Feel the pre-love: How used Hermes handbags became a £5m business

How to buy vintage luxury handbags for a snip👜

1/10/2022 11:01:00 PM

How to buy vintage luxury handbags for a snip👜

A chance encounter with a Birkin bag helped spark a passion that became a business

“But at the time with all those pitches, it wasn’t easy.”It all started by accident.Sabrina SadiqShe was still training in law when a wealthy client offered to buy her new bag “at a great profit. And that sparked my idea, especially as I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer — it would mean having to fill out forms for a living.”

Today Luxury Promise has 25 staff, all but two of whom are female: “We’re a passion-driven business and women are typically more interested in handbags.”/The shows started during the pandemic: “Whilst people were sitting at home, they thought, ‘there’s cash in my wardrobe — I don’t really wear this bag’ and Luxury Promise was also a key platform for buyers who couldn’t go into stores because of lockdown, and weren’t spending money on meals or holidays.”

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Tej Kohli: a man on a mission to heal the world’s blind “When you pitch to a bunch of men, and try to tell them that handbags are an investment and a real business — they don’t generally take you seriously.” One pitch ended with the would-be investor “mockingly saying, ‘if I want to invest in that side of luxury I’d invest in [pre-owned watch firm] Watchfinder’. But now I laugh,” Sadiq, 36, says, “because Watchfinder’s founder invested in me — and the venture capital [Beringea] that invested in it also invested in me. “But at the time with all those pitches, it wasn’t easy.” Today Sadiq can afford to smirk at those who said her Knightsbridge-headquartered business, Luxury Promise, would never work. Four years after setting up a website where customers can buy and sell luxury handbags (from £50 to £350,000), as well as have their bags repaired or authenticated, the firm now has more than 5000 bags in its South Molton Street shop, and £15 million annual turnover. It all started by accident. Sabrina Sadiq / Sabrina Sadiq Sadiq was studying at the College of Law in Moorgate “when a very beautiful lady came into the classroom with a green bag. I told her I loved it, and she told me it was a Birkin in vert anise. I thought, ‘what’s Birkin?’ and Googled it. That opened my eyes to the world of handbags.” Sadiq was “priced out” of buying that Birkin, but found a pre-loved Hermès Kelly bag for sale in Switzerland and bought it. She was still training in law when a wealthy client offered to buy her new bag “at a great profit. And that sparked my idea, especially as I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer — it would mean having to fill out forms for a living.” Instead of finishing law school, Sadiq spent months visiting luxury second-hand stores around the world. “I realised I had a knack for authentication, and set up a company as a consultant, training staff at online resale firms (which are now my rivals) how to identify real and fake handbags.” Then Sadiq decided to start up her own. Today Luxury Promise has 25 staff, all but two of whom are female: “We’re a passion-driven business and women are typically more interested in handbags.” AI is now used for authenticity checks and social media has helped build up the firm’s “live shopping” events. Sabrina Sadiq / Sabrina Sadiq Like a posh QVC, would-be buyers from Asia and the US as well as Europe watch as Luxury Promise staff who’ve become social media stars “unbox” bags live on their website: “We’ll sell almost 60% of what we have on our website in an hour. It’s scheduled TV, for handbags.” The shows started during the pandemic: “Whilst people were sitting at home, they thought, ‘there’s cash in my wardrobe — I don’t really wear this bag’ and Luxury Promise was also a key platform for buyers who couldn’t go into stores because of lockdown, and weren’t spending money on meals or holidays.” Sadiq, who has three children, started her business with a £180,000 fundraise via friends and family. A second cash injection came “from a client who wanted a crocodile Birkin, then didn’t like the bag, but [did like] the business”. After a £3 million fundraising round from Berengea last year, she has now raised £5 million in total and is working on an imminent series B round. The entrepreneur thinks big. “I want to build a unicorn,” she declares, before adding, “No. There’s enough unicorns out there, I want to build a mermaid — a truly unique business which I can sell one day or publicly list.” With that, Sadiq brandishes a mini Kelly bag at me that’s just come into her shop. “This is a £25,000 bag — you can buy yourself a Range Rover, albeit a pre-loved one, at that price or an apartment in Glasgow, or a tiny little Kelly. People have that level of trust to shop with us. I’m proud of that.”