On the sunny island of Palm Beach, black-tie galas are common, Sunday brunch is $100 and a beachside hotel room can cost more than $2,000 a night in high season. But there are bargains to be found. The snowbird’s paradise has a thriving high-end consignment market for designer and often barely worn castoffs.
The island’s busy society calendar means twice-daily costume changes in a land of labels that include Chanel, Hermes, Valentino, Gucci and Prada. Many of these garments and accessories make their way to a handful of exclusive consignment boutiques and a few even trickle down to bargain thrift shops.
“They sometimes don’t even wear it. They’re shopping constantly. If it’s last season they can’t wear it anymore. And they wear it all just once, including the shoes and the handbag,” says Monique Javarone, owner of Fashionista Palm Beach, an upscale boutique that specializes in vintage.
They sometimes don’t even wear it. They’re shopping constantly. If it’s last season they can’t wear it anymore. And they wear it all just once, including the shoes and the handbag.
Monique Javarone, Fashionista Palm Beach
Often store owners go to multimillion-dollar estates and sort through racks of designer clothing for clients who don’t want the stigma of being seen in a consignment store or who have too much to transport.
“It’s wonderful here. You can look like a million for under a hundred,” said Paulette Cooper Noble, author of Bargain Shopping in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
While the stores are full of colorful, lightweight Missoni, Pucci and even Lilly Pulitzer garments on the lower end, there’s one label that reigns.
“The thing that everybody wants year after year is Chanel. It’s still the No. 1 consignment handbag. Even the shoes are still No. 1 … it’s that very classic, never go out of style look,” said Sean Connolly, owner of the Paradise Lost boutiques.
At Encore Plus Boutique in Boca Raton, Ayla Habibi said Chanel purses are also her No. 1 seller and range from $800 to $4,700 (sold new, the purses can exceed $5,000). Handbags are the most popular items at most of the stores, where Hermes and Louis Vuitton are close seconds.
The thing that everybody wants year after year is Chanel. It’s still the No. 1 consignment handbag.
Sean Connolly, Paradise Lost boutiques
“The Chanel and Hermes fly out the door,” said Lisa Stark, owner of Serendipity in Boca Raton, who also posts items on Instagram. “As soon as we post things, the phone starts ringing.”
When she first started more than a decade ago, the in-demand items were ball gowns and St. John, a luxury knitwear brand, but now she says women dress more casually.
The Palm Beach hand-me-downs are so good that fashionistas from all over the world vie for them online. A handful of the stores have started selling their items at upscale web retailers like 1stdibs.
“Half of what we sell goes overseas,” said Javarone, who says her online business has doubled in recent years.
Many customers seek out the store after first seeing her items online.
If the upscale boutiques aren’t interested, the clothes and accessories may make their way to some of the area’s thrift shops. The thrift stores are also a good spot for lower-end designers like Tory Burch, Lilly Pulitzer and Milly.
“We do get Hermes from time to time, men’s ties, scarves, pocket squares,” said Becky Shore, assistant store manager at Goodwill Embassy Boutique. The store recently had Christian Dior china and sold a slightly chipped Baccarat crystal horse for $199. She says it’s not uncommon to get a collection of the same designer all at once from an estate, like a collection of Judith Leiber bags.
The deals are so good even the rich aren’t passing them up. Many of the socialites who come in to consign items often leave with a purchase.
“They buy the same things (they sell),” said Connolly. “They bring in Hermes scarves, they’ll consign two or three at a time and they’ll walk out with one.”
WHERE TO SHOP
From Chanel jackets to Birkin bags and Lilly Pulitzer, consignment stores and even bargain thrift shops in the Palm Beach, Florida, area, have all the labels you love. Here’s a guide.
Fashionista Palm Beach, 298 S. County Road, Palm Beach. The exquisite 1980s floor-length sequined white-and-black Chanel dress that greets visitors at this Palm Beach gem says it all. The store specializes in high-end women’s vintage. It’s a must for fashion lovers, even if you aren’t looking to buy. Recent finds: an Armani black mink coat with fox collar, $20,000, and an Oscar de la Renta silk strapless lace gown, $3,000. The store has a large collection of Hermes Birkins and designer shoes, plus fun accessories like black Chanel kidskin gloves adorned with pink stingray designs for $975, a $600 Alexander McQueen lacy knitted dress and a $650 Chanel slip dress.
