Here’s a style-meets-sustainability win! Love that Bag etc, the leading online consignment destination in Canada for authentic pre-owned designer handbags, fashions and accessories, has launched its Vancouver satellite office. Based in Montreal, the brand specializes in consigning luxury brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Dior, Gucci and more. We chatted with Caroline Reny, president, about what makes Love that Bag etc such a unique designer-goods consignment service, and found out what her ultimate dream bag is! —Vita Daily
Hi Caroline! Please tell us a bit about your (fashionable) self to start!
I’m the owner of Love that Bag etc; I acquired Love that Bag in 2018, which at the time, exclusively sold designer handbags and related accessories online on consignment. Prior to the acquisition I had my own online luxury consignment store, Own The Couture, which sold not only designer handbags but also designer shoes, accessories, jewelry and clothing. In the early days of Own The Couture, I met the then-owner of Love that Bag and, after immediately hitting it off, we decided to join forces on a pop-up sale in Montreal. Over the years, even though we were competitors, we continued to maintain a healthy relationship and, when she decided to retire, it was a great opportunity for me to step in and merge Own The Couture with the new Love that Bag etc.
When, why and how did you launch Love That Bag etc?
When I started Own the Couture, I was not in fashion at all, as I’d spent most of my career in marketing and PR. I did complete a college degree in fashion merchandising, but never pursued a career in the fashion industry after university. However, I’ve always been an avid online shopper and got into the concept of buying pre-owned designer goods from my mother, who lived in Europe, where it was quite typical to shop in your neighbourhood consignment store—where you would walk in with a Burberry trench coat to sell and walk out with a Prada bag. I loved the idea of buying designer fashions for a fraction of the price and shopped sites in the U.S. and Europe, which offered pre-owned designer goods. I was, however, quite frustrated with the lack of a Canadian option, as it meant that I had to pay high duties and shipping fees in addition to the cost of my order. And that’s why I decided to launch Own The Couture in 2013.
Tell us about the service: how does it work (from consigning to buying to authentication), what makes it unique?
We try to make it easy for both the consignor and the buyers. Firstly, when it comes to selling, there are many ways you can get rid of your unwanted designer goods, depending on how you want to sell. They will all entail a degree of work and involvement, such as photographing your own items, determining a price, managing requests for those who want a deal, shipping or arranging a meeting to hand off your item to the buyer, etc. We differentiate ourselves by taking care of the whole process for our clients and keeping it simple for them. If a client has five or more luxury items to consign, we’ll come to them to pick up the items, offering a level of discretion that is very much appreciated by our clients. We take all the work off your hands and you simply have to wait for the payment to be deposited into your account once the item has sold. And this is exactly why we wanted to open an office in Vancouver. We wanted to bring over the level of personal service that our Montreal clients have always appreciated. Most importantly, we’re able to help our consignors declutter and successfully help them find a second home for their designer goods. Being online not only allows us to reach shoppers around the world but our Alert system, which has a waiting list of 9,500-plus shoppers, ensures that our bags sell quickly. Shoppers create an Alert where they identify their dream bag or a general line and they are then automatically advised the second their bag appears on our site. This at times will result in bags selling within a minute from the time that they are made available on the site.
Since we’re exclusively an online store, we do pay particular attention to the online experience for the shopper. We are, after all, selling designer goods; the experience should reflect that. We not only provide a detailed description of each item along with its measurements, but include detailed photos of the condition. We want the customer to feel confident about what they are buying, knowing that what they see is exactly what they will receive. The “what you see is what you get” can, however, become problematic, as detailed photos that can be enlarged will actually make a small scratch, which is barely visible to the naked eye, much worse than it actually is. For this reason we cannot accept bags that have too much wear as the photos over-emphasize the wear and will therefore make it impossible to sell online. This has made us unique from other resellers as we limit what we can accept as the items must be nearly new, pristine or in excellent condition. It also helps in moving away from the past misconception that buying pre-loved meant that you were buying something that was no longer in fashion, that was worn, used and old. This is not the case with Love that Bag etc, as many items are still available in stores! We’re trying to offer a shopping alternative to buying retail and paying retail prices, and we now see that the popularity of buying pre-owned and the pre-owned market has far outpaced the fast fashion industry.
