Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sometimes Everything About the Birkin Bag is Just Plain Pathetic

Sunday Book Review

‘Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir,’ by Wednesday Martin

A few pages into “Primates of Park Avenue,” I raised an eyebrow as high as a McDonald’s arch. Was Wednesday Martin, a ­Midwestern-born Ph.D., trying to explain the rites of the Upper East Side to me, an autochthonous Manhattanite schooled at one of the neighborhood’s top “learning huts”? She was a late transfer to the New York troop — a particularly vicious troop, at that — and it’s a weak position to be in throughout the primate kingdom, whether human or monkey.
I underestimated Martin with few repercussions, but the SoulCycled, estrogen-dimmed and ravenously hungry young mothers who similarly exhibited New York’s inbred superciliousness have done so at their peril, because now she’s gone and told the world their tricks. “I was afraid to write this book,” Martin confesses, but I guess she got over it. Instead, she obsessively deconstructs the ways of her new tribe, from the obvious — “No one was fat. No one was ugly. No one was poor. Everyone was drinking” — to the equally obvious but narratively rich: “It is a game among a certain set to incite the envy of other women.”
The result is an amusing, perceptive and, at times, thrillingly evil takedown of upper-class culture by an outsider with a front-row seat. The price of the ticket, a newly purchased Park Avenue condop in the 70s with a closet designated exclusively for her handbags, wisely goes unmentioned, the better to establish rapport with readers in Des Moines.
The Dian Fossey-in-velvet-kitten-face-flats act is a gimmick more suited to a midcareer Jennifer Aniston movie. But the sociology rings true, even if the codification can be off (a common practice among stay-at-home moms and their working husbands in a flush year called “presents under the Christmas tree” is here designated a “wife bonus”). And Martin’s writing is confident and evocative, if excitable. “It was the land of gigantic, lusciously red strawberries at Dean & DeLuca and snug, tidy Barbour jackets and precious, pristine pastries in exquisite little pastry shops on spotless, sedate side streets,” she says of her adopted habitat. “Everything was so honeyed and moneyed and immaculate that it made me dizzy sometimes.”
Beyond the private planes, waterfront in the Hamptons and apartments with ceilings high enough to fit a bouncy castle for a child’s party, Martin sees a strict social pecking order in which the community’s animating energy derives mostly from children’s matriculation at a “TT” (top-tier) school. Lululemon, the leisure wear of the lady who lunches, to Martin, is “a kind of girdle or exoskeleton, smoothing out bumps, holding everything up and in while they appeared to bear all.” The grueling, high-priced barre class Physique 57 is a wonder, and she is agog at “the indescribable strangeness of this disconnected group sex experience.” Her reading of the fashion attire of real estate brokers for “triple mint” apartments is brilliant.
One requires security and protection in such a world. Martin finds it in a Birkin bag, which she absolutely must have as her “sword and shield” on the sidewalks west of Lexington Avenue. When she whispers this desire to her husband, “he just sort of groaned,” though he quickly agreed to buy it the next day. “I laughed — a loud, braying, mirthless, ungenerous laugh that seemed to alarm him,” she writes. How could he be so jejune to think that Hermès lets you waltz in and buy a Birkin? According to the BBC, “demand is such that there is no longer a waiting list for the bag, in the classic sense of the term. It’s a wish list, not an order list.” The scarcity of the Birkin, as Martin points out, is the thing-in-itself for upper-class women, a way to “rejuvenate our own scarcity, to reinvigorate the sense of everyone in our society of our own value.”
You need a taste for these kinds of insights to make it through Martin’s book, and she’s less successful at tying up loose ends by sharing a harrowing experience of fertility. Try as she might to convince us that it was only in her darkest period that she realized the power of the Upper East Side community, she doesn’t quite cleanse the palate of the tart taste of her prior chapters. But at a time when a social comedy of the rich à la Tom Wolfe has been lost in national discourse — the hard-news press, at the moment, likes billionaires as reprehensible, emotionally stunted villains, and soft news is so deeply in thrall to luxury advertising revenue that it can’t afford anything but fawning coverage — it’s fun to dip into a sophisticated, if silly, look at the Upper East Side’s Twilight Zone. “Primates of Park Avenue” is also a good reminder that as much as we may envy the wealthy, they fight every day for a place in their own social hierarchy, too.


