Vintage shopping is one of those happy pasttimes that’s truly suitable for the masses. Whether you’re looking to save a pretty penny at your favorite treasure-filled thrift stores or splurge on a sophisticated investment piece, there’s something out there for everyone. Tisha Collette, founder of Collette Consignment, knows all about the fine art of second-hand shopping. As director of the multi-location, designer-filled consignment store (which has been described as the ‘Bergdorf Goodman’ of consignment stores), Tisha helps to match customers with perfect one-of-a-kind vintage pieces on a daily basis. Below are her tips and tricks for weeding through the duds to find your dream gems!
How did you get into the world of fashion and clothing? Did your past life as a model have a lot to do with it?
My past life as a model really introduced me to the world of fashion and sparked my love of beautiful things.
What made you decide to found a luxury consignment store? When did Collette Consignment first open for business?
Collette opened 15 years ago, with my first store in Southampton. I was really interested in the resale market and all of the beautiful items that you could find to buy that way. However, I felt that there weren’t any resale stores that provided a shopping experience as special as the items they were selling. I wanted to sell something like a second-hand Chanel bag in an environment that was worthy of such a piece. It was this gap in the market that made me want to open Collette.
What can customers expect to find when they walk through Collette’s doors? What brands do you carry?
We have been described as the ‘Bergdorf Goodman’ of consignment stores, which I love. Each store is a treasure trove in which you can find the coveted, the rare and the beautiful. In Manhattan and Southampton, customers might find a new Hermès Birkin bag or a vintage Hermès Constance bag. We also carry a lot of Chanel—from clothing to jewelry to bags. We have every special designer brand you can think of, including Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Oscar de la Renta, Chloé, Lanvin and more. Our Sag Harbor store is more relaxed and a bit eclectic, and the offerings are quite European in feel. Then we have our Annex in Southampton, which has vintage furniture and menswear, as well as some very cool vintage clothing for women. This store currently has everything from vintage Louis Vuitton luggage to mid-century modern furniture.
What do we need to know about purchasing designer vintage clothing?
Always, always, always look at the authenticity of the piece. To help you, we have guides on our website that show how to check the authenticity of various brands. All of the items at Collette are always authenticated before they go on the shop floor. Then look at the quality and condition of the piece. Does the stitching look like it’s in good condition? Are there any stains? Look closely from all angles, inside and out. Lastly, always look at the bones of the item. If something was well made, such as an Hermès bag, it can be restored. So, remember to look beyond the surface to the heart of the item—it may just need a little love and imagination to bring it back to life.
We imagine that being immersed in the fashion industry has given you a unique perspective on things. What are some style or beauty tips you’ve picked up along the way?
Feature your best feature whenever you dress. Find the special thing that you love about yourself and use that as the starting point for each outfit. Have an understanding of your personal style and dress for that, rather than dressing around the current trends.
How can shoppers spot fake designer handbags or shoes?
All brands have different elements in their designs which signify their authenticity. Some might come with an authenticity card; others will stamp a number into the leather. However, simple things like label placement, neat stitching and high-quality zippers can be telling. We have guides on our website for Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Chanel (among others) that break down all of these brands’ unique authenticity signifiers. Designer items should always be well made, so if you suspect that something feels wrong—maybe the leather feels thin, or the lining looks cheap—trust your gut.
When it comes to vintage clothing wear and tear, what issues are easy to repair? What should we steer away from?
Alterations are always possible, but it is best to alter items that are quite close to your size (only one or two sizes bigger). Delicate fabrics like silks are difficult to repair once they show clear signs of wear. Leathers can be repaired very well, especially if you work with a company that is knowledgeable about refurbishing vintage leather pieces. We work with great seamstresses, so we are always happy to advise customers on whether or not something can be repaired or altered.
Is there anything that shoppers should be aware of in terms of vintage clothing sizing?
Vintage sizing is almost totally inconsistent with today’s sizing. Always pay attention to measurements or try pieces on.