want to style it in a way that is a little more fresh and risky. We want to show edge and a point of view.
How do your starlets in LA differ from those in New York?
Christian: We have women do questionnaires. In New York, a lot of women have T. Anthony luggage and their favorite flower is the peony. And in LA, T. Anthony is not the luggage and peony still is a popular flower, but women are definitely more edgy here. Maybe it's because the women we've shot in New York—they're not classic in terms of their fashion but kind of in an uptown lady sort of way. There's that traditional New York, boarding school thing...
Leah: ?the uniform, it's a lot of black, versus a more free, flowy, sheer, lacy and colorful. Slightly more feminine.
Christian: What I find very similar is that the women we're shooting in New York and the women we're shooting in LA—they all know each other. It's very connected. Tomorrow we're shooting Heather Taylor and Simone LeBlanc. Simone sent me an email saying, 'You're shooting Heather tomorrow at 11 and me at noon, should I plan that you're going to be later?' And I said 'No, we have two teams.' But I love that they all talk about it.
Leah: We were at Clare Vivier's today and I asked, 'Where's all your stuff?' And she said, 'Oh I forgot to bring it.' I responded, 'You're going to have to send it to New York.' And she said, 'Since you're shooting Heather tomorrow I'll just drop it off at the shoot.' We didn't tell them!
Christian: It's kind of what we want, we want that community.
If you're not currently a member, Leah and Christian have provided this link just for Racked readers.
· Vaunte [Official Site]
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