Recently, two men and eight women gathered on a Tuesday night at RealReal’s SoHo store for a learning session on how to authenticate pricey handbags. They collected themselves on the low level of the store at Wooster Street around an office conference table. Each were handed Hermes Birkin handbags in different colors ranging from bold lime to stylish beige.
A little above their heads was a TV screen where the words “How to Authenticate a Birkin” were displayed. Cake and champagne were offered by a store assistant to the guests who advised that they sip their drinks some distance away from the bags. After having their sips, the guests took their seats back at the table and the handbag-valuation manager, Claire DeBoer, gave one Birkin to each of them. One of the guests was ecstatic and exclaimed that this is the first time that she was able to touch something that is so small and yet it costs ten thousand dollars.
This demonstrates how RealReal is treating their merchandise. RealReal seems to be putting emphasis on authentication. It appears that it is one of the critical things that are for sale in this online consignment store of luxury items. This store was founded by Julie Wainwright in 2011. She was an entrepreneur who worked previously with Reel.com video retailer as its C.E.O. She was also connected with Pets.com, a pet supply provider before striking on her own.
In RealReal, Wainwright has assembled a team of experts consisting of brand authenticators, art curators, horologists and gemologists to ensure that what its shoppers will buy are genuine and true. The store’s line of merchandise that shoppers can put into their online shopper carts include pricey items such as Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Ferdnand Leger lithograph, Celine blouse, Chanel or Hermes handbag, and a lot more.
The authentication experts of the RealReal are apparently employed by Wainwright to impart the aura of serious connoisseurs shopping. It allows shoppers of used luxury merchandise to feel that they are also part of the privileged class of designer fashion. As Wainwright has astutely observed, this is the type of shopper experience that Amazon.com will not be able to provide. Such online retailers, Wainwright said, will not be able to offer luxury. It will be very difficult for them to offer anything outside of mass service, she added.
RealReal’s online store has already signed up eight million people since it was established. Wainwright proudly claims that its sellers have never consigned their items. She added that half of her customers have never purchased used clothing before. By cursorily scanning RealReal’s website, it can be easily seen why a newbie consigner will use this portal. Most of the luxury items are from the latest seasons with photographs and images that are professionally crafted. All items are guaranteed to be 100 percent genuine.
What’s good with RealReal is that it tries to make luxury items accessible. The store offers free workshops such as the Birkin authentication session it held recently at its SoHo store. This free learning sessions offer the secrets of high fashion to the uninformed. Wainwright revealed that she was raised by artists. In that vein, she has always looked at designer fashion as a work of art although it is something wearable. When she sees designer clothing displayed in a Goodwill or a Salvation Army outlet, she feels that it does not give justice to the integrity of the creation.