Classic Collections, 118 N. County Road, Palm Beach. This store recently added an entire room for Chanel, including signature jackets for around $1,250, plus shoes, bags and jewelry. Recent finds included a wide selection of purses (including four Birkins); gowns by Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera; plus vintage Krizia and Mary McFadden. Fine and costume jewelry, including Tiffany, Cartier and Chopard, set the store apart. South Sea baroque pearls were $11,900, a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and gold necklace was $31,995 and a Charles Krypell diamond ring was $6,995. There’s wiggle-room to negotiate higher-end jewelry prices.
Paradise Lost, 227 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach. Paradise Lost has three charming stores within walking distance. The high-end boutique carries labels like Chanel, Hermes and Valentino plus rare items like a Louis Vuitton tennis racket cover and a red suede Cartier train case. Recent finds included Chanel shoes around $299, a Hermes silk blouse, $499, and a short Missoni dress, $399, plus lots of St. John and several stunning, reasonably priced evening wear options, including a gold-beaded floor-length Escada dress for $699. At the lower-end boutique, Lilly Pulitzer sweaters were $30 to $70. A furniture and home goods store has tons of Louis Vuitton luggage and unique estate pieces like Mizner chandeliers.
Serendipity, 2200 Glades Road, Suite 506, Boca Raton. Everything is less than two years old and in pristine condition at Serendipity: furs, Chanel jackets, Louis Vuitton, a table of stunning Hermes scarves and a case of Hermes bags. Fashion designer Betsey Johnson and famed “Sex & the City” costume designer Patricia Field have shopped here. Looking for that hard-to-find designer bag? If owner Lisa Stark doesn’t have it, she’ll hunt it down. Layaway offered.
Encore Plus Boutique, 281 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton. Encore Plus organizes its large selection of high-end designers including Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Chanel and Dior by color. Find everything from a silver Chanel zippered track-style jacket for $1,150 to a bell-sleeved V-neck Missoni dress for $350. There’s a fur room in back along with vintage gowns. The boutique also offers mid-tier designers like a $70 Trina Turk yellow sheath, a black leather Milly cropped jacket with cutouts for $125 and a black and white Tracy Reese dress for $140. Chanel purses ranged from $800 to $4,700. A wall of shoes, many Christian Louboutin, were $200 to $400.
THRIFT STORE BARGAINS
Goodwill Embassy Boutique, 210 Sunset Ave., Palm Beach. There are lots of gems at this small and well-curated Goodwill boutique that takes castoffs from the well-heeled and from stores like Brooks Brothers and Saks. It’s not uncommon to find new items with original tags. Seen on a recent visit: three new Lilly Pulitzer dresses, $99 each; a wine-colored Tadashi cocktail dress, new with original $370 tags, for $85, and a Michael Kors tie-dye maxi dress, $20. A good selection of menswear includes button-downs for $25. Jay Strongwater items are among a small selection of fine housewares, with a Lalique bowl recently selling for $1,000. Look for items tagged in different colors for weekly 50 percent off sales, plus 25 percent discounts on certain days for students and seniors.
Church Mouse, 374 S. County Road, Palm Beach. This unique Palm Beach landmark offers men’s and women’s clothing. It’s a great place to pick up Maus & Hoffman, a Brooks Brother suit jacket for $150 or men’s Ralph Lauren button-downs for $20. Be prepared for a little digging, but that’s half the fun. A Tahari sheath dress was $95 and a rack of women’s pants were all priced at $8. Also: lots of Lilly Pulitzer dresses, books, furniture, home decor and other odds and ends.
Nearly New, 2218 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach. Behind the furniture and housewares, the clothing section here has some notables mixed with basic labels like $10 Talbots shorts. A Lilly Pulitzer blouse was $40, Lilly shorts were $25, Nanette Lepore pants were $80 and a short-sleeved Escada knit was $30. It’s also a good place for fashionable no-name clothes, like a printed wrap dress for $8. A clearance rack of elegant cocktail and full-length dresses had several items in good condition for $25 and $45.
Bethesda Bargain Box, 12 NE Fifth Ave., Delray Beach. This store has a notable men’s section where recent finds included a Burberry suit for $230, blazers for $25 and quality button-downs for $11. Clothes are more worn here, but scores exist, like pink Lilly Pulitzer skinny jeans for $60, a $50 white double-breasted Tory Burch jacket and a Trina Turk shift dress for $40. The shop is geared toward basic labels like Ann Taylor and Banana Republic, with deals like shorts for $6, a black Express dress, $7, and $40 trench coats. There’s a sweet selection of children’s clothes. Oh, and everything is an additional 50 percent off.