On a chilly Sunday, I went striding down Fifth Avenue, looking to shake off the fog of a hangover, and ran smack into a crowd of people gathered at Fifth and 58th where the new holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman were up. These spare-no-expense windows blow the pants off Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. The window dressings are outfitted with sparkling holiday frocks, glittering gems and room settings to make Louis XIV blush. The silver and gold windows are the big winners, dripping with luxury, looking like the treasure rooms little boys and girls dreamed of finding in their adventure fantasies.
It would seem that somewhere between spending billions on wars and natural disasters, and working against a sluggish job market, Americans have gotten the idea they’re wildly rich. As summer has passed into fall and then winter, the look of luxury hit the runways in force. Maybe the warnings came with Paris Hilton or the Olsen twins becoming Balenciaga bag ladies, but suddenly every man, woman and child wants to look like they have a Rockefeller nest egg. Department stores feature high-quality fur lining on everything from coats to stilettos; designers raise the prices on their suiting and dresses because they’re pure cashmere or woven with gold threading — it can seem staggering for anyone looking at their bank account and wondering where that cash will come from.
In case that day never comes, a new breed of shopping has risen in the wake of personal shoppers, free goodie bags and one-night-only bling: Designer resale. The launch of a web site called Portero has brought “consignment” to a new level, making a business out of selling impulse shoppers’ second thoughts. Portero advertises their services to the fabulous, offering to take their used goods, photograph and sell them online for a fee, while guaranteeing the quality of the goods for consumers. If their selection doesn’t suit you, try several stores in the city that have cropped up to take that pesky pair of Marc Jacobs pumps or Armani suit you only wore once off your hands. INA has locations in Soho and Nolita and offer an unbelievable selection of shoes, jackets, jewelry and more — all straight from the closets of the dames and gents one envies walking down Prince Street. Housing Works also lays claim to these fashion mavens’ second-hand couture and donates profits to house people with AIDS.
The fashion world swings like a pendulum and in five years, people will probably be dumping their dramatic, dripping-with-fur coats for boxy minimalism. Then one can choose to snatch up these velvet blazers and tuxedos for the future or laugh at them in consignment store windows. For now, don’t shed tears over the luxury it seems everyone in the windows at Bergdorf Goodman is enjoying; you’ll find something just as rich that some hot-to-trot Park Avenue denizen has abandoned.