Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Taipei gets into upmarket cast-offs

The recession and the influence of Japanese culture has made buying secondhand branded fashion goods a hot new trend

By Vico Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Finding the fashion label of choice at a reasonable price is getting easier with the number of secondhand clothes shops popping up all over the city, including these stores on Zhongxiao East Road

PHOTO: VICO LEE, TAIPEI TIMES

Are you a humble 20-something office worker burning with desire for the Louis Vuitton handbag Jennifer Lopez swings in her shapely hand on the cover of Vogue, but short of the NT$32,800 that it costs? Especially when you're still in debt for that purchase of another Vuitton bag you bought last month on a whim to emulate the trend-setting pop diva Faye Wang. Help is at hand as secondhand brand shops become ever more popular.

In downtown Taipei's Jeou-ru Building (九如大廈) on Zhongxiao East Road, some 10 secondhand brand shops have opened in the last few years to cater to young salary earners who are inspired by celebrities and Japanese fashion magazines into craving high fashion articles at discounted prices. Many more are hidden away in commercial buildings throughout Taipei with only a cardboard sign displaying the logos of well-known brands at their door.

Gathering all the most wanted brand names from Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, FENDI, Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and more into a space that is often less than three-pings, these shops easily lure the cash-strapped young followers of designer fashion. Even high-schoolers are attracted to the second hand glamor.

Genie, a clothing saleswoman in her early 20s, used to spend a lot on brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, the two most hyped brands in Taiwan, but switched to secondhand goods a year ago because it was more

economical.

"I can save up to NT$10,000 on a leather bag. After two or three months, when I get tired of it, I can sell it back and make back most of the money to buy a new one. This way I spend only NT$2,000 to NT$3,000 on a new bag instead of NT$20,000 to NT$30,000."

Only when she can't find something in secondhand shops does she buy it new. The current economic doldrums have had no effect on her.

"Brand goods are so attractive. Every woman wants to have them. The economic recession doesn't stop them from buying," she said.

In the last few years, an increasing number of seasoned brand name followers, mostly women, have been setting up secondhand shops and there are now more than 40 in central Taipei. More than half were opened in the last two years and new shops are still being opened at the speed of three to five a month, according to Lu Shih-yuan (盧世元), editor-in-chief of Second Hand Brand Goods (二手名牌雜誌) monthly, which launched in September as the first magazine devoted to Taiwan's secondhand brand goods market.

Many in the business compare the trend to the custard tart frenzy a few years ago. At the time, custard tart shops spread across Taipei so fast that at the peak of the fad, one could hardly turn a corner without bumping into such a shop and a long queue outside. That was months before nearly all of them succumbed to newer fads and closed down.

Secondhand brand goods shops, however, may be here to stay. "In the next six months to a year at the very least, the trend will go on heating up. There is still some room for growth. Although the economy is looking up a little bit, it's still a long way from the real boom, when people will have so much money they insist on buying first-hand goods," Lu said.

Expecting continued growth, the magazine's publisher is launching a sister monthly early next year about secondhand goods from entertainers.

"Our magazine is not meant to reap a windfall from a passing fad but to operate permanently, because the secondhand brand goods industry will keep on thriving," Lu said.

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