A Memoir
By Wednesday Martin
248 pp. Simon & Schuster. $26.

Hermes Crocodile Bags, Romanee-Conti, Gutai Art Lead $270 Million Sale

Christie’s International Plc is offering about HK$2.1 billion ($271 million) worth of art, Romanee-Conti wine, a pink diamond and crocodile Hermes handbags in Hong Kong.
The five-day marathon at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center kicks off with wine sales Saturday, featuring the top lot of a 12-bottle case of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’s Romanee-Conti 1988 with a high estimate of HK$1.6 million.
It’s followed by the Asian 20th century and contemporary sale at 6 p.m. The evening sale has evolved from featuring contemporary Chinese art to showcasing modern artists from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, reflecting a shift in buying power away from China. Conspicuously absent from the offering are paintings by Zhang Xiaogang, who headlined sales a few years ago.

Instead, Christie’s is casting a wider net in search of affluent collectors by featuring works of Japanese artists from the post-war Gutai movement, including abstract works by Shozo Shimamoto (1928-2013) and Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2000), whose most expensive work has a high estimate of HK$15 million.
“People are mining history to find value,” said Hong Kong-based art adviser Jehan Chu who runs Vermillion Art Collections. “Safe money is going to older artists with critical track records but underdeveloped markets.”
The top item in the 94-lot sale is an oil on canvas by Chinese-born painter Sanyu (1901-1966) titled “Chrysanthemums in a Glass Vase,” which is expected to sell for about HK$80 million.
Second Sale
On June 1, Christie’s will hold its second luxury handbag sale, with 366 lots, triple the number offered during its inaugural auction in November.

The two most expensive items, Porosus Crocodile Diamond Birkin bags, one fuchsia, the other black, have high estimates of HK$1.5 million each.
The June 2 jewelry sale is led by a Harry Winston ring with a 9.07 carat fancy intense pink diamond. It has a high estimate of HK$120 million.
The final day features Chinese ceramics and works of art, furniture and watches. The most expensive timepiece on sale is a signed, 18 carat pink gold Patek Philippe wristwatch.

Friday, May 29, 2015

side note: Chanel to Open Spa at the Ritz Paris

In terms luxe materials, from the tweeds in the Fall/Winter 2015/16 line, to Karl Lagerfeld’s leather gloves, CHANEL seems almost synonymous with the concept of glamorous luxury. But luxury, as in, relaxation? That’s more of a stretch.
But according to Harper’s Bazaar and WWD, indulgers in the French fashion house will now be able to treat themselves as well as they treat their CHANEL handbags, as they are pairing with the Ritz to open their first spa.
The five-star Ritz Paris, which was recently renovated and is set to reopen later this year, will be teaming with the fashion house to the stars to open “Chanel Au Ritz Paris” by “year end”, and will reportedly focus primarily on skincare.
Although it is unclear whether or not this will be a standalone shop or one of many to come, the choice to start at this hotel seems an appropriate way to honor both the hotel and the late designer and brand’s namesake, Coco Chanel. The Parisian hotel served as the home base for Coco Chanel for 34 years starting in the early 1930s, and the late designer has been honored with a suite in her name. Looks like the perfect fit.

CHANEL Teams With Ritz Paris to Open First Spa

Monday, May 25, 2015

Inside the bizarre life of an Upper East Side housewife

In her 26 years in New York, Wednesday Martin has lived in nearly every neighborhood, from Long Island City to Soho to the West Village. Nothing, she says, prepared her for the Upper East Side.
“It’s the most fascinating and alienating and completely separate world I’ve ever encountered,” Martin says. “This is a separate tribe in New York City.”
Her new book, “Primates of Park Avenue” (Simon & Schuster), is a chronicle of her time as a wife and mother on the Upper East Side and the culture shock that ensued. Martin, who will say only that she’s in her 40s, used her background in anthropology to understand the behavior on display: the segregation of men and women, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, the wild displays of competition, the conspicuous consumption and, above all, the deification of children.
“There is nowhere, to me, where intensive parenting is more acutely felt than the Upper East Side,” Martin says. “You’re supposed to be enriching your child on every measure you could think of: emotionally, socially, artistically, academically. It’s your job — and it falls on the women, because this tribe is very gender-scripted. The mommy culture there is a world within a world within a world.”

