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It's a simple fact that — largely by design — the luxury fashion industry can be an opaque, intimidating place to those outside of it. Neophyte customers fret over everything from making sure they're wearing the right thing in the store to whether those $1,000-plus pumps are worth the investment. It's almost as though mystery is a major component in those four- and five-figure price tags. But these days, there's a budding influencer on the scene helping to pop that elitist bubble, posting videos to — where else? — TikTok that aim to demystify that secret club. 

Charles Gross is a 26-year-old content creator with nearly 500k followers, spreading his knowledge of luxury fashion using a soft voice that borders on ASMR-level soothing. It's the perfect complement to his day job in luxury resale, a field he fell into after scoring a coveted Hermès Birkin on eBay for just $300. Yes, you read that correctly: $300.

"I was looking on eBay at handbags, very haphazardly, and I came across a listing for a Birkin that was $300. I didn't know much about Birkins, but I was like, 'Well, I need to click this listing and just see what this is all about,'" he says. "For $300, this Birkin had to be fake, but something really moved me to buy it. I tried to ask the seller a bunch of questions; they didn't really know anything about the bag they had. And I said, 'Well, it's just $300' — not that that's a small amount of money, but at the time, I didn't think it was the scariest investment to lose."

After authentication, Gross sold the bag for $5,000, setting down the path that would lead him to the minor TikTok fame he's experiencing today. This introduced him to the Hermès fanbase (which he says has an "electricity" that he has never experienced anywhere else) and to the products themselves (with which he familiarized himself with by going to the stores and examining up close). He reached out to other resellers and did online research, slowly gaining clients and experience along the way. Now, he shares that knowledge with his TikTok followers.

Gross' online audience loves learning about everything from signature fragrances to designer basics. But by far, his most requested content involves the almost mythical French luxury house — not super surprising, given there's so much secrecy around the process of buying a Birkin. Plus, there are tales of customers buying tens of thousands of dollars in unwanted product just to create a relationship with a sales associate who can get them the bag they do want, or of them flying to another country to get their hands on a specific colorway floating around the internet; Gross gets tagged into these videos for comment because he's unafraid to be critical about these kinds of practices, which are, in his opinion, unnecessarily alienating. 

"I love the products of Hermès and I love the artisans and some aspects of the company, but there are some aspects I don't like — and sometimes that's just the case, separating the product from some parts of the company," he says. "I'm always very honest on social media and very transparent, because my priority and my loyalty lies to my audience first, less so to advertisers. I'm not trying to become this brandable entity."

Hermès isn't the only luxury brand Gross takes an honest aim at. He's criticized Chanel's regular price increasescalled out what he sees as sloppy product finishing and openly shared which Louboutin shoes are unwearably painful. He loves luxury fashion, it's true, but he also doesn't see the point in being elitist about it.

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"A lot of these brands and the ecosystems around them try so hard to be exclusive, with prohibitive price points and very exclusionary cultures; at the end of the day, when you remove all of that, it's a piece of leather sewn to another piece of leather, dyed and put in a glass case. It's not this magical entity that's dropped from the sky," he says. "When I feel like a brand or a certain topic has that air around it of exclusion — 'Oh, you have to have this much money to access it or know about it' — I think that's ridiculous. Everybody should have access to that information and access to that world, whether or not they would ever care to buy these things."

Some of the brands he does love are the kind of "quiet luxury" companies which rarely, if ever, do influencer content: The Row, Goyard, Delvaux. All this to say, Gross is not exactly your usual fashion influencer, nor is he building out content to easily become one. That's just fine by him — he knows fashion is "mercurial" and wants to remain a part of it, but he's not exactly building out a plan to become a mega-influencer. 

It's not that Gross wouldn't work with brands. (On the contrary, he has already done a sponsored post and is "very open" to the possibility of more.) He just thinks that his honesty, and the audience who follows him for it, should come first. 

"I would forsake a huge brand deal if I didn't believe in it, because I value my audience and their trust more than I do being this medium for brands to just flash themselves on — which there's nothing wrong if that's what some other individuals want to do on social media," Gross says.

The one way that Gross is more like a traditional influencer, however, is that his tone is rarely, if ever, completely negative. There are some who have built audiences on social media for their combination of candor and snark that can turn controversial takes into clicks. That isn't Gross's speed.

"I try my best to really broach every topic I bring up or address in a very positive way — it's not phony or saccharin sweet. It's just real positive opinions about, and information about, fashion," he says. "I mean, these are 'champagne topics' to talk about — I'm not discussing world events."

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