A comment on the store’s Instagram page perfectly encapsulates our thoughts. A curious follower asks, “It’s a consignment store?”
After walking through the doors of Roundabout Resale Couture on a recent trip to Greenwich, we could hardly believe it was a consignment shop ourselves. The expansive, 5,000-square-foot shop looks more like a department store than a local boutique. Framed prints of glittering Chanel perfume bottles and flower bouquets adorn the walls accompanied by a display of boxes from luxury brands Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. The store needs little decoration, however, as its collection of clothing, shoes and accessories in rich jewel tones and sumptuous textures is a design in itself.
Roundabout’s owner Laurie Perren isn’t new to the business. As a young woman, she consigned her designer goods in order to free up space in her closet (and put some more cash in her wallet) for the latest piece on her wish list. In 1989, after a brief stint working in the corporate world, Perren opened Roundabout’s first location in Westport. Roundabout has since expanded to three other locations — one in Greenwich and one each on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue and Upper East Side.
We spoke with Perren as she darted around her store, putting the finishing touches on displays and meticulously checking pieces for flaws in preparation for the fall offerings. Perren’s secret to success? Her keen eye for detail. You won’t find a pilled sweater or loose thread in her store. Indeed, most items show little to no signs of wear.
“We’re so picky about the condition of things. We definitely have a higher level of quality,” she says. “People don’t want to wear clothes that look used. But if it looks brand new, it doesn’t matter if it’s been worn before.”
There is a glimmer in Perren’s eye as she reaches for a quilted leather Chanel bag, a timeless edition in many fashion girls’ closets. The bag can retail for more than $5,000, but this one is almost 50 percent off. Perren explains that Roundabout often goes a step further than the typical consignment shop and sends bags back to the retailer for refurbishing. Their strategy clearly works, as the handbag appears brand new to the untrained eye.
Shopping consignment seems to be having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. As Vivienne Westwood once said, “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity.” Many consumers are moving to just that — quality over quantity. Shoppers are realizing how detrimental to the environment fast fashion can be, and in turn choose to splurge on higher-quality pieces. While the items come with a higher price tag, they last longer and can be resold, sometimes for almost as much as the initial cost, at consignment stores like Roundabout.
“The beauty of buying secondhand is that you have a lower risk investment,” says Margie Cooper, the face behind Instagram account @thriftandtell, which has grown its following of fashion resale lovers to more than 2,000 in a few months. “Should you change your mind, you can always resell the piece. You will always break even and you may even get lucky and turn a profit. You certainly cannot say that with a pair of J.Crew or H&M shoes. Rather than endlessly buying a bunch of $30 to $100 ‘things,’ start saving towards one or two timeless items that you will love forever.”
Despite the industry’s online community, Perren argues that online consignment, although popular, doesn’t pose as much of a threat to brick and mortar stores as previously thought.
“You can obtain a higher price when you can actually feel an item,” Perren says of shopping and selling in person at consignment shops like her own. And who wouldn’t want to sell the pieces they spent good money on for a higher price?
Online services can also pose a risk for shoppers. What makes something “very good” versus “excellent” quality, and how do we know for sure if that Gucci belt we’ve been lusting after will be the right fit? At Roundabout, shoppers can judge quality and fit for themselves before taking the plunge. And, after going back the following morning to pick up a brand new designer bag for 25 percent off (for the story, of course), we can vouch for the fact that getting a great deal on a (slightly used) item adds to the thrill of treating yourself to something “new.”
Roundabout Resale Couture locations include 48W. Putnam Ave. in Greenwich. For more, visit roundaboutcouture.com.