Coaches, therapists

In 2004, Martin and her financier husband decided to move from the West Village to the Upper East Side. “I wanted a place where my kid could get a haircut and sit in a chair that looked like a firetruck and watch the Wiggles,” she says. “That wasn’t happening in the West Village at the time.”
They found a condo at 900 Park Ave., and the social pressures were immediate. As they moved in, Martin writes, “a debate was raging between residents over whether people with babies and toddlers should be required to take the service elevator, normally used for ferrying deliveries and garbage.”
Families up here had many children, not the average 2.5. “Having a lot of children is the new conspicuous consumption,” Martin says. “It’s how the Masters of the Universe show their wealth: provisioning their children the right way and getting them into the right classes.”
Martin’s oldest was a toddler at the time, and the pressure to enroll her child in the best nursery school was acute. On the Upper East Side, the right nursery school opens the track to the Ivy League. The average tuition for a toddler in 2004 ranged from $25,000 to $35,000 a year.
Martin’s little boy, she soon learned, was way behind. As she writes, “before nursery school, your toddler was supposed to take classes at Diller-Quaile School of Music,” which accepts 3-month-olds. “Before Diller-Quaile, you were supposed to do a certain baby group. Everything, it seemed, fed into everything else.”
Martin was further panicked to learn her child had been born in the wrong month; many women on the Upper East Side time their pregnancies and IVF treatments to school enrollment, so their child will begin school at the oldest age possible — a practice known as redshirting.
“You go to the Upper East Side, and everyone will be heavily pregnant in the same month, because the time to have a baby is October or November,” Martin says. “Those are the good birthdays.”
Still, Martin learned there were things she could do for her toddler. Since the way children play with others factors into nursery-school admission, many Upper East Side mommies hire play-date tutors. Aristotle Circle, for example, offered group play-date tutorials last year for $400 an hour, complete with a write-up of your child’s social deficits. They currently offer one-on-one sessions between toddler and therapist for $150 to $300.
“The headmasters or the administrators of the school watch while the children have a play date with other children from the applicant pool — sometimes up to eight of them,” Martin says. “It’s an audition. So the play-date tutors are for kids who don’t have enough experience with spontaneous play, because they’re so overscheduled.”
Martin’s child was accepted to their school of choice, but her relief was short-lived. She soon learned much else was expected of the Upper East Side mommy.
“Intensive mothering says that if you have all these resources and all this money, you can’t just say to your kid, ‘Go play in the back yard,’ ” Martin explains. “You have to find the best occupational therapist” — whether or not your child has disabilities.
“Especially if he’s a boy,” Martin says. “It’s to give him a leg up on his grapple motor skills and help him with his ‘sillies’ so he can sit still in school and do better on tests. Some people really need the occupational therapists. I’m not putting anybody down.”
Martin says she knows of mommies who hire food coaches for picky little eaters. “You need to hire somebody to teach your kid to ride a bike the safe, right way. Taking your kid to school is not enough. Helping with homework is not enough. There are homework tutorials for parents — we’re supposed to literally go to classes so you can learn how your child is learning math, so that you can be in a better mind-meld with your child.”
And then there are the extracurricular play dates, as crucial for the mommies as the children. “Parents try to raise their status and build relationships through their children,” Martin says.
“There’s a lot of social jockeying through play dates.”

Birkin buy-in

To fit in on the Upper East Side, Martin discovered that she needed many fancy accouterments — including the Hermès Birkin bag.

