Consignment Goes High-End
The RealReal helps the city’s most fashionable ladies shed their designer brands for profit.
December 03, 2012
Kochman inside Lea Black’s closet
No one is more enthusiastic about fashionable Miamians’ last season’s designer clothes than Brooke Kochman. Be it a Chanel handbag, dated harem pants relegated to the do-not-wear pile, or couture best left to the runway, Kochman—South Florida merchandising manager for The RealReal—is determined to unearth these styles of yesteryear and find them homes via the website’s high-end consignment shop.
“I love going to people’s houses and helping them sort through their closets,” says Kochman, who’s been the sole merchandiser in the area for the site since July. “It’s really like a cleansing experience, and people feel good when they purge.” Kochman’s role means combing through clients’ wardrobes to select new or gently worn designer pieces from labels such as Prada, Christian Louboutin, and Louis Vuitton. Her clients range from teenagers to socialites to celebrities (recently, she found herself in Real Housewives of Miami star Lea Black’s closet), but she’s keeping tight-lipped. “It’s complete closet confidentiality—I would never tell anyone’s hidden secrets,” she says.
Beyond the stylish scavenger hunts she goes on almost daily, the former special events director’s passion is people. “My background is not in fashion, but I really love networking and building relationships,” she says. On a typical day, Kochman is in and out of clients’ closets, traveling to homes as far north as her hometown of Boca Raton. “People become obsessed. I’m obsessed! And I’m on [the site] all the time,” she offers. Kochman is surprised by the number of referrals she’s received in such a short time, which has placed Miami as one of the company’s fastest-growing markets.
Unlike other online auction sites, The RealReal inspects and authenticates each item before putting it on sale. “Our standards are higher than you’d find in local consignment stores. We pick the best of the best based on our designer directory and what our audience is looking for,” explains Julie Wainwright, CEO of The RealReal. Since launching in early 2011, the San Francisco-based retailer has generated more than 100,000 members and has enlisted 14 merchandisers across the country, with 10 more slated to join by early 2013.
Sellers make 60 percent of the sale price of each item sold, which increases to 70 percent once they’ve sold $1,500 worth of items online. Kochman has put her clothes to work for her, which, she says, has only intensified the obsession. “This is not my normal life; I’m a mom with twin girls who are 18 months old. But I’m loving being a part of something that’s huge and exciting,” she says following a whirlwind merchandising trip to the West Coast. “I really didn’t have a fabulous closet until the The RealReal came along.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PRESSCOTT MCDONALD; HAIR AND MAKEUP BY CASSANDRA CELESTIN; STYLING BY JENNY ZALKIN