Consignment couture in Baltimore

Local boutiques offer luxury at a fraction of the cost

July 03, 2014|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

In a city starved for luxury flagship retail stores, consignment shops are the closest thing fashionistas have to getting the same haute couture looks worn by the world's rich and famous.

Although the fashions might not always be current, they are always a fraction of the cost of clothes found in the shopping districts of New York, Paris, London and L.A.

In Baltimore, the Roland Park neighborhood offers the greatest concentration of high-end consignment shops.

"The Roland Park area is ideal for this industry," said Betsy Wendell, owner of Octavia Cross Keys, a women's boutique in North Baltimore. Wendell frequents consignment shops in Roland Park and promotes them. The area has "a lot of wealthy high-end customers who end up with too many clothes in their closets. ... It's easier shopping. It's very quaint to be in those types of stores. It works when they are all close together."

Andrea Kaplan, owner of Love Me Two Times, opened her boutique in Roland Park in 2011.

"It allows all women the ability to have luxury affordably," Kaplan said.

Kaplan opened her boutique to share her love of luxury designers with others. A good amount of its merchandise is from her own collection, and Kaplan said she loves the adventure of hunting down designer finds and passing them on to her customers.

At nearby ReDeux, co-owners Jan Braun and Linda Eisenbrandt rely on a variety of sources to build their inventory.

"We go to a lot of estate sales," Braun said.

"We have some stores who consign with us," Eisenbrandt said as she showed off a gift set of Chanel perfume that a store recently brought to the boutique. This is a practice some larger retailers use when items do not sell or there is a surplus at the end of the season.

Jenny Teeter of Westminster is a longtime consignment shop customer. She's been shopping at Wear It's At in Pikesville since it opened in 2006. In addition to the designer merchandise, she likes the relationship between customer and staff that isn't always found at a mall.

"The people are a big part of it. They are very helpful," she said. "It is more personal. ... It's the people, first and foremost. They have great staff and customer service. They are tremendously helpful trying to find you the right item in the store."

Mary Box, a Phoenix resident, has been a customer of Vogue Revisited in Roland Park since 1993 and loves the Chanel pieces she has found over the years.

"Vogue Revisited has treated its customers and consignors as if they are the most important client each and every time for 20 years," she said.

Consignment shop owners say the key to finding great items is to shop often.

"I get new things in every day," said Chris Anderson, owner of Vogue Revisited "The inventory is always changing."


A sampling of some of the area's consignment shops

Love Me Two Times

600 Wyndhurst Ave., Roland Park; 410-323-1070; lovemetwotimesshop.com

Owner Andrea Kaplan has taken her affinity for designer clothing and turned it into a business. Her boutique, which opened in 2011, features an extensive collection of shoes — from Christian Louboutin to Dior — handbags and gowns. "That's part of the fun — not knowing what is going to come in here," said Kaplan, who has managed stores throughout the city and was a buyer at Octavia. "It's different every day."

Tip: If you're looking for vintage evening wear, this boutique has you covered. The shop is a treasure-trove of gowns from Anna Sui to Oscar de la Renta.

ReDeux

5002 Lawndale Ave., Roland Park; 410-323-2140; redeuxapparel.com

Jan Braun was inspired to open ReDeux in 2009 after visiting famed consignment shops in Los Angeles. Upon her return to Baltimore, Braun contacted Linda Eisenbrandt, and the two friends opened their consignment shop soon after. From Chanel to Etro, they continually carry some of the hottest names in fashion.

Tip: Braun and Eisenbrandt pride themselves on their ability to dress their customers in complete designer ensembles from head to toe. Don't forget to check out the boutique's section of St. John and plus-size options.

The Surprise Shop

122 Allegheny Ave., Towson; 410-828-9343; surpriseshop.org

At first glance, you wouldn't know that this 19th-century Victorian-style stone house contains an impressive collection of men's and women's clothing. But the Surprise Shop of Trinity Episcopal Church, founded in 1964, is worth visiting. In addition to benefiting a good cause — all proceeds support homeless outreach in Towson — there are great finds. It's not unusual to find Elie Tahari, Burberry, Brooks Brothers and Lilly Pulitzer. The "brand-name label room" has lines from Banana Republic and Anthropologie, among other retailers.

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