Why We Buy and Sell: Get to Know Grailed Power Sellers
Why We Buy and Sell: Get to Know Grailed Power Sellers
- Words Kate Marin
- Date August 01, 2017
Clothing is an undeniably intimate extension of the self. Not only does it spawn from the artistic vision of its designer, but it has the ability to transform the mind and body of the wearer, granting a look and demeanor that may not be felt otherwise. Many use clothing as a portrayal of the self—to manifest a mood or even convey specific interests that reach beyond fashion—while others use it as a projection of someone they hope to be, channeling personal goals and ideals through a physical presentation. Regardless of what makes you wear what you wear, clothing is an element of our material lives that is deeply rooted in, and often parallel to, our personality, passions and aspirations.
On Grailed, we see the rarest, most coveted pieces around—unique items that undoubtedly carried significant meaning to their primary owners—being listed and sold everyday. Something drew in the original owner, leading them to invest, show off and care for whatever item this may be, perhaps for months, but often for years. But at what point does an article of clothing lose its emotional value and become something worth selling?
Asking this question assumes a few things, most importantly, that the initial purchase was emotionally driven and not simply seen as an item to resell. Often, this is not the case—a perfect example being the abundance of individuals that post up for Supreme drops, intermittently checking what items have sold out online to make the most of their time in line. There’s no doubt a community who buys for the hype and simply to sell, in which case all emotional connection is completely irrelevant. Well aware of this distinction, I spoke with a few power sellers on Grailed to better understand what drives their purchase-making decisions and, ultimately, what leads them to sell.
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A Grailed expert, Phillip Dowd (aka p) takes both resale and emotional value into consideration when buying. Dowd explains that he’s more inclined to buy a piece he’s been eyeing when the initial price is right, and if he feels the item has a high likelihood of reselling if it doesn’t fit him correctly. When it comes to more rare, desirable pieces, Dowd says, “I take a chance on them if I like the item enough and have enough faith that it will increase in value in the future.” For this reason he strays from brands like Supreme, explaining, “I'm not certain on their future value and I don't want to be stuck with something that is no longer worth what I paid.”
Dowd’s method for pricing also reflects his emotional attachment to certain pieces, “Although most things I own are for sale for the right price, I tend to list things at higher prices that I want to keep.” This conflict between monetary potential and emotional value appears to be common amongst other sellers.
For Grailed power seller Nick Rubin (aka seattle_supreme), how an item appreciates in value plays a large role in when he decides to list. “Prices of old Supreme tees have increased pretty rapidly over the past year or so,” he says. “For many of my old favorites, their second-hand value surpassed their value to me personally, and that’s when I sell.” Rubin continued to explain how his style changes quite frequently, causing some of his once-favorite pieces to lose relevancy in his wardrobe.
However, his initial reason for purchase is, in fact, emotionally-driven whether that be for items that go straight to his collection or ones he plans on wearing. Yet, almost contradictory, Rubin brings up an interesting point. “I think there’s some threshold where if I wear a piece of clothing over X times, I feel too connected to it to ever sell,” he says. Perhaps there are a handful of items that have an uncommon sense of longevity to them and will always resonate regardless of our assumed style, transcending different genres and periods of dress.
We see a similar need for longevity in Grailed seller Luis Jardim (aka rusty). When shopping for new items, Luis puts emotion above all. “I always tend to go for emotional attachment personally. I'll get more use out of a piece that I love and enjoy wearing, rather than one that follows a current trend,” he says. “I'd much rather dress for my unique style rather than follow what's trendy.” For this reason, Luis often feels hesitation when it comes time to buy. “I'm an extremely attached person when it comes to clothes,” he explains. “Part of the reason I’m quite hesitant when buying for myself is because I want to make sure I’m making the right decision.” For Jardim, a lack of emotional intrigue towards a piece can make it become obsolete in his collection.
But, coincidentally for Jardim, not wearing a piece often can also reflect his sense of affection for it. “I have loads of items I've only ever worn once or twice and are sitting in my wardrobe,” he says, “not because I don't like them, but because they are ‘special occasion’ items or they only go with a certain type of fit.” With this in mind, wear and affection are not always directly correlated.
Levi Verschuur (aka trunks), buys and keeps clothing based on two factors: how extreme they appear and how well they fit. Using these two guidelines Verschuur has established a wardrobe of over 300 pieces, many of which he considers too unusual to sell or from labels no one else really cares about. Yet, he purges his wardrobe every now and then—sorting the CdG from the General Research—and often lets go of pieces he once imagined keeping forever.
In this sense, Verschuur represents somewhat of a polar opposite: “As long as I’m buying new pieces and evolving my tastes, I don’t think there’s anything I’d 100% keep forever,” he says. “I might sell most of my wardrobe eventually, but I don’t need the money right now and it’s only going to appreciate in value.” For Verschuur, the debate is less about space or emotional value and more about an item’s potential to increase in value.
Once these items have made their way to a new owner, is their past-life considered? Buying used clothing, no matter what condition it may be in, is an intimate exchange. Not only has the item held a certain level of emotional value to its previous owner, but in many cases it’s actually encased their body. Personally, the idea of owning a piece that’s held great meaning to someone previously is a bit romantic and one of my favorite elements of buying consignment or resale, but does an item’s history play a relevant role on Grailed?
“Sometimes when I buy items, I do consider what they have gone through and who has owned them before me,” Dowd says. “I own a 1/1 Raf Simons consumed shirt and the mystery behind its past has always intrigued me. I have been told that it was a special order from Raf Simons back in 2003, but I'll most likely never know who ordered it or what collection it has been hiding in since.” When it comes to one-of-a-kind items, these narratives, developed or not, strengthen the item’s emotional value and, undoubtedly, its monetary potential.
Similar to Dowd’s investigation, Verschuur explains how when he purchases items, from Japan in particular, he’s often given a glimpse into the piece’s history from the seller. “The seller often times has a cool story about how they bought a piece in Harajuku 20 years ago and got it autographed in the store, or how they used to be a patternmaker or friends with the designer,” he says. “A lot of the time they put in some old posters, something from the collection or a handwritten note about the item which is cool.” The thought of this cultural narrative going unconsidered feels almost demeaning to the piece itself, but if it weren’t for the seller’s due diligence—their recognition of the item’s broader cultural implications—it seems a likely possibility.
There’s no clear-cut reason for coming to terms with selling an item. In fact, the reasons for doing so can actually be conflicting: over-wearing or under-wearing, feeling too comfortable or too audacious. In the same way we cycle through interests, goals and passions, our wardrobes and material interests transform over time. Often, profit outweighs the benefits of keeping an item tucked away. Yet, as these pieces continue to travel through hands and Instagram feeds, their narratives are not lost, but rather further developed. Sometimes the only way to make space for new pieces, or to find the monetary means of doing so, is to sell those that have lost their once-held charm.