How To Collect Fashion Items That Accrue Value
Today there are a lot of classic luxury fashion pieces that people invest in because they tend to be timeless and hold good value. In fact, you probably have some of these very pieces in your closet already — like a Chanel or Hermes bag. A Rolex watch. A timeless, strappy little black dress by a famous fashion house — an evening gown, too.
But the fashion world is vast and diverse, and there is far more value in this industry than just the mainstream classics. So, we wanted to talk to an expert, someone who could tell us what kind of pieces not only tend to hold value but accrue it.
We reached out to Gina Pagnella, a vintage buyer and fashion stylist based in Italy. Through her company A Modern Thrifter In The Old World, the American expat sources Italian and European vintage for retailers in the United States, as well as a few private clients and fashion researchers. She’s been at it for the better part of a decade, sifting through markets and wading her way into a world of close connections and tight-lipped secrets.
I’m talking to Gina on the phone from her flat in Piacenza. I can hear her pour coffee into a cup, imagining the steam floating up towards the Italian fresco ceiling you get glimpses of when she’s trying on new vintage finds on Instagram. It’s easy to see she has a keen eye for fashion, but her clients also trust her to know what sells.
As you may have assumed, Gina’s American clients request Italian megabrands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. But, these pieces aren’t necessarily the bread and butter of her business. Not only are they harder to track down — both due to demand and waning supplies — but just having a designer name isn’t cutting it anymore. So if you’re shopping with investment in mind, this vintage buyer says you should consider these tips to collect with real value.
1. Name brand isn’t always the name of the game
“What it’s become now is what’s in the details,” Gina explains. “Recently, I’ve done less name-brand buying because I’ve had less requests for it. It’s more about the shapes and the lines.”
One of the most recent examples of this is the demand for flouncy, white linen or cotton vintage blouses. Gina says they’re not name brand, but they’re European, well made and ‘timeless.’ She’s seen their value and been collecting them for years, along the way, having to convince her clients to just try them on. Now she can’t keep these effortlessly-chic pieces in stock. Of course they are particularly stylish now — often paired with a pair of high-waist jeans. But, these blouses are also timeless and well-made, which is where she and her clients see the value.
2. Unique designer pieces will be more valuable
Gina says ‘that ship has sailed,’ when it comes to vintage pieces fetching top dollar just because they’re designer. She also cautions against the notion that just because you buy a designer piece today, it will be worth something in the future.
Nowadays, she says a vintage designer piece needs to be something special, and that’s due to a larger turn in the market. “I think that so many fashions have come and gone, that everyone wants to be the only one with ‘that thing’ and everyone wants to talk about it,” Gina explained.
“Since I’m so close to Milan, I can find showroom or runway pieces. But they’re one off, one of a kind pieces, sometimes made to inspire a clothing line or maybe even a personal request.” While these aren’t the pieces her clients specifically ask for, they usually turn out to be valuable finds.
3. Invest in historic pieces
Gina says some of the most valuable vintage fashion pieces come from rare collaborations and unique seasonal pieces. So when shopping today, she says think about exceptional moments in time — “Think about collections like Alessandro Michele’s first for Gucci,” Gina points out. She also says to invest in celebrity and designer collaborations, like Pharell with Adidas. “If you have the means to buy a couple pairs of those and store them away, it’s worth it.”
Gina also says fast-fashion collaborations with designers will fetch great prices on the secondary market, like the Versace and H&M collaboration. “That’s history! When else did that ever happen?” she exclaimed excitedly into the phone.
4. Think of your closet as a collection
“It’s not just walking into Gucci like, ‘give me your latest bag!’ There needs to be some kind of niche that you are satisfying and collecting for.” Gina then referenced a niche trend of collecting platform shoes from the 1970’s, saying if you can collect for a trend like that today, you may be curating something really valuable.
“There’s this really cool market outside of Lake Como I visited on the off chance when my mom visited, and I had no idea, but it turned out to be the most perfect market. That’s where I found these platform shoes that I file under the category of, ‘things I probably should have kept.’
Turns out, her client who she sold them to was able to track down their original ad from the 1970s, revealing their brand name and artisanal quality. They eventually sold to a serious collector and their photo was even featured and circulated amongst the community.
5. Always care for your pieces properly
“Just because they say they’re a professional drycleaner doesn’t mean they are,” Gina warns. She also cautions about hand washing garments yourself, saying you can actually bleed the dyes from a piece unintentionally. Instead, always seek professional advice and only have your clothing washed and cared for by people you really trust. What’s more, always pay that few extra bucks to get it done right. “Paying an extra few dollars for a better dry cleaner can save you from a priceless mistake.”
Some pieces you collect may be worth insuring. Get in touch with our team for insight on valuable collections coverage.