Eleven years ago, Corri McFadden was up at 2 a.m., working on a final fashion collection for a college project. As the TV played in the background, she noticed a commercial for eBay store franchises—a popular business trend circa 2000-2004. “It was a switch that went off—I could start an eBay store and resell luxury designer items,” she says. “Once [the idea] happened, it was like that was what I was doing. Nothing was going to get in my way.” She developed a business plan in one of her senior classes, graduated in July 2004, and opened eDrop-Off in October 2004.
The store has been selling clients' luxury items online for years, with about fifty percent of their goods coming from local Chicagoans. Their Lincoln Park location accepts drop-offs, which the eDrop-Off girls then sell online, totaling about 2,000 eBay sales a week, and giving clients a healthy cut of the profits. This particular business model may seem common now, but the idea of reselling gently used Chanel and Louis Vuitton wasn't always so obvious. “When I started ten years ago, nobody was doing luxury consignment. There was the traditional consignment store—always popular in NYC, not as much in Chicago—and there were a lot of misconceptions attached it: dirty, dark, used,” says McFadden. “Before, there was never value associated with your closet. You bought a handbag, used it, and gave it away. I saw value in your closet.”
To celebrate ten years in business, McFadeen opened her first physical retail store in the Gold Coast last year. The shop hosts The Collection—a selection of fixed price goods that can be bought online or in person. The decision to go brick-and-mortar came after years of hearing clients long to take their eBay purchases home immediately. “You always want to remain new and innovative, and this is a way to curate our collections in the store to our Chicago clients,” says McFadden, who characterizes the Chicago client as a woman who wants to score a deal, but is willing to shell out real money to get it—because buying a pair of gently used Louboutin pumps will always cost more than new shoes at H&M.
“I do credit myself with pioneering this industry,” McFadden says. Her competitors today are younger businesses—take Luxury Garage Sale, a similar model, but one that started in 2010. “It took about six years before other people started really doing luxury consignment, too,” she says. “Now, it's changed the way that people shop.” Since the idea of reselling luxury items is common today, McFadden notes that customers will now make their new luxury purchases with the item's eventual resale value in the back of their minds. “It's kind of like buying a car—when you're investing in a bag, you're more likely to buy a bag that you can get a higher return on.”
There's a personal element to consignment that's inevitably lacking from new retail, and that personal element only becomes more urgent when clients are trying to resell thousands of dollars of bags and furs and shoes and gowns. The idea of an “investment piece” feels more literal than ever, and people want bang for their (brocade, Prada) buck. “Once [luxury consignment] started,” McFadden says, “it was like, 'I'm getting $2,000 for things I haven't worn in forever? This is amazing.'”