The last and most important concern for us and our clients is authenticity. This is, after all, the greatest threat to our business: counterfeiters are producing better and smarter fakes, of which there is a proliferation throughout Instagram, Facebook and ebay. We can guarantee authenticity, as we not only have the expertise to authenticate internally, but we also use the most reputable third-party authenticator to guarantee the authentication, Entrupy. In fact, this handbag authentication device is now even being used by retail outlets such as Nordstrom to verify and authenticate their returns, in case returns are switched for counterfeit items.
There is definitely a sustainability component here, in terms of the resell aspect of your business (and we LOVE that). Can you speak a little more to that, and how secondhand/the circular economy, even (especially?) when it comes to luxury or high-end products like handbags, fashion and accessories, just makes sense?
After the petroleum industry, the fashion industry is the biggest polluting industry. Thankfully many designers now are trying to address this, but one of the biggest offenders is fast fashion. Not only for the pollution created in the production and shipping process, but because these clothes are worn for a season and then thrown away. The difference with luxury fashions is that they are made to last, which means they can have more than one lifetime. Many items, such as accessories and handbags, are timeless and can be loved from generation to generation. They say that buying secondhand can extend the life of an item by two-and-a-half years. Not only is it better for the environment, but it is better for the shopper, with favourable purchase pricing and the option to earn some money back at the other end. We have many customers that tell us that it actually has an influence on what they will buy. They will buy less, but more designer items because they know they can resell them. In other words, they will buy with the intent to resell instead of throwing them out, knowing that luxury goods are beautifully crafted items, which are made to last.
Welcome to Vancouver! Please tell our local readers more about your new office, and why you decided to open up shop on the West Coast.
Thank you, we’re quite excited to be in Vancouver. I’ve imagined this for Love that Bag etc for quite some time. We opened an office (not a store, by the way, as we’re exclusively online) because we wanted to offer Vancouver locals the same service that we have provided to our Montreal consignors—that is, a more personal service. We do receive bags and designer items from across the country, but we decided that our first satellite office should be in Vancouver as we do have many clients who ship to us from the area, and what better way to serve them then to be able to come to them?! Our West Coast consignment co-ordinator, Claire Stobbart, is there to receive clients at our downtown office, or available to go to clients’ homes to pick up their items.
We hear that “doing good” is also an important part of your business; please tell us about the charitable causes you support.
Well, we are a company of women who serve women. We not only help our clients with finding new homes for their unwanted designer goods, but we also help our female shoppers in finding that designer treasure they’ve always wanted. The idea to help women’s shelters seemed like a perfect fit, and so the idea for the Handbag Project just sort of presented itself to us organically. As I mentioned, since our standards are very high in terms of the condition of the bags that we can accept, there are many bags that essentially don’t make the cut even though they are in good condition, or at times it may just be a brand or designer that we do not accept. In these cases, we ask our customers if they wish to contribute to the Handbag Project. If they agree, we will fill their handbags with cosmetics and personal-care beauty products and bring them to women’s shelters in the city, like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. Every woman needs a handbag after all!
Final, personal question: if you could only carry ONE handbag, which would it be?
That’s a tough question; there are so many bags to love! I am, however, a lover of crossbodies, so that is my first requirement as I need my hands to be free. So yes, if I’m going to dream big it would be the Chanel 19 Medium flap bag. I absolutely adore this reinvention of the Chanel flap bag; the three colours of hardware make it more modern and the size and puffiness of the quilting make it more insouciant, fresh and youthful. My only concern is the delicate lambskin, so I would prefer the bag in the glazed goatskin, which is water-resistant and can take a little more beating than the lambskin. If well taken care of, this is a great bag to buy as it will always hold its value and will become another classic from Chanel.