Ahead of Christmas present shopping and January sales, we caught up with Patrick Coughlan of Designer Exchange to find out which brands we should be investing in for 2019 and how to keep them looking brand new.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Patrick Coughlan and I’m the chief handbag nut at Designer Exchange Ltd. I like to think I curate Ireland’s finest array of luxury designer handbags and accessories in Ireland and the UK for my loyal customers. I make handbag dreams come true!
How did the Designer Exchange come about and what is the ethos of the business?
After working in a similar concept for over ten years, buying and selling much sought after technology, I spotted a gap in the market for affordable and authentic pre-loved designer handbags and accessories. I consulted with my fabulous research group of five sisters and the concept of Designer Exchange was born.
My sisters all fit into different demographics, and it was clear from talking to them that they felt that some of their dream purchases were deemed "unattainable" or too "luxurious" for them to ever own. The solution
was simple: counter the feeling that these pieces are unattainable and introduce a concept with makes them attainable at every budget.
We now have two city centre Dublin stores and a fantastic website too that we are very proud of. Plus, more expansion plans coming soon!
How can you tell the difference between designer and replica?
This is the single most important aspect of what we do outside of top quality old school customer service. We are resolute about our authenticity guarantee and certify every piece that we sell.
All items go through an extensive authentication process before being offered for sale, and if we have even the slightest doubt about a feature of the piece, it is refused. We assembled a team of in-house professionals over our six years who know how to spot the best of replicas and determine them from the real deal.
What brands never go out of fashion?
You see, that’s just the difference with us, we are not about fashion or trends. We are about individual style. We sell our customer what they want to buy and not what we want to sell them. We have our ear to the ground and are always listening to customer feedback as to what they want. One person’s shocking pink is another’s midnight blue.
If we are talking about the in-demand brands of the moment it would have to be Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Gucci. But we cover all designer brands from DKNY all the way through to the so-called "elite" brands.
How much is too much to spend on a bag?
The tag price is always too much. That’s why trading and part exchanging is fun and clever. Remember the trick is not to own all the bags in the world, the trick is to play with all of them! Buy it, trade it back. Keep the rotation going and all of a sudden you are the Imelda Marcos of handbags but without the storage space issues!
When investing in a pricey bag, what key things should we look out for? Is there anything that will show that the bag will sustain wear and tear?
I always advise customers to look out for the best deal. The craft involved in so-called budget brands can sometimes be as good as the elite. When buying an elite piece you would certainly expect it to be reliable against wear and tear.
However, some leather types can suffer wear sooner than others. Watch out for calf leathers and lambskin as both can scratch easily. We recommend using leather care products to moisten the leather from time to time and waterproof sealing spray like Collonil Carbon Pro (It’s like magic in a can!). When you keep it in great condition, it maintains or increases in value over the years.
Hermes and Chanel actually have spa treatments for your bag if it's starting to look a little jaded!
What bags should we be investing in for 2019?
Chanel and Hermes and pretty much any ltd edition pieces from Louis Vuitton. They increase in value so quickly meaning that some customers have profited on the price that they paid us for the bag five years ago!
You've seen some bags be bought and sold numerous times in the shop, are there any that have a special place in your heart?
There are so many, but what warms my heart is the feeling of joy I see on a customer's face, especially when it's their first designer purchase. I don’t believe that anyone spends money just because they want it to jump out of their pocket. They are buying a feeling, an experience - and it’s a happy one.
There is one Louis Vuitton 'Speedy' bag that we have sold numerous times and on each occasion, it was going to a first-time designer handbag purchaser and not just a very young person, but it’s three owners have been from age 16 to 70.
On each of the three occasions, if I could have bought and sold the emotions involved for the customers, I’d be a very rich man.