Hermes holds 2-day discount sale in Hong Kong to cut inventory

Paris-based high-end luxury goods manufacturer Hermes held a rare two-day apparel sale on May 23-24 at the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong's Admiralty district, offering up to 50% off certain items. The event is reportedly an attempt to shift excess inventory, reports, the website of Shanghai's China Business News.
Hermes's 2014 financial report released in March shows the company's net profit at 7.1 billion yuan (US$1.15 billion), up 8.7% year on year. Despite a stable overall global performance, revenue from perfumes and timepieces fell by 8% and 17%, respectively, due to slumping sales in the Chinese market, affected by the government's ongoing frugality and anti-graft drive. The manufacturer also faces inventory pressure regarding apparel.
Axel Dumas, the brand's chief executive, has hinted at the possibility of an overall price cut in China. Considering the deflating euro and that the price tag of Hermes products in China has been 40% higher than in Europe, there is certainly room for a cut, according to the report.
Deflation of luxury brands is rare as the manufacturers carefully set price increases for their products each year to create a sense that their value holds, if not increases, over time.
The anti-graft probes in China have dealt a blow to the country's luxury market, however. In April 2014, several luxury brands increased their prices by 15% to make up for losses from decreased sales volume. In March, Chanel reversed the trend by introducing a series of price cuts, followed by luxury watch maker Patek Philippe and TAG Heuer, which announced a slash in product prices by 18% in China and 20% in Hong Kong, respectively.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is it a 'Michael Kors bag' or a 'fake Birkin'? One wonders ...

When the Michael Kors store opened in 2011 at the Tanger 1 Outlet Center in Bluffton, I began to notice what seemed like a marked shift in the brand of purse that women and teens who live in this area started carrying. It went from Coach or Vera Bradley to — obviously, because what else am I talking about here? — Michael Kors.
I’m sure part of this was just a reflection of a shift in trend nationally, but it did have a small-town element to it. Tanger had just upped its game with a complete tear-down/rebuild and a new crop of more relevant stores, so naturally we all flocked there like this was “Little House on the Prairie” and we’d just heard tell that Oleson’s Mercantile got a new bolt of fabric.
(Who wore it best? Nellie wore it best.)
The Michael Kors trend continues. I’m not a market analyst, but I would say the purse game in Beaufort County goes something like this: Michael Kors, then Kate Spade, with Spartina 449 coming in hot and Marc by Marc Jacobs (RIP) mixed in here and there.
And here’s the thing about Michael Kors that not enough people seem to talk about (at least not enough for my liking). Its Hampton line of bags (which I have in East-West black and a lot of women locally also have) resembles an Hermes Birkin bag, that exclusive $10,000-plus, waiting-list-only purse that serves as an Upper East Side hiney sniff for women who need to know your pedigree before they’ll talk to you. 
The design — with its “What! I’m not copying a Birkin! My my, the accusations!” variations — gives you the same silhouette as a Birkin would. The same tidy rectangle with primly looped handles. With a quick glance, it might just fool people.
It reminds me of when Reed Krakoff rocked Coach’s world with his “C-print” design 10 years ago. It looked too much like a Gucci knock-off for me to accept it into my purse family. But I went for this Michael Kors bag.
When we invest in a designer purse, we’re choosing a certain look that is particular to a brand. The MK looked like an MK purse but also kind of familiar to me. I couldn’t place it at first. Now I can place it. So now I’m wondering if it’s a “Michael Kors purse” or a “fake Birkin.” The answer doesn’t matter, but sometimes I like to think about things like this. By the way, tell me if you think I’m wrong about the Beaufort County purse order. I want to hear what you think.
By the way, tell me if you think I'm wrong about the Beaufort County purse order. I want to hear what you think.-Liz Farrell

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Floyd Mayweather My Crocodile Bag ... Is Worth $150,000

Floyd Mayweather is flossin' a ridiculously rare man-bag ... and it costs more than your CAR!!!! 
The boxer just touched down in Georgia this morning ... flaunting one of his favorite expensive purchases -- a diamond Hermès HAC 50 bag made out of crocodile skin.
We spoke to someone from Hermès who told us the bag isn't being sold in stores -- and therefore, it MUST be a custom job (Pharrell had a custom Hermès bag made in 2007).
So, we went to the The Money Team looking for answers ... and one of Floyd's top TMT guys told us Floyd paid around $150k for the bag, which is accented with 245 diamonds on the metal hardware.
It's a drop in the bucket for Floyd who claimed he made around $200 million for the Pacquiao fight.
And he's not done spending yet ... Floyd tweeted to his people in Atlanta -- "Anyone know what time the stores open up? I need to pick up a few items for the [Atlanta Hawks] game tonight."


Hermès doesn’t make it easy for you to buy its stuff

That’s why it sells so well.

