Fendi pumps, Chanel flats, Hermès bags, and Proenza Schouler sweaters are just a few of the beautiful things you can score at The RealReal – the world’s largest online marketplace for authenticated, consigned luxury goods.
Imagine being able to go online and purchase a pair of Aquazurra sling-back pumps or Michelle Mason silk mini-dress for a fraction of the cost. Or snagging a Christian Dior metallic Diorama bag for almost half of what you would pay at full retail.
All of this is possible when you shop The RealReal for luxury consignment.
The RealReal was founded in 2011 by Julie Wainwright, a successful e-commerce entrepreneur with a penchant for very high heels. Julie decided to focus on luxury consignment goods because she felt that it was a market that was underserved.
She tested the market, sold a few of her own items at a pawn shop, and soon began asking friends for any items they no longer wanted to use as her startup inventory. Julie also talked to stylists and asked for an introduction to their clients to pitch the concept. For two months she collected luxury goods to feature online – items that could be sold to anyone, anywhere in the world. She even received a U-Haul truckload of beautiful clothing and shoes (around 900 different items in total) from a woman referred to her by one of the stylists she worked with.
When Julie finally did launch, it was automatically a hit. Both buyers and sellers were hooked. It was so successful, in fact, that for a brief period of time, Julie was concerned that she might not have enough stock for her new venture. But that worry was short-lived.
The RealReal made it easy for people to sell – and it built trust with buyers.
The RealReal is different from other consignment shops. Unlike the typical vintage store, it takes possession of the clothing, shoes, and accessories that it sells. And this benefits both sellers and buyers. Sellers can either mail their items in or schedule a time for a RealReal luxury manger to pick up the items from their home. This is ideal for buyers of high-end clothing because most of them don’t want to trek down to a local vintage shop to sell clothes. And so they often just sit in their closets unused.
By allowing The RealReal to sell beautiful pieces that they no longer want, they are able to make room for new pieces – and feel good about someone else giving new life to these expensive designs. Often times, its not even about the money.
Buyers also benefit from The RealReal taking in the articles of clothing. The RealReal inspects and authenticates each piece that it receives. So buyers can purchase high-end brands with confidence that they are getting the real deal.
Consignment with a Purpose
The RealReal is unique in because it has made luxury consignment chic, discreet, and sustainable. In a society with an economy focused on make, use, and dispose of, The RealReal is essentially recycling luxury goods, and contributing to sustainable fashion.
The company believes so strongly in this purpose that it has taken up the Carbon Neutral challenge that was issued by Gucci President and CEO Marco Bizzarri. Bizzarri’s challenge was issued in an open letter across sectors of the fashion industry after Climate Week NYC in 2019.
Along with Gucci, The RealReal has announced that it accepts the challenge and will also be carbon neutral by 2021. The company has teamed up with an environmental consulting firm to help meet its goal.
And because The RealReal knows that sustainability is also important to its customers, the company has designed the first-of-its-kind sustainability calculator. The calculator allows The RealReal clients to see first-hand how much The RealReal has offset greenhouse gasses, water usage, and energy output since its inception by visiting the calculator on the company’s website.
What The RealReal Buys and Sells
The RealReal focuses strictly on luxury consignment pieces. The company has a small army of associates around the country. Many of the associates have spent time working in retail selling clothing and accessories. They go into the homes of clients who are interested in discreetly parting with high-end clothes, shoes, handbags, and accessories.
The items run the gamut of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Versace, Stella McCartney, Sergio Rossi, Prada, Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Helmut Lang, Rick Owens, and Christian Louboutin – to name a few.
Sellers keep anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the resale value. And right now the company ships around 20,000 items per month to buyers.
The RealReal customers are all over the world with about 55 percent using their mobile devices to shop for beautiful, gently used luxury pieces.
About the Founder
Julie Wainwright, The RealReal’s founder, grew up in Indiana with parents who loved beautiful things but hated to see anything go to waste. Her father owned an art-and-design business. But he also loved digging through salvage yards in search of things he could repurpose.
“Both my parents loved reusing things,” Julie recalled in an interview with The New Yorker.
Julie attended Purdue University for college and got a degree in management. During the dot-com days of the 1990s, she ended up in San Francisco and became the CEO of the startup Pets.com. The company folded, like many other dot-com companies in Silicon Valley in the year 2000.
A decade passed before Julie started The RealReal, but her new company, focused on bringing new life to people’s old clothes, is definitely the real deal.
With the influence of her upbringing, Julie has created a niche business that celebrates both sustainability and beauty. It allows sellers to make money off of their old luxury clothing and accessories discreetly and hassle-free. It gives buyers an opportunity to own items they may not have been able to afford otherwise. And in the process, The RealReal creates a sustainable online shopping marketplace in a circular economy.
The RealReal is a win-win for everyone.
If there aren’t any good estate sales near you, consider checking out a consignment store in the more expensive part of your town.