JEDDAH: Luxury items from designer brands are increasingly finding their way into the mainstream as younger, cost-conscious consumers look for bargain prices on “pre-loved” fashion, jewelry and accessories, inspired in part by celebrities who flaunt vintage designs on red carpets.
Amused — launched in Jeddah in July 2020 by Saudi-British couple Sara Teymoor Banaja and Mansoor Banaja — is an online business that connects buyers and sellers of authentic, pre-owned designer items across the Kingdom.
“After moving to Saudi Arabia, I asked people what they did with their unused luxury items and the answers I got really surprised me,” Sara told Arab News. “They would either give them to charity, ship them to resellers abroad or wait until they traveled to take them with them to sell.”
The market for luxury goods in Gulf Cooperation Council member nations was valued at $7.4 billion in 2020, according to management consulting company Bain and Company.
“Our closets are some of the most valuable in the world, with people in GCC nations spending more on luxury per capita than any other area,” said Sara. “We want to create a more sustainable and rewarding way to consume luxury.”
According to Sara, the younger generation is particularly interested in the timeless beauty of pre-loved luxury items.
“What is beautiful about pre-loved luxury is that we have grandmothers sharing their beautiful and rare vintage collections with us that they are no longer using and the Gen Zs are buying them, which is creating a truly circular fashion economy,” she said.
Older designs that cannot be easily replicated and are not being made any more are among her own particular favorite pre-loved luxury items.
“The older, the better when it comes to luxury,” she said. “After seeing hundreds of luxury pieces pass across our desks, you really see how beautiful the older pieces are and how well they stand the test of time. They truly become more beautiful with age.”
She highlighted Chanel as a prime example of this.
“Some of their pre-2008 items contained 24-karat gold. These pieces are just not made anymore with that level of craftsmanship and quality.”
Saudi consumers are increasingly becoming a part of a growing circular economy for fashion, Sara said.
“During our recent community fashion event, Absolutely Fashion, which is a monthly event we host, a customer stated that shopping with Amused is like shopping with a friend,” she added.
“Trust and customer experience is our priority and this shows in the fact that 40 percent of our sales are from repeat customers that are returning on a monthly basis.”
Hatoon Abdullatif, a Saudi national, founded The Nostalgia Club this year. Based in Jeddah it is an online store that sells a curated collection of pre-loved luxury, vintage designer items, which it ships to customers worldwide. Its specialties are heirlooms, family treasures, precious gifts and once-in-a-lifetime finds.
It also invites people to offer their own vintage items for sale but most importantly, said Abdullatif, The Nostalgia Club is a community or a club for passionate fans of vintage items, collectibles and art.
She said her passion for vintage luxury goods was inspired by the love her mother, Hasna, had for luxury fashion. Hasna, who studied fashion design and merchandising in the US, loved all high-end brands but Versace was her particular favorite.
“The seeds my mother planted grew into my own love of luxury fashion, so while in Switzerland studying for my Bachelor of Arts I added an extra year to my degree to enroll in a new major they were offering: luxury management,” said Abdullatif.
“I felt my mother was with me as I learned about authenticity, counterfeiting and all of the origin stories of luxury brands.”
Her passion developed over time, especially during COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, when she found herself with plenty of time to research the pre-loved luxuries marketplace. With the knowledge she gained from this she decided to “open The Nostalgia Club and give these unique pieces a second life.”
The continuing popularity of vintage items and designs is obvious on fashion runways where they continue to serve as strong sources of inspiration, said Abdullatif.
“In my opinion, vintage and classic items are the main pillars from which styles were derived and tailored,” she explained.
“This means that the essence of creativity in the world of fashion is inspired by previous eras and I believe we should safeguard these iconic items.”
Every vintage item has a unique story to tell, according to Abdullatif.
“Perhaps a grandmother received a vintage necklace as a nervous young bride before her husband went off to war, or a handbag might have been clutched while taking a flight across the ocean to start a new life,” she said.
“All vintage treasures have stories and we want to honor the lives of those who have loved them before and give our customers a chance to be part of their timeless tales.”
It is this sense of history and human experiences that is key to Abdullatif’s mission with The Nostalgia Club.
“Each item has traveled through time and been loved along the way. In a world where so many things are made to be disposable, our mission is to honor the quality and history of these one-of-a-kind, authentic, luxury pieces.”
In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, her business serves another important purpose.
“At the heart of our mission is sustainability,” said Abdullatif. “We believe that to transform our world and the fashion industry, we must intentionally invest in products that were not made for the landfill but rather were crafted with enough care to last many lifetimes.
“These timeless treasures have more love to give and we want to share them with the world.”
The vintage luxury item that Abdullatif herself treasures the most is a bag that belonged to her mother.
“She used to carry a Walter Steiger clutch when we went to weddings,” she said. “I still remember my father handing it to me after she passed away.
“I placed it on my shelf, where it sat, looking at me. I never wanted to use it; it was a treasure I kept nearby to remind me of her. I believe this bag was why The Nostalgia Club had to be born — I wanted to honor her memory.”