The value of vintage: shopping handbags and accessories the smart, sustainable way

Christie’s speaks with Seth Weisser, Co-Founder & CEO of What Goes Around Comes Around, about the appeal and importance of luxury resale

Resale is on the rise and has been for a while. According to a study from Bain & Company, the luxury secondary market grew 65% from 2017 to 2021, with no signs of slowing down. Some even predict resale will soon surpass retail. 

‘The consumer has now gained trust and confidence in buying pre-owned luxury items in a way that was never expected in the early stages of my career,’ says Seth Weisser, Co-Founder and CEO of the premier vintage retailer What Goes Around Comes Around (WGACA).

A round black patent leather vanity bag with gold hardware, Chanel, 1994. Estimate $12,000-$15,000. Offered in Handbags Online The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online
A round black patent leather vanity bag with gold hardware, Chanel, 1994. Estimate: $12,000-$15,000. Offered in Handbags Online: The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online

Along with co-founder Gerard Maione, Weisser has built one of the biggest names in high-end vintage fashion. For nearly thirty years, WGACA has been instrumental in transforming second-hand shopping into a curated luxury experience. This season, Christie’s is partnering with WGACA on the sale of nearly 70 designer accessories. Available online through 9 December, Handbags Online: The New York Edit features everything from coveted Hermès handbags to Chanel rarities. 

Ahead of the sale, we spoke with Weisser about the appeal of resale, and why everything old can be new again. 

Get quality pieces made to last 

Luxury is synonymous with quality, and quality promises longevity. Many high-end fashions are hand-stitched by specially trained artisans and made from the finest materials. Unlike fast fashion, they are built to last, and these quality items can be staples of your closet forever.

A vert fonce veau doblis Birkin 35 with gold hardware, Hermès, 1999. Estimate $20,000-$25,000. Offered in Handbags Online The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online
A vert fonce veau doblis Birkin 35 with gold hardware, Hermès, 1999. Estimate: $20,000-$25,000. Offered in Handbags Online: The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online

‘More than ever, I believe consumers are making the choice to invest in key pieces that are going to last longer and be part of their arsenal and fashion vocabulary for the long term,’ says Weisser. When buying vintage luxury, you are selecting an item that has been cared for by its previous owner, but also vetted by a team of experts, ensuring its authenticity and quality. 

Reduce your carbon footprint 

‘The fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to carbon emissions problems,’ says Weisser. ‘However, luxury, which is made with higher quality materials, is more sustainable because of that, which is a key aspect for many in making the choice to buy luxury items versus disposable fashion.’

A dark blue denim top handle bag with gold hardware, Chanel, 1996. Estimate $5,000-$6,000. Offered in Handbags Online The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online
A dark blue denim top handle bag with gold hardware, Chanel, 1996. Estimate: $5,000-$6,000. Offered in Handbags Online: The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online

Fast fashion uses massive amounts of water and energy and can also cause pollution from dyes and pesticides used in textile manufacturing. All of this has a negative impact on the environment and its fragile ecosystems. 

When buying resale, consumers limit their environmental impact to the transportation of an item from one place to another. As they’re built to last, they can also be resold, contributing to a more sustainable way to shop and sell.

Participate in the circular economy 

Not only is buying second hand a positive environmental decision, it is also a beneficial economic choice. Instead of engaging in a one-time transaction between supplier and consumer, the resale market allows for multiple transactions of one item, stimulating the economy and extending the life cycle of that particular piece. This extension is also an environmental plus, as it not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also keeps these fashions out of landfills. 

This marriage of environmental and economic reuse is called the circular economy, and it keeps materials and resources from becoming waste while also encouraging sustainable economic growth. The circular economy is an essential element of sustainable living, helping to conserve finite resources and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

A limited edition bleu roi evercolor leather vibrato Retourné Kelly 35 with gold hardware, Hermès, 2002. Estimate $12,000-$15,000. Offered in Handbags Online The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online
A limited edition bleu roi evercolor leather vibrato Retourné Kelly 35 with gold hardware, Hermès, 2002. Estimate: $12,000-$15,000. Offered in Handbags Online: The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online

Pick from a wider variety of designs – including rare and limited-edition styles  

As fashion houses unveil new collections, certain styles are retired or put out of production. Anytime you shop directly from a brand, there are a finite number of pieces available for purchase. When buying resale, however, the consumer can choose from a wide selection of designs and vintage styles. This means access to limited-edition runs, discontinued colours and rare pieces that are no longer available from the labels themselves.

‘The consumer now looks at designer pieces and is comparing buying a new item to a pre-worn one,’ explains Weisser. ‘That competitive reality is ground-breaking to say the least.’ When considering what to buy, a collector may be attracted to the resale market because of its extensive range of offerings. In many cases, the only way to get your hands on a specific accessory is second-hand, upping the value of the market as a whole. 

‘Curating a pre-owned luxury offering can look easy because it seems everybody’s doing it, but that’s not the case for What Goes Around Comes Around and never has been,’ adds Ambria Mische, WGACA's SVP of Sourcing & Merchandising. ‘This brand is iconic, with a specific reputation for consistently having meaningful depth in unique luxury items and classic pieces. We have a collector’s eye, a black belt in sourcing, and that’s what separates us from everyone else.’

A white monogram multicolore Boite Main Joaillerie by Takashi Murakami, Louis Vuitton, circa 2005. Estimate $40,000-$50,000. Offered in Handbags Online The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online
A white monogram multicolore Boite Main Joaillerie by Takashi Murakami, Louis Vuitton, circa 2005. Estimate: $40,000-$50,000. Offered in Handbags Online: The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online

Invest in timeless fashions 

Trends come and go, but WGACA looks to zero in on those timeless items that are always in-style. ‘Each brand has what they’re known for and what their best-in-class products are,’ explains Weisser. ‘What we always do and how we buy is by looking at the origin of the brand and the centerpieces of that brand’s culture and then considering where they will evolve from there.’

A fuchsia ostrich Mini Kelly 20 II with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate $35,000-$40,000. Offered in Handbags Online The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online
A fuchsia ostrich Mini Kelly 20 II with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2021. Estimate: $35,000-$40,000. Offered in Handbags Online: The New York Edit from 28 November-9 December at Christie’s online

Statement pieces are also investments, yet Weisser caveats this approach. ‘A lot of collectors are keeping items new in-box, like the sneaker market where you have an incredible piece but never wear it. For us at What Goes Around Comes Around, that is kind of counterintuitive,’ he says. ‘We love fashion, and we want people to express themselves, enjoy these pieces and wear them.’ 

Plus, he contends, if an item is in your closet for 10-20 years, it’s bound to appreciate. So, in the meantime, enjoy it to the fullest.