A lace applique skirt from John Galliano

TORONTO — What’s old is new at Simons for fall as the eco-friendly Canadian retailer launches its first secondhand luxury goods departments in four stores in Quebec and Ontario, and on its web site.

“This is a new approach for us but it makes sense,” said Simons’ vice president of merchandising Richard Simons. “Today, there isn’t one road to being environmentally responsible. There’s buying stuff that’s locally made. There’s buying less and better quality. Then there’s vintage, but the new economy is about sharing. It’s just a different model than retail is used to.”

Inspired by that idea, Simons partnered with luxury resellers LXRandCO, founded in 2012, and VSP Consignment, launched in 2013, to tap into consumers eager to buy authenticated designer apparel and accessories much like fine art.

VSP chose a selection from its archive spanning from the Seventies through to the early Aughts for Simons’ rollout, which debuted last month.

LXRandCO — a specialist in reselling vintage designer bags and collection accessories — also contributed the kind of premium finds now showcased in the Edito departments of Simons’ stores in Quebec City’s Place Ste-Foy, downtown Montreal, Ottawa’s CF Rideau Center and Mississauga’s Square One shopping mall.

“We don’t own this inventory,” Simons said. “But we’re using our platform to connect shoppers with these singular pieces that have a sense of history and romance to them.”

That array includes vintage handbags and accessories from Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada and others, as well as women’s apparel from Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Miu Miu, Saint Laurent, Sonia Rykiel and Versace.

“We have a selection for our stores and an exclusive selection of online merchandise that is different. But once it’s sold. it’s gone,” said Simons, whose company operates 15 stores across Canada.

Prices in some instance still run into the thousands. A Hermès Birkin bag, for example, can be had for $18,995, or a Louis Vuitton bag for $1,495. More reasonably priced finds are also included for shoppers, such as a vintage Oscar de la Renta dress for $395 or a Christian Lacroix jacket for $375.

Yet according to Simons, “These investment pieces maintain their value. That appeals to shoppers, particularly those who might want to sell down the road.

Indeed, in its first two-and-a-half weeks of operation Simons’ secondhand luxury department sold 50 items, which the retail executive called “a substantial figure given these price points.”

“The truth is customers — particularly those who want to build a lasting wardrobe — will spend for recycled shopping. But they also want products that reflect and share their values today, such as how you treat your workers, as well as social inequality and the environment which I believe will be the two major issues we’ll be grappling with over the next 10 years,” Simons said.

This thinking aligns with Simons’ Vision initiative, which the company implemented a year-and-a-half ago to learn how to become more environmentally responsible.

“We hired specialists to teach us how to source eco-friendly fabrics. We also did studies with Pricewaterhouse on the impact of denim and cashmere sweaters on the environment,” Simons said.
“Our education process is ongoing. But it’s about leading in a positive way and reducing our impact on the environment, like in this new secondhand ‘sharing’ initiative.”

Simons is the latest luxury retailer and brand to dive into the resale market. Gucci recently linked with The RealReal through the end of the year on an online shop offering secondhand Gucci items, while Neiman Marcus has taken a stake in Fashionphile to provide pre-owned fashions.

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