Of Fine Vintage
Finding, Buying, Consigning: Men’s Designer Duds, Discounted
Steven Alan store
“What’s in style? What looks great on you.”
That’s the mantra of Mary O’Toole, owner of Westport’s Designer Label Consignments. The shop is now in its thirty-third year, and specializes in “discounted retail.”
“I only sell what is current, in excellent condition, and seasonal—exactly like retail,” O’Toole notes. “When people come in to consign, I find that, seventy-five percent of the stuff that comes in with them, I turn back. I sell designer clothing, high-end labels only.”
That means Armani, Charvet, Corneliani, Dior, Hickey-Freeman, Etro, and a plethora of drool-worthy men’s designer threads that won’t discourage budget-conscious shoppers (and/or those who simply love to look great).
“Even people who can buy full retail shop here,” O’Toole says. “I have people who shop at Mitchells come in. Everybody likes a bargain—even rich people.”
Gents, take note: Fairfield County boasts bounteous women’s vintage/designer consignment shops, but while ladies in your life can find Prada heels and Hermes scarves at O’Toole’s shop, DLC will outfit you in Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Thomas Pink shirts, Ferragamo cap toes and Canali suits at a fraction of retail prices.
“Young men know their fashion today, more now than any generation,” O’Toole says. “If they don’t, they can come to me, and I can help educate them.”
This speaks to the many advantages of buying items on consignment (beyond price): If the clothes are vintage, then you learn about brand integrity, about which designer duds survive and thrive beyond an initial owner’s use. If the garment is still au courant, on trend, a man can “take more risk,” according to O’Toole: There’s less sting dropping $50 than $350 on, say, a recent Etro loose-weave shirt that turns out to be too much of a stretch, style-wise, for the buyer.
“Don’t know the quality of a brand? Take a chance on something for $35,” O’Toole counsels. “And the beauty of resale is that here we have to move things out: there’s a monthly key to sales that’s color-coded.”
If you enter DLC, head to the men’s area at left. Next to what’s on sale, you’ll find a mass of hangered stock yet to be inventoried and/or priced. It’ll all be on the racks soon enough: In six weeks, on average, if an item remains in-store, it’s marked at 20 percent off; in 10 weeks, the price is slashed to half-price.
That’s how, to borrow from an old source, one can wear Prada on a Payless budget.
Still, O’Toole isn’t running a thrift shop.
“We’re not a secondhand store,” she says. “I have to choose from what comes in from Fairfield County itself. People here are a bedroom community of New York City, and with anything, from jeans to tuxedos, with the people I consign with, it’s a 50-50 split.”
That’s not to say that secondhand shops, including the recently reopened Goodwill in Westport, and, in particular, the New Canaan Thrift Shop, managed by the wonderful Susanne Palmer, aren’t places to find designer clothes at discount prices.
They are. I’ve been truly astonished by some of the beautiful garments at Fairfield County donation centers, especially in the men’s-wear room in New Canaan: names such as Hugo Boss, Gitman Bros. and Zegna, all in fine condition, all at bargain prices.
But what you get at DLC is also staff who can help you with your purchases—and your look, because sometimes another set of eyes helps with “what looks great on you.”
Second Time Around, also in Westport, offers vintage and consigned men’s wear, too, as well as help cultivating your overall look.
Ashley Bell, Marketing Coordinator of Boston-based STA, founded in 1973, notes that Fairfield County is ground zero for great fashion finds on consignment due to location and quality.
“We get men who come in and have really nice taste, and they’re looking for workwear,” she says. “We deal with contemporary resale: Pieces from the past few years. Though there are instances in which people will bring in a 20-year-old suit, and there will be a market for it and we’ll pick it up.”
Westport’s STA, unlike the STA atop Greenwich Avenue, boasts an expanding, select line of men’s wear, with suits, shoes, jackets, shirts and coats on offer. The shop, managed by Deneen Jackson, is unique in that one day you might find a crop of Zanella pants, just off the racks from Neiman Marcus, and another, a batch of fine vintage Burberry ties on display at the register.
Jackson’s fashion eye is fine, and she’ll tell you what works—and what doesn’t. And, for the modern gent, that’s crucial.
“Westport seems to operate more with conservative styles, as it’s technically a suburb,” Bell says. “But it’s so near to New York that you have people who commute, and they’re taking styles back to the neighborhood. Deneen has cultivated a great consignor base, and you can tell that the women and men who live in Fairfield County have a great eye. They’re not merely trend-focused; you can get classics, staple pieces, that you keep in your closet forever.”
A color-coded discount system also operates at STA, as well as a membership system: with every ten purchases, you receive $10 off your next visit. But that’s not really what will bring men in, as Bell notes.
“The thrill of the hunt is what drives people to shop,” she says. “Particularly if you’re fashion-obsessed, and if you’re finding stuff at a great price point that’s very well-made, it’s wonderful.”
And, gentlemen (and ladies), if you wish to consign your own clothing, STA features an in-home consignment concierge service in which an STA representative will come to your home to select and pick up items for consignment directly from your closet (see details below).
You can also contact DLC for a consultation. O’Toole will look at what your closet has to offer, and you’ll have the opportunity to strike up a relationship with a true Fairfield County institution.
On a personal note, I believe that the bonuses of designer resale are self-evident: It offers an education in brand quality, durability, and trend evolution, as well as savings and the thrill of the find. And in the process, you can meet local Fairfield County personalities whose businesses add particular flair to this area.
Shopping should always be this fun.
• Designer Label Consignments, 1344 Post Rd East, Westport, (203) 255-9099
• Second Time Around, 135 Post Rd East, Westport, (203) 557-3733; www.secondtimearound.net. For STA’s Consignment Concierge Service, call Ashley Bell directly at (617) 247-0123, ext. 310, or email Ashley.
David Podgurski is a writer and editor who has lived in Fairfield County his entire life. A former books columnist for The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers. Feel free to email David.