As if you needed any more reason to scroll through Instagram in 2018, the recent influx of on-platform shops has only sweetened the deal. Should you need a primer, these shops — Insta-shops, as we're calling them — have been popping up in big numbers as of late, allowing users to stock up on one-of-a-kind or vintage pieces straight through DM.
Shopping this way makes sense for both the seller and the buyer, but just as quickly as new listings are posted, it's typical (if not expected) for them to sell just as fast. It makes for a special kind of rush if you're the lucky buyer, and some serious disappointment if you're not. So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon Treasures of New York City, a vintage luxury resale Insta-shop that has a seemingly endless supply of designer inventory. The page is filled with moody, relatively mysterious, editorialized content that could push any average fashion-loving person from, "Do I actually need this Dior nylon top handle bag?" to "Of course I do," real quick.
Launched in 2013 by two 28-year-old New Yorkers, Robert Bird and Brittany Blanco, Treasures of New York City maintains an impressive inventory — covering everything from rare Chanel bags and Fendi jeans to Gucci sunglasses and all of the saddle bags your trendy heart could desire. When something is sold, you can be almost certain that TNYC has a few more in stock, and if they don't, they'll send you similar options should you be interested directly through the app. And while you can also find the shop off Instagram, the social platform is without a doubt the star of the show.
"I would say Instagram is about 70 percent of our makeup," Bird shares over the phone. "We're trying to get more and more traction on [the website], but I think people love dealing with a person they know in that DM is a real person and not a robot talking to them."
On top of the solid selection and pure convenience, prices in the shop are wildly affordable, too. You're still likely to drop a few hundred dollars on any given piece, but sans the obvious Chanel, a good portion of what you'll find scrolling through the feed rings in under $500.
"We rep those who pair their Chanel espadrilles with sweats and rock their Kelly bags to grab their morning iced coffee," reads the shop's About page. "Who use their Hermès boxes as kitchen storage, and fish around their XL Chanel flap bag for their MetroCard." It's this light-hearted, self-aware and un-stuffy approach to luxury that makes following along — whether or not you're looking to buy anything — a true treat.
But with a humble 16.5K follower count, the shop can still be considered something of a best-kept secret. And as much as we'd like to keep it to ourselves and minimize buying competition, it's frankly way too good not to talk about. Ahead of its inevitable blow up, we spoke with co-founder Bird about the fashion world, the realities of selling and shopping on Instagram and how his love of "treasure hunting" turned into a full-blown career.
Tell me a bit about what you were doing before you started this endeavor.
I moved to New York, give or take, eight years ago and I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. The men's side was always what I was into, but I was really open to anything, so I tried to get my foot in the door really anywhere in the industry. I started working at Lord & Taylor, and then I bounced around to Calvin Klein, Brooks Brothers and then Nautica, so I was always playing in the menswear field in different aspects to see what I liked the best. I did that for about four or five years. The corporate fashion industry had its ups and downs. As you know in the times with retail down-trending, it seemed like everywhere I went, we were all trying to do nicer things for [less money] and the quality was just going down. Everyone was just spinning their wheels trying to make money and when times are tough, people on the inside get a little nasty and things get hectic. It's not the best vibe, so I knew I had to figure something else out of there.
How did you make the move from there to starting your own vintage company?
My girlfriend and I at the time, we loved to travel, and we'd always hit up different markets in the city on the weekends. We just always had an eye for vintage treasures. We would bring them back to our New York apartment and always joked around that we had way too much stuff — why don't we start offering it to other people? That's something we kind of always played around with, and [that] really came to fruition when [my girlfriend] worked on getting rid of some things in her closet. She was donating it and I said, "Well why don't you throw some of these name brand things on eBay and just see if it has an traction?" It was a very light, airy thought. She wasn't interested and said it would take too much time, so I took it upon myself to do it, and I got hooked. I started asking around with some of the girls I worked with who I knew loved designer items: "Are you selling anything? Are you looking to buy new things? I'll pay you cash up front for items." The ball rolled from there.
Where did you learn to source beyond your own circle of friends and family?
I hustled in the beginning. I started checking around New York, looking at ads on any sort of marketplace. I'd say, "Listen, are you selling Chanel? I'll come to you, I'll buy whatever you have. I'll give you honest prices upfront. I'm an honest guy," so I'd make relationships like that. Instead of posting on websites, people would just come to me and tell me what they had. It started branching out when we traveled: I would set up appointments with people I met online to say, "I'm coming to the area. Let's meet up and I'll buy whatever you have." Then we started planning trips around it, so now we go to Dubai, Japan and Paris. It turned into a full-time career for me.