Hermès inaugurated its CityCenterDC boutique with a grand, eccentric flourish befitting a nearly 180-year-old French luxury firm that was born as a harness-maker and grew into the purveyor of $10,000 Birkin handbags. At a seated dinner in the stately surroundings of the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, 120 guests began their meal with a foie gras feuilleté and ended it with a white chocolate “flower pot” filled with raspberries and mousse — a dessert so finely executed it could have been a porcelain figurine.
Though the fine china upon which the pea-crusted lamb loin was artfully arranged came directly from the company’s stock, the dinner otherwise did very little to showcase the actual stuff of Hermès. But in the digital millennium, luxury is defined less by products than by experiences.

And so the company recently presented an evening of culinary theater choreographed and costumed by Belgian artist Charles Kaisin (who recently dazzled Hong Kong with a 35-foot golden goat constructed from 13,500 origami horses for Chinese New Year). Two sopranos trilled the “Flower Duet,” and 60 waiters imported from New York — one for every two guests, as if catering to a royal court — marched out in synchronized precision to deliver the meal. They changed costume with each course: silver origami masks, golden welding suits and, finally, white cumulus headdresses lit from within.

Hermès is the latest high-end brand to open at CityCenterDC, the gleaming mixed-used development newly built downtown. It joins Burberry, Loro Piana, Canali, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Paul Stuart and Alexis Bittar, among others. This summer, Louis Vuitton will open; Dior is coming in the fall. And in June, Carolina Herrera will throw open the doors of a CH boutique — not quite as high-end, but perfumed by its association with her flagship line and the glamour of a Vogue-sponsored cocktail party.
Of all the brands, however, Hermès is arguably the most rarefied. It is a shop where a business-card case — two small rectangles of leather stitched together — costs $335. And the suitcase-size Birkin and Kelly bags stashed not so discreetly under the tables during the gala dinner each cost as much as a car.

The 6,000-square-foot Hermès shop, on Palmer Alley NW, replaces the company’s ­Tysons Corner store. While this new space might be light and airy, it is not a joltingly modern place with sales clerks toting mini iPads in side holsters. Immediately upon crossing the boutique’s threshold, there is a mosaic insignia embedded in the floor based on one found in the mother store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris — a reminder of Hermès history and tradition.

The mosaic drives home the point that Hermès traffics in slow fashion in an impatient, buy-it-off-the-runway, want-it-now culture. Babies are conceived and born in less time than it takes for a dedicated customer to acquire a Birkin handbag, which was introduced in 1984.
In many ways, Hermès violates all the rules of the modern retail environment, which is to make shopping as effortless as possible — including buying a $10,000 handbag while lounging at home in pajamas.
Yet shoppers want what Hermès is selling even if they have to go out of their way to get it. The company reported that its first-quarter revenue was up by 19 percent over last year, to $1.2 billion. That growth was fueled by Asia and Europe, as well as the United States — the No. 1 luxury market in the world. After years of luxury firms chasing consumers in China, Russia and South America, the United States is once again devouring high-priced clothes and accessories. Hermès has seven projects in the works in the country. Six, including Washington’s, are expansions in markets where the brand already had a footprint; the seventh is a dedicated perfumery in New York.
Hermès is one of the fastest-growing luxury companies in the world, according to a 2014 report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, with a Q rating — a measure of a brand’s resonance and value among consumers — that places it third among luxury brands. That’s ahead of Prada, Ralph Lauren and Burberry.

Hermès is so certain of its own mystique that since 2011 it has sold a monthly mystery box to customers starting at about $250, which includes a unisex trinket crafted from workroom scraps of leather, silk or the like. “They’re making money out of their waste,” marvels brand consultant Amy Shea, who has not worked with the company.
Hermès is a contrarian company. It has no Twitter followers because it is not on Twitter. The social media site is about personalities and celebrities, and Hermès is not.
Hermès maintains a Web site that resembles a charming old sketchbook sweetly animated. It is a pretty site, but a frustrating one. There are no high-definition photos sweeping, spinning or rocketing across the screen. The bags most closely identified with the brand — the Birkin and the Kelly — aren’t even represented. Ready-to-wear isn’t displayed on models, but on drawings of models. There is no technology to give a shopper a sense of how the garment might move. At a luxury conference this year, chief executive Axel Dumas, a sixth-generation descendant of founder Thierry Hermès, joked that the company wants its things to be difficult to find — even on the Web site.

