The latest brag in fashion? A secondhand luxury bag

Secondhand luxury goods worth close to $50 billion were sold globally in 2023.
Secondhand luxury goods worth close to $50 billion were sold globally in 2023. (iStockphoto)


More shoppers are willing to shout, not whisper, their love for pre-loved luxury items

Priya Sabharwal has, what she calls, a “beautiful habit". She likes to carry a different bag at each of the bi-monthly kitty parties with friends. In the six months since the get-togethers started, she’s flaunted a double flap white Chanel shoulder bag, a Louis Vuitton Noé Monogram and a shiny black Celine Triomphe. “All are pre-loved," says Sabharwal, 32, a homemaker in west Delhi. “I love it when my bags become a topic of discussion."

Before the pandemic, she had a different habit. Whenever Sabharwal travelled abroad with her businessman husband, she would buy at least two luxury bags. Even during covid, there was always a Neverfull or a Birkin online she wanted. During one such search in 2022, she came across an online platform offering a used Dior Saddle bag in mauve. “It was not there on the official site. I was hesitant initially because, you know, it was secondhand, but then it was such a unique colour that I asked for a viewing (a representative from the pre-loved luxury goods site came to her house to show the bag, a standard offering at such platforms)," recalls Sabharwal. She bought the bag for over a lakh despite it having a pea-sized stain. (The current price of a new Saddle is over 4 lakh.)

Since that May two years ago, Sabharwal has only scouted for and carried secondhand luxury bags. She has spent from 1-15 lakh on a pre-loved luxury bag. “I buy one, carry it for two-three months and then sell it (on a pre-loved website, with a profit of 10-15%, and sometimes even at a loss, depending on the bag’s condition)." Sabharwal recently sold a small Bottega Veneta Jodie for around 3 lakh; she had bought it from a secondhand luxury platform for 3.2 lakh. “Some bags that I really like, I keep them; the rest I sell. I don’t mind the small losses since each piece is unique, some are not even designed anymore."

Sabharwal is part of a growing community of luxury shoppers in India who believe owning used, secondhand or pre-loved—whatever you chose to call it—clothes and accessories, especially bags, is more of a brag than something to whisper about. Considering how today’s shopper is trying to stick to ever-changing trends, while thinking consciously about their buying choices, the stigma attached with used goods has, by and large, disappeared.

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Homegrown platforms offering pre-loved luxury goods have seen the shift from close quarters. When Anvita Mehra and Jharna Gianchandani were planning to start one such website 10 years ago, the secondhand luxury market didn’t really exist in the country. “It was a big concept in the West and some Indians were buying secondhand goods abroad. So, we tried experimenting here with some tweaks," says Mehra. They chose the brand name Couture Confidential, since “shoppers here were not ready to reveal that they own secondhand luxury."

Anvita Mehra and Jharna Gianchandani started Couture Confidential 10 years ago, when the secondhand luxury market didn’t really exist in India
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Anvita Mehra and Jharna Gianchandani started Couture Confidential 10 years ago, when the secondhand luxury market didn’t really exist in India

Today, the market is completely different, explains Gianchandani. “People actually tag us on social media when they buy from us, which wasn’t a thing till a few years ago," she says. “It’s becoming normal, more so after covid, with people from different walks of life willing to spend more but being more selective." The attitude shift reflects in the sales of Couture Confidential, which has a retail store in Delhi, besides a website, that offers everything from a Saint Laurent Niki Medium in Croc Embossed Leather (for 1.80 lakh; retail price 2.84 lakh) and Jimmy Choo Louisa Brown Suede Strappy Sandals ( 12,000; retail cost 65,000) to a Rolex Datejust Oyster Steel & Everose Gold ( 7.10 lakh; retail price 9.52 lakh). Each item comes with information of its condition, authenticity proof and in-person viewing service—standard practice that many such platforms follow globally. The founders claim a monthly gross revenue of over 1.5 crore, with over 50,000 customers, mostly women in the 20-70 age range, spread across metros and tier-2 and 3 cities. An average order is around 50,000. “It’s also about accessibility and authenticity," insists Mehra. “You can’t buy Hermès till you have a purchase history with them. Plus, brands like Goyard and LV, even Hermès, never go on sale. Pre-loved platforms bring all these products in one place, with a discount and complete authenticity, otherwise you are risking the business. And it saves you the money and the hassle of travelling to another country to shop."

Like many pre-loved platforms, Couture Confidential works on the model of buying goods from luxury shoppers, zeroing on a price depending on the condition of the bag, its proof of authenticity and retail price.

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The growing global awareness around secondhand goods is, of course, helping. Mega brands like Gucci offer pre-loved items. So do multi-brand stores such as Selfridges and Galleries Lafayette. “They are all working in a way to increase business but, in the process, they are increasing the acceptability of secondhand luxury goods," says Punit Anand, founder of nine-year-old Luxury Pop, a Mumbai-based online store that offers pre-owned luxury brands. Her platform sells 10-15 luxury items a day, with an average order being 40,000.

Luxury Pop, which offers online pre-owned luxury goods, sells 10-15 pieces a day, claims founder Punit Anand
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Luxury Pop, which offers online pre-owned luxury goods, sells 10-15 pieces a day, claims founder Punit Anand

To give sense of their popularity, secondhand luxury products worth close to $50 billion (around 4 trillion) were sold globally last year, according to Bain & Company. Closer home, the market size reached $618.3 million in 2023, shows a report by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group. It’s expected to reach over $ 1,556.2 million by 2032.

What’s also driving the interest is the opportunity to make money. “People are doing it (selling of goods) to make money, to buy trendy things with the money they make, some even do it as a stocks-like investment, considering some luxury brands keep increasing their prices annually," says Anand, whose clients include celebrities and fashion stylists. “Some do it just for the love of luxury."

Jeweller Prerna Jain, who divides her time between Dubai and Mumbai, belongs to the last category. Three years ago, the 27-year-old had close to 15 bags, from a Birkin to a Mini Kelly, which were being hardly used. Friends suggested she start selling them on pre-loved platforms. Now, she earns at least 15% on each bag she sells. “I don’t care about the money as such," says Jain. “For me, the happiness comes from the fact that my (purchasing) history is being built with heritage brands. And the pure joy that comes from buying and selling a secondhand bag; it makes a fashion bag into a storytelling object of desire."

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