There’s a paisley pink awning on Cow Hollow’s Union Street printed with two words many strive to be: Simply Chic. Step underneath into the designer consignment shop for walls decked in Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Dior and other high-end labels that blow the behind-the-counter options of typical secondhand shops out of the water.
May Warren, owner of Simply Chic, has been buying and selling designer handbags since 2001, when she used her eBay store to help fund her graduate school studies. With an in-store Chanel Lovers party and store-wide sale this week, a store and a blog to maintain, Warren is one busy lady. Luckily, we were able to catch up with her for a few to discuss her stock of coveted handbags, her personal style inspiration and her favorite San Francisco shops.
Can you tell us a little bit about your personal style inspiration and what got you involved in the fashion industry?
I grew up absorbing fashion since I was little. My mom would bring me along with her on her shopping excursions, and I remember her wearing an ivory bangle all the time. It seemed to go with every outfit, and she would also mix it with other accessories. My love of mixing and matching definitely came from her.
My father bought my first bag, a Louis Vuitton “Noe” handbag, when I was in college. I remember being appreciative of how well made it was; it was my first expensive bag.
The Bay Area retail landscape is competitive and tough. How does Simply Chic stand out?
We take contemporary and high-end designer labels for consignment. We understand the value of the designer items and market their current value and we take less commission than most consignment stores in the Bay Area. People come here to buy rare and gently worn designer items, as well as iconic handbags like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. Everything we sell here has been authenticated, and we guarantee the authenticity of every item sold in the store.
Describe your typical shopper.
The ages range from the 20’s to the 70’s. Our shoppers and consignment sellers come from all over the Bay Area and are usually women looking for a one-of-a-kind piece.
Do luxury bags stand up to wear and tear better? What’s the benefit of investing in an expensive bag?
It depends. Some Chanel bags are made with “caviar” or calf skin leather and are more sturdy for everyday use, and they also have a soft and luxurious feel. Most of these bags are definitely an investment piece that you can get a high cost per wear. For instance, you could wear a Hermes “Kelly” Bag with a little black dress or with jeans and a t-shirt and have a chic look every day.
Most iconic bags retain their value. Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton handbag prices increase every year, and there’s always a demand for those bags. A handbag like 2.55 classic Chanel or Hermes Kelly or even Louis Vuitton “Speedy” can be passed down for generations.
What are your favorite places to shop in San Francisco or hang out?
Locally, I frequent independent boutiques on Union street, Upper Fillmore, Chestnut, Hayes Valley and Golden Gate Park. My favorites shops for very interesting items are Nest on Fillmore and Bell’occhio. I also love window shopping and admiring window displays at Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton.
Where would you be if you weren’t working?
A beach in Thailand.
Intrigued? Drool over the bags in person during the Simply Chic Chanel Lovers party at the store (3038 Fillmore St.) tonight from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Photography courtesy of Simply Chic
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