Handbags might be at the bottom of your shopping list as we prepare for another quarter spent indoors, but Rebag founder and CEO Charles Gorra thinks the pandemic will accelerate a growing trend in the handbag market: treating them as actual investments rather than frivolous splurges.
"It has always been a theme over the last few years but now it's like, you're really fighting for share-of-wallet; every expense that you make, you're going to have to justify it to yourself," he explains, over Zoom. "People are looking to monetize things that maybe otherwise they wouldn't."
It's not just in the sense of cost-per-wear, but also in terms of value, and how that value may go up or down in the future — similar to how you might look at a stock or, for some, a sneaker. Gorra predicts the buying and selling of handbags will become increasingly similar to sneakers, actually.
"Right now the sneaker is 100% similar to the stock market; it's an asset class," he says. Of course, there are some big differences: With sneakers, there's a standard style code for each drop. "Everyone knows it got out on this date, this is the product. It came in this color and this is how many were produced," he continues. "So the fact that this is an objective available parameter, it really helps that trading mindset. Then everyone's talking about the same thing."
In luxury fashion, however, brands habitually limit how much information is available to the consumer. With the goal of standardizing the luxury resale industry, Rebag launched its Clair code last October. It's a standard set of letters for each style that represents brand, model, size, etc. (Clair stands for Comprehensive Luxury Appraisal Index.) "That is the beginning of how you really create that investment mindset, that becomes the underlying layer for the industry and everyone can put the price next to that," he says. (It's worth noting that StockX, the go-to platform for treating sneakers and other streetwear items as stocks, also offers designer handbags and similar features.)
From the beginning, in a crowded luxury resale landscape, Gorra aimed to make Rebag a go-to resource for the type of consumer — or trader? — who looks at value in addition to, or even over, aesthetic. It buys its inventory from sellers outright (rather than hosting peer-to-peer sales or waiting for bags to sell before paying out) and uses algorithms to determine a fair, standard secondary market value for luxury bags. After raising $25 million early last year, Gorra declared Rebag's goal "to become the standard for the luxury resale industry, just like Kelley Blue Book is the main resource for the auto industry."
Clair is a tool people can use to instantly calculate the resale value of practically any given designer handbag. Nearly a year after its introduction, it has proven itself useful on a number of levels: Activity on Clair has tripled with some users making up to 100 queries, which Gorra describes as "semi-professional usage;" it's also allowed Rebag to collect data on the shifts in brand value that impact resale price.
A new Clair feature is the ability to see historical price tracking for bags, where you can visualize how prices moved from month to month. And, similarly to the way you might set up a watch list for your stocks on an online platform, users can now follow specific bag styles to see how they're trading and even receive notifications on price movements, and recommendations on whether to sell or buy. Essentially, people can look in their closet, enter each bag they own, and have a virtual portfolio that gets updated in real time. "You can see what's going up, what's going down and then you can time when to sell or you can also time when to buy, it works both ways," says Gorra.
Rebag has also just released its first Clair Report, providing insight into what styles are retaining value on the resale market (aside from just Hermès and Chanel), from handbags to smaller accessories like belts and wallets — and why. Ahead, we highlight some particularly interesting findings.
Dior and Bottega Veneta rise in resale value
Hermès is widely known as the best brand to invest in because of its ability to retain value — and that remains the case, with its bags reselling for nearly 85% of their retail price on average. Chanel and Louis Vuitton, as usual, trail behind. But over the past year, a couple of brands have jumped in resale value: Dior and Bottega Veneta.
Dior's rise can be attributed to the continuation of vintage revival trends, with logo saddle bags and book totes retaining most of their value. At Bottega, the lift is, of course, owed to Daniel Lee's commercially successful revamp of the brand, including its cash-cow accessories. Styles like the Jodie Hobo, The Pouch, the Angle Bag and the Cassette Crossbody are retaining over 80% of their value. Meanwhile, the brand's older styles are retaining far less.
The mini-bag and vintage revival trends are also both driving resale value up. Add scarcity to that and you'll see resale value skyrocket. A specific example is the discontinued (at least for now) Louis Vuitton monogram Eva Crossbody, which is selling for up to 84% above retail because it's so difficult to get.
As Chanel raises its prices, resale value catches up
Every year or so, Chanel makes its most iconic bags more expensive, basically because it can — even in the middle of a pandemic. In April, it raised the price of its classic small flap bag from $5,200 to $5,800, with larger sizes going up to $7,700, encroaching into Hermès territory. Almost immediately, the resale value caught up with the newly increased prices. That may be bad news for those looking to buy, but good news for those who bought the bag at a lower price and are considering selling.
You don't need to spend thousands to start trading
Rebag recently expanded its inventory to include smaller accessories, like wallets and belts, several of which retain their value pretty well. For example, Gucci's GG Marmont belt can yield you 63% of the retail price in cash from Rebag. Also, somewhat strangely, designer key holders can go for more than 100% of their retail value. "If you're a beginner in resale and you want to start playing, you can query Clair and still make good moves at those [lower] price points," says Gorra.
Rebag recommends these three bags as investments
As part of the Clair Report, Rebag shared its handbag "picks" to invest in right now: the Hermés Long Strap Evelyne, the Louis Vuitton OnTheGo Tote Limited Edition Reverse Monogram Giant, the Chanel Classic Single Flap Bag Quilted Caviar Mini. For accessories, the Christian Dior Saddle Flap Wallet Oblique Canvas Mini, the Saint Laurent Classic Monogram Card Holder Matelasse Chevron Leather and the aforementioned Gucci belt are good options, too. Browse them in the gallery, below.