With the onset of the recession in 2007, the market was primed for a new kind of store, one that I wish I had thought of myself: the high-end consignment store. SWAP is one such store here in the South where I live and work as the CEO of a private foundation. Started in 2008 by Michelle Reinhardt, who transitioned from the corporate world in order seeking a job that was more personally fulfilling, SWAP now has three locations in New Orleans and its suburbs and one in Baton Rouge. Women dress impeccably in the South. Why didn't I think of this?
As a self-proclaimed clothes horse, I have enough designer clothes to say (without embarrassment) that on my divorce papers, it says, "irreconcilable shopping." I've always adored the shows on television about high-end thrift stores in New York where you bring in your clothes, and they examine it to ensure you've truly brought your original Yves Saint Laurent masterpiece instead of a, dare I say it, forgery -- white collar crime division. People have left those one-of-a-kind Birkin bag home sales on the Upper East Side in tears, because the bag just didn't make the cut (or scratch, if you get what I mean). Those hardcore stores are a great deal of fun to watch on television, but when it comes to personal shopping preference, my favorite store is of the same premise except with all the high designers at a lower price point. You can even find gorgeous buys with tags still attached, and never worn. It's a buyer's market.
I recently brought tons of my designer clothes, jewelry, and shoes -- yes, even some of the pieces mentioned on my divorce papers -- to SWAP. For everything that they sell, I get 40 percent in cash or 50 percent in store credit. At first, I thought what a great way to make some side change. However, then I became obsessed with using my credit to buy other people's hand-me-downs. It was as if I'd found a massive network of closets with which I could do a friendly trade-out of clothing I would never wear again. If I find something fabulous, I will get it with my credit even if it isn't in my size. Last week, I found a Juicy Couture dress, never worn. I'm a sucker for the now out of business Juicy. Imagine a yummy pink lace dress over a nude slip creating an illusion of floral nakedness.
It's also addictive to just swing by the store to see what I have sold: almost every other day, I stop by to see if I've had success. Sometimes I just get plain depressed that nobody has noticed my never-been-worn Louboutins or Kate Spade bag. I almost wanted to buy them back. The point was to having a spring clean-out and make some extra money, but my addiction took over: my closet is now bursting at the seams (no pun intended!) Yesterday, I even bought Badgley Mischka wedding shoes, even though I have no intention of getting married. In my defense, they go with other dresses.
SWAP is very particular: they won't take your clothes if they have a deodorant stain or a microscopic spot. This strict policy regarding quality allows you to feel you are at Nordstrom's or maybe Nordstrom Rack without the chaos. When I redid my home recently, I was thinking that there should be an Art SWAP, Furniture SWAP, and Spouse SWAP (that is actually a real TV show). The consumer would just borrow, similar to on-approval, for a couple of months, and then would be able to change his or her surroundings instead of purchasing thousands of dollars of new art and furniture. If you have a husband who would buy you that anyway, don't SWAP him.
Like most retail stores, SWAP employees can come off as aloof if you aren't dressed in nice clothes, but my SWAP ladies have turned out to be lovely, funny women. They've also become my Shoppers Anonymous sponsors: "Lori, you don't need that. Put it down." They get excited when I sell clothes or jewelry and can't wait for me to come in so that they can tell me. The store must be doing well, because they just reopened a larger store in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. SWAP is my lunchtime treat to myself, as work keeps me very busy on heavier subjects that are far more important to the lives within our community than playing a chess game with pretty clothes. On some days I even convince myself that supporting our local economy makes it a worthwhile and necessary outing. #GirlGotRange™