“Hermès is in a special place all to itself. They have coveted their rarity and they had to do it with all the temptations that a brand faces,” Shea says. “They didn’t know which way things were going to go [in the luxury market], but they knew who they were.”
The brand has no public face making the rounds at cocktail parties. It does not hire celebrities to be brand ambassadors. It does not make a splashy showing on red carpets — although it has been represented by Angelina Jolie, Keira Knightley and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The name most people might associate with the brand is Oprah Winfrey. Not because she is a devoted customer but because the Paris store once denied her after-hours shopping privileges. (The company later expressed regret.)

Last summer, Hermès announced the arrival of a new creative director: Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski. Her hiring was news in the fashion industry, but it meant little to the brand’s customers. For them, it’s the Hermès name that counts, not that of the person sketching the cashmere overcoats, which look an awful lot like the overcoats from previous years. The ready-to-wear “is timeless,” says Robert Chavez, the company’s U.S president. But that doesn’t give a fashion designer much room to experiment.
Vanhee-Cybulski arrived at Hermès with an impressive résumé, notable for its legacy of discretion. She has worked for some of the most restrained brands in the industry — the Row, Maison Margiela, Céline. She presented her first collection on the runway in March. It will arrive in stores for the fall season.
“I think she brings her own touch and imprint,” Chavez says. “It’s refined, in a modern way.” It is profoundly subtle and it looks very, very expensive, which is the definition of the Hermès brand.
Hermès fashion moves stealthily, changing millimeter by millimeter, but the company has excelled in the speed-of-light digital realm by keeping to its own quirky path, says Isabelle Harvie-Watt of the fashion and luxury consultancy Havas LuxHub.
In a recent speech, Harvie-Watt criticized luxury firms for failing to be more active in the digital realm. For most, their early response was a defensive crouch. And yet, she says, “I think Hermès is one of those that have merged technology quite well with their brand.” The Web site, in all of its obstinate inefficiency, speaks to the brand’s identity, she says, “even though it might not be the easiest thing to navigate.”
And while Hermès skips Twitter, it does use Instagram and Facebook to connect with customers. The Web site, which launched in 2002, has been the fastest-growing “boutique” within the company, Chavez says. “We have a presence in 14 states, but we ship to all 50 states. Early on, it was the classics, but now we sell bikes, place settings . . . ”

Like most of the retailers at CityCenterDC, Hermès defines itself as a luxury brand. But the term luxury has been bandied about so much that its meaning has turned murky. Longchamp, another shop at CityCenterDC, also considers itself a luxury brand, one with a legacy and point of view. The family-owned business recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its signature handbag, Le Pliage. A customer can buy a nylon version for less than $200 from a host of outlets.
Shea argues that “luxury” has been redefined — in Hermès’ favor — and it has nothing to do with price. “Expensive doesn’t equal luxury,” Shea says. “Luxury equals rarity.”

“The millennial group continues to covet” the Birkin, Shea says. Why? They are global citizens who have “been raised with incredible access to all thing via technology. It’s changed the consumption model in a way we’re still trying to understand.” The same motivation that has people choosing craft beers — small, independently owned, artisanal — attracts them to a brand such as Hermès.

Chavez says the craftspeople who construct the company’s handbags are core to his definition of luxury. But he notes that time is the truest indulgence. “People are always willing to wait for quality,” Chavez says. “They know that it takes time. It takes more than 20 hours to make a Birkin.”
Luxury fashion, Harvie-Watt notes, has yet to produce an equivalent of Uber — a company so transformative that it’s hard to remember a time before it existed. “For these kinds of brands, the question is how to leverage technology to give customers better service?”
“Maybe someday you can order [Birkins] online,” Harvie-Watt says, “but you’ll still have to wait for them.”

