A year on from the launch of her online business, The Atelier World, we reconnected with Michelle Payne to chat about her dedication to all things designer and discover the magic (and investment power) of pre-loved…
It was whilst decluttering her wardrobe during the first lockdown that former marketeer Michelle had her lightbulb moment – to create a pre-loved portal that not only delivered the designer goods (at competitive prices) but served up an unbeatable, boutique-esque customer experience and created a unique community where connoisseurs of luxury could share the label love. As a seasoned buyer and seller of pre-loved luxury, Michelle knew that she could utilise her communications and customer service experience to create this exciting female-founded venture. North-West-based Atelier allows people to buy, sell and even swap luxury designer items from an endless list of iconic names and labels. It’s a veritable sartorial candy store – a feast for the eyes and filled with delicious fashion treats. We couldn’t wait to find out how this one-stop shop for exquisite bags, shoes, clothing and accessories was developing…
Hi, Michelle! How’s the first year of business been?
We’ve grown so quickly! Our client base has skyrocketed and we now have buyers and sellers from right across the globe.
Client relationships seem very important to you, this isn’t just a ‘click, buy, goodbye’ service?
Most definitely not. For me, it’s about giving people the best experience; e v e r y thing f rom initial communication and payment through to wrapping items beautifully and building lasting client relationships. Clients can also come into the studio to view items in person or book a virtual appointment.
Is there a typical Atelier customer?
There really isn’t! We have everyone from first-time buyers to serious collectors. What’s been lovely is the creation of a community of Atelier f riends, people who are so incredibly passionate about luxury items, and not in a ‘status’ or ‘show-offy’ way – they just appreciate their beauty and have, until now, had nowhere to share that excitement and enthusiasm.
Pre-loved fashion is big news right now, your timing was impeccable…
Definitely the right time, the right place! In the past few years, I think the whole perception of the preloved industry has completely changed. Now, those who buy pre-loved really own it, people are proud to say, ‘I bought this preloved’. A recent article in Forbes stated that in 2019, the second- hand/consignment market ‘expanded 21 times faster than conventional apparel commerce did’. Covid has had a big, big impact too. I think we are becoming more conscious of how we’re spending. People are also realising that designer items, when cared for well, can prove great investments for the future. In fact, our tagline is ‘luxury doesn’t have a timespan’.
How quickly can items rise in price?
I bought a Hermès Kelly handbag in Christmas 2019 and could sell this on the resale market for significantly higher (not that I would!). It’s little wonder that divorce lawyers now do inventories of handbags as part of settlements and that bags top luxury investment indexes! Items like the Hermès Birkin and Kelly are created in limited numbers, so you can’t just go into the shop and buy one. It can take years to get the one you want, so a lot of people turn to the resale market to access these items.
Any advice for people on caring for their investments?
Keep the receipts and keep the packaging, it’ll all give you more bang for your buck when you come to sell! Purchasers are very discerning, and an item’s provenance will add so much value.
For many people, there’s a lot more to these luxurious items than just the ‘buck’?
Absolutely! It’s about the fact that you can pick up pieces from certain collections that are really rare, a part of fashion history. More importantly, everything has a story and that’s something me and a lot of others are so passionate about. For example, we’ve just had a big consignment from a very famous ‘90s supermodel. Can I tell you who she is? Sorry, no! We sign non-disclosure agreements with many of our clients. Confidentiality and trust are so important to us.
We love how enthusiastic you are about the stories behind the styles…
Oh, I really am! Recently, a lady sold the first Chanel handbag she ever bought (she’d had it twenty years) to a girl buying her first-ever Chanel handbag. I just love that! It’s really special.
And, of course, pre-loved is great news for the planet?
Pre-2020, there’d been such a rise in fast, throwaway fashion. According to charity Wrap, around 140 million pounds’ worth of clothing is sent to UK landfills every year! That’s astonishing. But now, there’s a distinct shift away from such high levels of consumption, people are seeing that investing in quality fashion works out less cost per wear. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re moving in the right direction. We’re about to launch a campaign #ShopYourWardrobe – people pledging to wear nothing but clothes they already own for a week. We also work with a charity called Smart Works, which repurposes fashion in a very positive way.
Finally, can you share what’s new for 2022?
We’ll be growing the team, developing the buying side of the business and investing in new technologies… there’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon! Watch this space.