Though Los Angeles is known for its enclaves of designer goods — think Beverly Hills’s flashy Rodeo Drive — the largest collection of rare and vintage Chanel in the United States is actually about a 90-minute drive down the California coast.
Designer Vault, which started in 2011 as an e-commerce site for thrift Chanel finds, recently recently opened its first 300-square-foot bricks-and-mortar showroom in Carlsbad, located between San Diego and Orange County. The shop showcases more than 1,500 Chanel products, primarily handbags, jewelry and other accessories, that sell for upwards of $25,000.
Joining the ranks of companies like The RealReal and Poshmark, Designer Vault and its 27-year-old founder Christina Samoylov are establishing a name in an increasingly crowded resale and consignment market.
“Designer Vault started as a very small fish in a big pond,” Samoylov said. “I wasn’t sure how to differentiate myself and really toyed around with the idea before deciding I needed to have my own niche.”
Samoylov, a lifelong fashion enthusiast with early sales associate gigs at Forever 21 and Nordstrom, serendipitously stumbled into the business of Chanel thrift when she started working toward opening her own consignment shop shortly after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
A client approached her for help selling an impressive Chanel collection worth upwards of $2 million, and the rest is history. Designer Vault quickly joined the ranks of popular sites like Prive Porter, which sells authentic secondhand Hermès bags. Designer Vault made close to $1.5 million in sales last year, and has become a favorite of celebrities like Miley Cyrus, who collaborated with the company to outfit her Bangers tour.
Chanel is among the most lucrative brands in the designer resale market, which may be a result of a rumored price increase and cost realignment within the company. TheRealReal’s 2015 company report shows that the brand is among top performing brands including Celine, Hermes, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Prada.
However, illustrious brands like Chanel have a fraught relationship with consignment shops.
“Brands might not like us because maybe they’re not at all comfortable with their products being sold online,” TheRealReal CEO Julie Wainwright told Glossy recently. “Or, they think that customers should keep their items forever, and they’re not meant to be traded around.”
Samoylov said social media plays an integral role to sales — the company makes about 10-15 percent of its sales as a direct result of posts of new offerings on Instagram and Twitter. However, she noted that the new brick-and-mortar shop, which operates on appointment only, provides a personalized experience that is enticing to consumers.
“When you go into the showroom, it drives a feeling,” Samoylov said. “You can go into any place and shop, but a lot of times you don’t leave with a feeling. A feeling turns into a memory, and that’s something you never forget.”
She added that the rise of consumer engagement with consignment is a direct result of the increase in thrift operations, ultimately driving competition and increasing return on investment for clients. At Designer Vault, clients receive between 70 and 80 percent of the return on an item, compared to companies like Tradesy, where clients garner 70 to 90 percent. Though sites like eBay have an 87 percent return rate, she noted that Designer Vault alleviates the headache of shipping, fraud and other liabilities.
The company also recently started a partnership with fashion influencers and bloggers called Real Women of Chanel, designed to feature diverse Chanel enthusiasts that embody women of all shapes and sizes.
“Just because you work in the fashion industry doesn’t mean you have to be materialistic,” Samoylov said
She looks to expand to other designer offerings down the road, as her clients have increasingly come to her for help selling items beyond Chanel.