-by Robin Givhan; The Washington Post

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

From a Few eBay Listings Grew a $25M Consignment Business

Her arms draped in Hermes Birkin handbags that retail for $13,000 each, a laughing Linda Lightman had to confess: She doesn't own a single one herself.
"But they're coveted by many," she added with considerable appreciation.
Such longing will translate into $25 million in sales this year for Linda's Stuff, the online luxury-consignment business Lightman started 15 years ago.
At eBay, where a projected $83 billion in gross merchandise value was transacted last year, Linda's Stuff is considered a superstar. It lists about 140,000 unique items daily, the best of which are also offered at
"Their business has basically grown up on eBay," said Jon Kuhlmann, enterprise and strategic account manager for the online-shopping kingdom. "Their dedication to customers and the selection they offer is tremendous."
The family company - Lightman's husband, Fred, is president, and the older of their two sons, Max, is vice president of business development - has a workforce of 110 (average age 25, starting at $10 an hour). After five expansions since 2007, Linda's Stuff occupies 93,000 square feet at the edge of Hatboro.
Highly organized hoarding: That was my initial reaction once inside. Rows of stacked blue-plastic Sterilite storage bins containing pre-owned handbags, clothing and jewelry, and some home decor, seemed to go on forever. What wasn't in bins was in cardboard boxes or on hanging racks and shelves. There was a photography area, and spots for appraisals, listings and returns.
About 2,000 items are shipped to buyers daily. UPS delivers hundreds of boxes a day from the 22,000 consignors who sell through Linda's Stuff. Sophisticated software enables them to track their goods, for which they receive 62 percent of sales under $1,000, 75 percent for sales up to $5,000, and 80 percent for anything above that.
Consignors are assessed no fees. Linda's Stuff covers the cost of shipping, except internationally, and absorbs eBay costs - generally a 9 percent fee for clothing, shoes, and accessories.
Linda's Stuff's headquarters is so big, said Laura Weglinski, photography manager and Fitbit wearer, she usually has logged 10,000 steps by 3 p.m.
This selling behemoth began with the most modest intentions: Lightman, who practiced labor and employment law until 1991, was looking to sell her sons' video games.
"I got hooked," she said. "When our video games ran out, I started selling my clothes."
First, she had to teach herself how to use a digital camera. With no studio lighting, she opted for natural light, photographing her clothes outside, spread on patio furniture.
Soon, friends started asking her to sell their things.
In 2003, she hired her first employees, Tyler School of Art students. They would take the Temple University shuttle to the school's Ambler campus, where the Lightmans would meet them and drive them to their house nearby to help with photographing and listing.
A home-based stock trader, Fred Lightman would help with shipping after the markets closed. By 2005, with Linda's Stuff steadily growing, he quit his job to focus on his wife's.
"I was scared," recalled Linda Lightman, 53, now a Center City resident. "It was a very weird feeling for me. The stuff I'm selling on eBay is going to support our family? It wasn't a leap I took lightly."
In retrospect, it was a no-brainer. "Your audience is the world," she said. Currently, about 35 percent of her sales are international.
Marni Isaacs of Los Angeles has been consigning with Linda's Stuff for more than five years because, she said, it pays the best in the industry and because Lightman is "a very dedicated and personal business woman."
With annual sales close to $2 million in 2007, the Lightmans moved the business out of their home, where it had consumed just about every room. To Max's annoyance, that included his bedroom.
"Girls were sitting in my room watching soap operas and listing," said the 24-year-old graduate of George Washington University, who now can't get enough of the business.
Linda's Stuff moved to Hatboro in February 2014, taking on additional space twice since then.
"Until we moved to this office, we were always hamstrung by our size," said Fred, 56. "This is now the first time we have enough space to grow. Our sales will continue to go up just organically because we can list more items."
In the last couple months, they listed more new items than used, the result of a new trend: retailers turning to Linda's Stuff to sell leftover inventory.
The mother who set out to unload some video games now is in demand for TV appearances and lectures to business-school classes. And astounded by it all.
"This," she marveled, "was in my kitchen."

Linda Lightman, 53, founder and CEO of Linda´s Stuff, is surrounded by some of the luxury items she sells on consignment for others including a Chanel coat and Hermes Birkin handbags on May 4, 2015. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How To Make a $10,000 Hermes Birkin Bag Look Low-Rent

aka A Grown Woman Acting Like a Six Year Old

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