The RealReal is a company that has put the words “consignment” and “luxury” together in a way that has completely taken the fashion industry by storm. When most people think of consignment shopping, the last thing they probably associate it with is luxury. In the past, a person discovering an authentic luxury piece at a consignment store was considered lucky. The RealReal has been insanely successful in putting a wrench in that sort of thinking.
The RealReal started out as an online luxury-consignment store in 2011, but has since opened a physical store in the SoHo area of New York. Julie Wainwright founded the company after realizing that it was a niche in the fashion industry that had not been explored yet, but could be greatly successful. The company now has around 1500 employees including gemologists, art curators, horologists, and brand authenticators who work to ensure that the products sold online and at the store are authentic.
The authenticity of the products and a few other key characteristics of the company have contributed to its success. A New Yorker article by Hillary Reid discusses a few of these characteristics. Reid opens the article with an anecdote that displays the importance of authenticity to the company. She recounts a story about a workshop held at the store about identifying authentic Birkin bags. The RealReal not only employs experts who work to authenticate merchandise, it also offers workshops and a store environment that promote learning. Items in the store are presented as art with a little bit of information about what inspired them, and information like how to pronounce a designer’s name properly is given to customers through various modalities.
This dedication to reframing how most people view consignment, and particularly luxury consignment, has paid off for the company in tremendous ways. In just seven years, the company has eight million members on its website, and is on track to see around 500 million in gross merchandise value soon. The RealReal has changed the consignment and fashion industries forever.