Upscale consignment shopping is having a fashion moment
Consignment stores experienced strong growth during the “great” recession when people were on the hunt for a bargain. But the economic recovery hasn’t favored big box apparel retailers who are on a downturn—due to too much square feet of similar, uninspired apparel. The Limited has shuttered all 250 stores, Bebe has closed 21, and many more closures are planned. Shoppers have turned to online sources for fashion or spend money with smaller niche merchants. This has placed upscale consignment stores in a particular sweet spot – offering affordable pricing and a wonderful selection of apparel, including top American and European designers. Santa Fe’s population of well-heeled second homeowners creates a repository of desirable clothing that is snapped up by fine consignment shops. These are not the thrift stores of your youth, with musty mounds of clothes of questionable origin; these are boutique-style stores with knowledgeable buyers and equally savvy shoppers.
Opened in 2012, the mammoth Congeries Consignment (1368 Cerrillos Rd.) is a bonanza for interior designers and home owners alike. However, a lesser known fact is the selection of terrific clothing on the upper level. With an atelier feeling, shoppers can sort through a smorgasbord of labels at deeply discounted prices and find on trend labels such as Eskandar, Biya, Moth, Rebecca Taylor, Eileen Fisher, and the youthful Anthropologie, Free People, and Johnny Was. On one particular visit brown leather open-toe wedges by Kensie were merely $24 and a flirty purple lace top with button detail by Solitaire was $22. According to owner Shawn Vallecillo, Santa Fe women are well traveled and have a great sense of style. “It never ceases to amaze me what walks in the door,” she comments. Shawn does much of the buying along with her 19-year-old daughter, Olivia Bocox, who is her business partner. “Olivia brings a fresh perspective to the selection process.” Shawn understands the power of consignment shopping. “It’s all the rage and is a lot of fun!”
For seven years, Ooh La La (518 Old Santa Fe Trail) has been a “go to” shopping destination for women-in-the-know, with a variety of upscale labels such as Prada, Kate Spade, Vera Wang, and Citizens of Humanity. The store positions itself for offering contemporary and designer fashion that is in season, and a loyal stream of locals both shop and consign with them. On a particular Friday (the day that consignees can bring in items without an appointment), it was apparent via the warm and easy banter that the consignees and staff were well acquainted. In the “party dress” area, a gorgeous Vera Wang white wedding dress was an absolute steal at $180. Also spied were great clothes for the warming weather: a Gucci asymmetric t-shirt ($49),a James Perse cotton shirt ($29), and a beautiful cream beaded top by Nanette Lapore ($36). One shopper said that she comes to Ooh La La often due to the store’s selection of top names, especially in smaller sizes. “I find incredible bargains for beautiful clothes.” Owner Arabella D’Lucca has a strong animal rights conscience, which translates to no exotic skins or fur items (even faux fur) for sale. One added bonus: on-site free parking—an increasing rarity in the downtown area.
A carefully curated consignment shop is Art.i.fact (930 Baca Street), a few doors down from Counter Culture. Opened since Nov. 2014, co-owner Jennifer Rowland says their customers are creative and favor unusual pieces—such as from European or Japanese designers. “We offer a mix of high and low, and look for that balance.” If you are heading to the Opera, a special fundraiser, or a Friday art walk, this is a great place to find a show-stopping item. On a recent visit, there were quite a few noteworthy items: a white sheer cotton peasant tunic from Danish designer Ivan Grundahl ($98), a Thomas Pink silk color block blouse ($103), a wonderful textured black, grey, and white mini-hood tunic by Kao Pao Shu ($89), and Chloe ivory/brown stacked heel leather lace-up boots ($329). About the name? Rowland explains that if you are into consignment, then you are a treasure hunter – and finding a great item is your artifact. They also offer a small men’s area with designers such as Versace and Robert Graham.