A store owner, of course, can determine the amount he or she will earn from each item, with pricing dependent on its quality and season. These boutiques typically take 50 to 60 percent of a sale; consignors, obviously, are best served when the store splits the sale with them. With regard to the Phillip Lim tunic, the original owner has justified her purchase with a few wearings and managed to recoup enough dough for half the cost of, say, a new pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs flats. “Consigning gave me the sense of getting a little compensation for my mistakes,” says one former fashion magazine staffer, who recently earned back a third of the cost of a pair of Paul Smith motorcycle boots she had worn only once.
At Butter Consignment in Brooklyn, owner Eva Dayton, whose designer boutique down the street, Butter, carries Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela and Rick Owens, routinely receives bags of clothes from women across the country, many of whom Dayton believes are relieved to find an outlet for purchases gone awry. A spanking-new Valentino cardigan, delivered to the store after Christmas “with a $3,800 price tag still on it,” she says, will go for $1,500. “The key is that we get merchandise every day, and a lot of it is brand-new, or was a limited edition,” adds Dayton, who opened the store in late 2006 with 20 consignors and now has around 150. “It appeals to the fashion customer who is always looking for the new thing, obviously, but it’s really becoming a smarter way to shop.” With its wood floors and elegant West Elm light fixtures, the boutique passes for any other high-end shop in the neighborhood, thereby adhering to the industry’s No. 1 commandment: Thou shalt not look shabby. “People spend hours and hours in a consignment store, because you never know what you’re going to find. Aesthetically, the store needs to be really clean,” explains Dayton.
As Decadestwo’s Garkinos, who currently works with more than 2,000 consignors worldwide, says, “It’s aspirational. Girls who don’t want to go to H&M, who don’t want to get the knockoffs, they are discovering consignment. They want the real thing, and we’ve got it.”