When I was stuck at home during Sydney’s long second lockdown, I missed browsing through clothes shops. Looking at different items, touching them, trying them on has always been one of my favourite pastimes.
Scrolling through online stores didn’t work for me; it felt too static, too disconnected from the brands and the retailer. But when I stumbled upon luxury recycled fashion store Trading in Style (@trading_in_style_) I found my lockdown retail therapy hit. TIS sells high-end pre-loved clothing and accessories via Instagram auctions, affording buyers like me the sense of engagement and excitement not found in regular online shopping.
Jenna Isaacman and Bianca Picherit inside their luxury consignment store Trading in Style in Randwick, Sydney.Credit:Louise Kennerley
Founders Jenna Isaacman and Bianca Picherit – both thirty-something and aspirationally beautiful – post stories every week day, modelling the clothes themselves and chatting to their audience with the familiarity and warmth of a personal shopper.
“Next up we have this stunning Zimmermann dress in pink,” they say to camera, showing off the outfit. The first person to message “SOLD” wins the item.
When they launched TIS in June 2018, Isaacman and Picherit focused on beautifully styled Instagram photos, but switched to stories during Sydney’s first lockdown.
“We were initially panicked because we couldn’t open our (Randwick) store,” says Isaacman, “but it pushed us to another level, made us what we are now.”
“We’d always taken photos of ourselves with the clothes,” Picherit explains, “but we didn’t do them as a virtual shopping experience. During lockdown, we realised we could sell a lot more by showcasing a live, curated edit and providing our community with retail therapy. Now we do almost two edits a day, and we will keep that up.”
Aware that many women were decluttering their wardrobes during lockdown, TIS offered virtual consignments and complimentary courier services, developing intimate relationships with their clients. The evolution paid off. TIS’s turnover doubled in the original 2020 lockdown, and then doubled again in the recent lockdown. Around 10 to 11,000 people tune in a day from all over Australia, buying items priced between $175 and several thousand dollars. On one day in lockdown, TIS turned over $20,000 worth of items.
Rebeca Carter and Belinda Beck of recycled fashion consignment store Bec & Bel (@bec.and.bel) also shifted to Instagram stories during COVID.
“Lockdown for us was a blessing in disguise,” Carter tells me. “We didn’t realise how much people were engaging with our stories. Clients told us the edits were the highlight of their day. It was a distraction and entertainment, and a way of engaging with our community.”
Alicia Robertson, Belinda Young and Rebeca Carter at their Bec & Bel store. They have been selling their own consigned pre-loved fashion at Bec & Bel since mid-2020. Credit:Louise Kennerley
If TIS is aspirational, Bec & Bel is accessible and relatable. Three diverse forty-something women display and model the clothes, and with a slightly lower price point (the average item costs around $250), Bec & Bel sell mid-end as well as high-end pieces.
Initially, only 10 per cent of sales for Bec & Bel came from their website and Instagram, but this all changed in lockdown. Almost immediately, Carter and Beck saw a 30 per cent growth in sales. Around 2000 women tuned in to their stories daily; on their best day, Bec & Bel sold $8000 worth of goods. Case in point: me, the proud owner of a pre-loved Philosophy blazer and an as-new Isabel Marant Étoile jacket.
“So many women discovered us in lockdown,” says Carter. “Some people have started treating us like celebrities! When they come to the store now they say, ‘Oh, I feel like I’m on a film set’.”
Over at non-profit recycled clothing retailer Fashion Forward (@fashionforward327), founders Sharon Aaron and Nicole Katz were also migrating to Instagram. Aaron and Katz launched Fashion Forward in 2020, selling high-quality donated clothing at pop-up events in their homes, with all proceeds going to Jewish House, a charity providing crisis support and accommodation to individuals of all denominations. Most items sell for $25 to $50, with many items brand new with tags or barely worn.
When the second wave of COVID hit, Katz suggested to Aaron that they head online.
“It has been a real learning experience,” says Aaron. “You have to be flexible and see where the market is. We’d done a few things online for the first lockdown but we weren’t using Instagram. It has been a game changer.”
The pair began “dropping” edits on Mondays and Wednesdays, with clearance sales on Sundays, and gained hundreds of new followers. I watched the drops religiously, and ended up with a Little Joe dress, a Collette smock, and a Flax and Seed knit, for the grand total of $95. Last week Fashion Forward sold a brand-new Helmut Lang jacket (RRP $595) for $75 within five minutes of posting.
“Just in lockdown we raised $21,000 for Jewish House,” Aaron says. “I didn’t bargain for the incredible feel-good aspect. No-one feels guilty. It’s a new way of giving to charity.”
I, for one, will keep tuning in.
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