Seated at The Connaught over coffee, Sofia Bernardin and Sabrina Marshall – co-founders of vintage and secondhand e-store Resee – are their own best advertisement. Bernardin is wearing a 1970s inky-blue Yves Saint Laurent blouse and cropped flared jeans, while Marshall sports a 1990s Helmut Lang slim black jacket and slip dress. This American-born, Paris-dwelling duo appear fresh, pressed and stylish despite their secondhand attire. “Our MO is to sell only very wearable pieces that you can mix into your wardrobe,” says Bernardin. “Vintage used to mean what was hanging in your grandmother’s closet and second hand had the stigma of dusty or déclassé. We want to focus on pieces that have a great story and look cool today.”
The site is like diving into the wardrobes of a circle of fashion-insider friends. Truffle away and you might strike upon that Lanvin dress (around €450) you missed out on or a timeless Hermès leather jacket (around €850). You may find Prada – the Lips print collection (from about €400) from 2000 is highly sought-after; patchwork silk pieces (from €550) and blazers (from €1,200) from Nicolas Ghesquière’s early collections for Balenciaga; sculptural tailoring (jackets around €750) from Azzedine Alaïa; and trophy pieces from Phoebe Philo’s collections for Chloé (from €250) as well as Céline (from €300).
The duo, who co-founded the site nearly three years ago sourcing “pre-loved” items from a network of friends and fashion industry acquaintances in New York, Paris, London and Los Angeles, have positioned the business as a best-in-class of secondhand designer clothes. Whereas eBay can be a bore to trawl through and reselling sites such as Vestiaire allow consumers to upload images themselves, Resee is cleanly edited and every piece is shot on a model styled with current wardrobe staples. You can shop by theme – androgynous, for example, or bohemian – or by designer.
“The idea is that everyone can project themselves into these clothes. We want, through sophisticated styling, to educate but not alienate and also communicate moments in fashion history,” says Marshall, who previously worked as a fashion editor at the biannual Self Service magazine in Paris. The business and strategy of this self‑funded venture is the domain of Bernardin, who earned her spurs in the publishing and advertising side of Condé Nast in Paris before setting up her own advertising agency.
Now women come to them with wardrobes to offload. Their eyes light up with glee recalling a client who came to them with 300 pieces of Yves Saint Laurent. The stash made up the lion’s share of a special Yves Saint Laurent sale that included his famous 1960s safari dress, double-breasted blazers, animal-print dresses and several of those bow-neck lavalière blouses currently enjoying a renaissance.
The favourable winds of sustainability, a desire for individuality and the ever-swelling interest in the history of style have helped lift the venture into a commercial success. There is a polish to it – purchases are immaculately wrapped, boxed with a handwritten note and shipped within 48 hours. “The service is ‘white glove’ and right now we have 40 per cent returning customers,” says Bernardin.
Stock is taken by consignment (there are currently around 1,500 items warehoused, waiting for the right fashion moment to upload) and the commission averages at 38 per cent. “These women want to see their clothes appreciated and sold for the right price and before us there wasn’t really an e-commerce model for that,” says Marshall.
The site is also home to a series of “pop-up” areas for respected specialist dealers, which kicked off with vintage Louis Vuitton trunks from Le Monde du Voyage in Paris; New York vintage fashion dealer Marlene Wetherell featured in July; and in October Resee will stage an auction in aid of Breast Cancer Research Foundation (set up by Evelyn H Lauder) featuring donations from a roll-call of stylish women, including Charlotte Rampling, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Cindy Sherman, who has donated a whimsical Dries Van Noten dress (starting price €900). As the ready-to-wear industry accelerates with ever more collections and transient trends, the pleasure of re-evaluating the past and dressing “out of time” has its own sweet appeal. There’s a cachet that comes with wearing “this old thing”.