NOTE: For the #TLDR version, scroll to the very bottom, as this is a long review.
A year or so ago a friend of mine graced the small screen with a small appearance in the St. Louis based show Resale Royalty. The show highlights a mother, her two daughters, and their resale store. After seeing Maren (who was a highlighted supplier) on the show I thought I’d pop by the Women’s Closet Exchange in South County. While I gave it a pretty stellar review on Yelp, I wasn’t entirely blown over. The women there were what made the experience for me as the location was not anywhere near my stomping ground and the clothing wasn’t anything truly special. The prices were fantastic (especially compared to regular retail). The fact that the owner came up to me and told me I belonged in the window (I was wearing my Daksha Stitched Blouse and Jeffrey Campbell Skates)
Well, they’ve recently opened up a second location much closer to my Victorian flat. Since, I committed to taking back my pantry — Erm, yes… I may or may not have turned my pantry into a second closet — after I found myself rationalizing having done so by saying, “well, I do wear clothes more than I eat,” in a complete Blair Waldorf way, I decided to try to visit this new location.
So I pulled clothing. Lots and lots of clothing. A bizarre amount with the tags still on it.
I decided to bring it to the Vault. It seemed a great way to check out this new location.
The Vault is definitely more high end than their sister store. What I felt the sister store lacked this store had in spades.
The merchandising was much better. The displays were crisper. Things were nicely lit. There was more room. Everything seemed like it had been carefully selected. It made you want to browse the racks (which was a lot easier to do in this location). The clothes themselves also seemed better. They were definitely above the quality and design of those at the other store. I had mentioned in a Yelp review RE The Womens Closet Exchange that they didn’t have the Alice + Olivia pieces that made you do the double take… this store did.
Additionally, they had this wonderful little lounge area that made the store have a beautifuly boutique feel. It reminded me of some of the higher end stores I visited when I was in California last.
I went in there to sell the closet pullings and buy a dress. I wound up buying black and white blouses instead of a dress though (thank you Harry + David for confining me so…). The white and metallic accents were just enough and made the place feel so much more airy than the other location does. Airy, light, and wonderful.
The lounge in The Vault by Women’s Closet Exchange in St. Louis
The staff member that greeted me (this lovely African American woman who was so incredibly sweet) and the lady that rang out my purchases were definitely the nicest of the bunch. A couple of them seemed to be bored and one ignored me entirely (and I was definitely dressed nicely — Jimmy Choo Malena, Nanette Lepore silk dress, Anthropologie floppy hat). However, I have worked retail long enough to know that sometimes people just have off days (goodness knows I do!). The super nice women totally made up for it though. If anyone from The Vault ever reads this, the lady that greeted me is a total keeper.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand:
I brought in quite a few items – anticipating they would never take them all. Truthfully, I’m glad they didn’t. It shows that they carefully curate what they sell… which means going there as a buyer should be more pleasant.
They took the ones I thought they might… Though it did surprise me they took two of the three pairs of Seven for all Mankind jeans and not all three (since they all still had tags and were completely identical). I guess they didn’t need three identical pairs anymore than I did They took the NWT $598 Diane Von Furstenberg Issie Sequin Dress, the $398 Catherine Malandrino dress, the $199.50 Michael by Michael Kors dress, the Nicole Miller $330 road sample dress, a $200 Nicole Miller top, the Chloe skirt, a Juicy Couture jacket, a Laundry by Shelli Segal jacket, a NWT $350 Betsey Johnson dress, NWT Elie Tahari top (it was over $200, but can’t remember the exact amount…), a $178 NWT BCBG top, a $148 NWT BCBG skirt, the two NWT $235 Seven For All Mankind Jeans, and a few other things. Definitely a lot of NWT dollars.
They didn’t take some Nicole Miller pants, a pair of BCBG pants, a Cynthia Rowley jacket, a Zara woman skirt, an Adrianna Papell dress, a Nanette Lepore dress, a pair of Miu Miu slacks, and one of the pairs of Seven for all Mankind jeans
They offered me $270 store credit or $250 cash. I am not sure they realized (the DVF dress didn’t have the $ amount on it – I purchased it at Therapy in Pasadena and they tear off the bottom half of the price tag when you buy the item to prevent returns) how much that dress was new otherwise I imagine they would have offered me a bit more. For the sake of taking my pantry back I took the cash.
I also chatted with one of the daughters – from the one episode of the show I watched (yay Maren!) I feel like her name is Diane?? - about my new management job. They were probably wondering (afterward) how in the world someone working as a manager at Harry + David can afford so many items. Since I stated I would be honest and open about finances on this blog, I can explain here.
I work 40+ hours a week at Harry + David, 10 hours a week at a local dancewear company (they are behind Dancewear Solutions) as a merchandiser, 4-5 hours a week at Anthropologie, and I receive around $1000 a month from something that was setup for me (contingent upon a few things – please do not make any “trust fund” references… not okay or at all based in reality or off of fact). Couple that with living in a Victorian flat, having no car payment (I will drive my Jetta until it dies, because no car payment is the best thing in the world), etc and you have my insane wardrobe.
While I was totally content with the $250 in cash (and will probably go again to sell stuff as my closet gets out of control fast), I don’t think a lot of people would be. With my retail experience, Business minor, and passion for Economics, I happen to understand they’re in it to make a profit and to make fashion accessible. They also have (I would imagine) increased overhead costs associated with their expansion and new location. To me that makes it worth it, especially when you consider that they’re doing the work and taking the risk of the clothes not selling immediately. The space on the rack a garment takes up while it’s not selling is valuable. Anyway, I’m content and happy… and you know what? Accessible fashion is SO important. Them paying me less, means they don’t have to have as high of a markup and someone else can enjoy those labels brand new with tags for a fraction of the cost. I’m okay with that! It’s kind of cool.
I think I might go to Avalon Exchange (someone mentioned this on FB) with the rest just to compare what happens as it could be interesting. It won’t be a perfect comparison and I have absolutely no doubt that store won’t smell as nice as The Vault did, won’t have as wonderful of a staff, won’t have the easy parking, and undoubtedly they won’t treat the discards with as much kindness as the woman that greeted me did.
Again, I say, I hope The Vault keeps that sales associate for a long time. I might even have to drop off some Harry + David goodies for the staff to thank them for her great customer service (I truly think retail people who are nice are not given the props they deserve)
TLDR: Go there to browse higher end clothing than their sister store has. Admire the purse displays (and purchase – I know I will if they ever get a Chloe Paddington in!). Enjoy the friendly staff. Sell items if you need space in your closet (not if you’re strapped for cash). Enjoy the boutique feel without the boutique price.