How long did it take for your girlfriend to finally realize there was something good going on here, and ultimately jump on board?
She still has her full-time job, so she's kind of like the silent partner. Everything I think of, I think it through her — what she would like or what she would do — so she's still in the background for now, but she's definitely a creative partner when I need her.
What's your buying strategy for the shop today? Do you go in looking for specific pieces?
In the beginning, I wasn't as selective as I am now. I was getting used to it, seeing different items and figuring out what worked and what didn't. I knew the background of the items and the luxury brands, but I didn't have the knowledge I do now, where I've researched to figure out the different collections and the different ideas for a particular bag. Back then it was just like, if it had a name, I would sell it. Now I'm looking for specific items, taking what's on the runway now and figuring out where it came from, and what's the yesteryear form of that.
Right now, crop tops are huge for me — and hair accessories, kind of playing off what we just saw on fashion month and going from that. Some of the vintage Gucci and Fendi pieces that are almost identical to what happened 20 or 30 years ago, I love finding those pieces and bringing them back because it's interesting for everyone to see that this came exactly from what it used to be. It's a very fun time in the market right now because as you know, it's so logo-centric, so it's almost like all this stuff is reappearing.
Can you talk a bit more about the research you've done to really understand the history and archives of these pieces and brands?
We make our own personal archive of things that goes through [brand] stitching, serial numbers and different logos that change throughout the years. People are so caught up on serial numbers, but you can fake a serial number as easy as pie. You need to know there's so many different aspects. Sometimes people are like, "If it doesn't have an ID card or a serial number, I won't even look at it." Understandable, but it really comes down to the craftsmanship, the stitching, what year it was made in accordance with the logo. There are so many different, fun aspects behind it that's like a puzzle to figure out. Is it authentic or not? That definitely took a lot of research, a lot of time, but it was definitely worth it.
Authenticity is such a tricky and important part of vintage. I would never want someone to have that disappointment like I [have] when they get an item. So, I make sure everything that comes in and everything we sell is authentic. If it's something we're not sure about, or if there's not 100 percent proof for us, we just won't offer it.
How far in advance are you buying?
Using Instagram as a tool makes things crazy. We can have [inventory] planned up to a month ahead, but if we have something come in that we know is good, we can always slip it in there. We shop months in advance, but then something comes in and we know we have to get it up, it can even be the day before that it comes in. There's really no time constraint on it. It's crazy that Instagram makes that possible.
Something that I think is unique to TNYC is that there always seems to be a healthy stock of the same styles, so when something sells or you miss out on something, there's still hope that you can get your hands on it.
When I know an item is going to be a good one, I try to get as many as I can in the month or so up to that moment. Although it seems like just a small experience, there's so much time behind that and so much back-work getting five or six or even 10 of those bags.
How have you cultivated relationships with the influencers that often tag TNYC in their photos?
In the beginning, we were just doing it all on our own, trying to grow our Instagram naturally just through our own content. As time went on, certain influencers would reach out; everyone has their different approach. There's certain ones we knew were our target market and what we're going after, that represent the kind of girls or guys we're looking for. We don't really work with influencers so much on a paid aspect, but we love loaning things. If they have an event coming up they can borrow something and tag us, stuff like that. We've had a lot of good feedback from that, and it's also great for us. Having an item on Selena Gomez or Shay Mitchell or some of the other girls we've worked with is great exposure for us, and then it's so much easier to sell an item once it's on them.
What's been the most popular brand or style for the shop in 2018?
Definitely the Louis Vuitton belt bag, the small monogram one. Louis Vuitton's not a huge brand for us — I'd say Chanel's our number one. Hermès, Gucci and Fendi are in the top, and then Louis Vuitton — although it's a classic, it's something that's just so saturated in the market. Another good one for us is the Hermès clear vinyl Kelly bag. It's a vintage from a promo event they did way back when. And then really any Fendi top handle is going really hot right now.
Does that surprise you, or is it more obvious at this point?
What's crazy is these similar bags I've always had my eyes on, like I've posted the same bag three years ago and maybe I would sell one, but now, with what's going on in the market and how Fendi brought the logo back, it's crazy how popular it is now. There's a lot of different ways to look at it, and taking off fashion week and fashion month and what happened all over the world and just trying to see what's next is the most fun part for us.
That leads me to my last question, which is what do you think will be next? What are you betting on while you're buying?
Something big for us is that we know logos are huge now, but we're thinking logos are going to fall back a little bit going forward. Now we're focusing on really key silhouettes. I think we're going back to the structured silhouettes, so really nice leather, mixed media pieces and that boxy structure that leather that holds itself up — we think that's coming next.
Homepage photo: Courtesy of Treasures of New York City