Apparently the garbage bags contained a treasure chest. Comme des Garçons, Maison Margiela, Helmut Lang, and Jean Paul Gaultier had names on the labels of the clothes tucked inside.
The 10 black plastic bags arrived in September at a 500,000-square-foot building in Perth Amboy, NJ, where luxury resale marketplace RealReal operates one of four authentication centers. It was sent by a salesman who said the clothes came from a vintage store his aunt ran in Florida. After examining the contents of the bags, which consisted of about 100 garments in total, it was determined that the garments were genuine and could be sold for $100,000 as second-hand.
“These are some of the best Gaultier pieces we’ve ever come across,” said Dominik Halás, an expert authenticator at RealReal, which specializes in vintage apparel that the company describes as pieces that are at least 20 years old.
Mr. Halás, 29, is one of the youngest people entrusted by RealReal to authenticate clothing, jewelry and other accessories. Previously, he worked as a menswear sales manager and archive specialist at the company he started working for in 2017. He was asked to join the authentication team shortly after RealReal started reselling vintage clothing the same year it became a public company in 2019. (Stocks debuted at $20 per share on the Nasdaq; currently trading under $2.)
“We needed the right experts,” said Rachel Viasman, vice president of merchandising operations. He added that although RealReal has been carrying vintage bags since it started in 2011, vintage clothing requires “a skilled expert with broad knowledge and passion”.
(Vintage) Passion for Fashion
At the authentication center in Perth Amboy, clothes racks are arranged in rows that appear longer than city blocks. On a Monday earlier this month, Mr. Halás was trying to extract parts from a shipment of 10 garbage bags that had arrived weeks ago. Among the garments, most from the late 1980s to early 2000s, was a double-breasted black and white Jean Paul Gaultier jacket with a men’s body fabric lining. The jacket was from the designer’s fall 1992 collection, released before Mr. Halás was born.
Among the items in the shipment of garbage bags that RealReal received in September, clockwise from top left, black and white 1992 Jean Paul Gaultier jacket, 2009 Rick Owens jeans, white pinstripe Jean Paul Gaultier suit from 1998, 1999 Helmut Lang parka, 1994 Maison Margiela tattooed top and 1995 Jean Paul Gaultier leather jacket. Credit… Photos by Christopher Gregory-Rivera for The New York Times
Another piece from garbage bags: the “iconic Margiela tattoo top” from the spring 1994 collection, which Mr. Halás says pays homage to an earlier piece introduced in 1989. said. “They seem very relevant to fashion now, so they hold their value.” Mr. Halás added that the ball probably sold for “a few hundred dollars” when it first came out; RealReal listed it as $7,000.
Many factors determine the price of RealReal. Status is taken into account as well as whether a piece was worn by a celebrity or featured in a museum exhibit. Commissions paid to sellers vary based on factors such as the selling price and item type.
Mr. Halás said there has been interest in Romeo Gigli’s outfits recently; especially pieces from the early 1990s when the young Alexander McQueen worked on the brand before starting his own line. “This is great work and people are really paying attention to McQueen seasons,” he said. Other brands that have been more coveted in recent years are the French Marithe and François Girbaud brand and the Japanese brand Matsuda.
Born in Slovakia, Halás moved with his family to Montclair, NJ in 1997 when he was 4 years old. T: A 2007 article about designer Helmut Lang in The New York Times Style Magazine.
As a student at Montclair High, she started a fashion club and became more familiar with the vintage fashion business by working at Speakeasy Vintage, a now-closed boutique in Montclair.
Mr. Halás started buying and selling second-hand clothes online when he was a teenager. “If I had $100 to invest, I would buy something on Japanese eBay and sell it on the US site for $300,” he said. After graduating from Brown University, where he studied art history and architecture, he worked in showrooms including Goods and Services in New York, and then mentored Helmut Lang before joining RealReal.
Mr. Halás started working at RealReal in 2017. He joined the authentication team shortly after the company started reselling vintage clothing in 2019. Credit… Christopher Gregory for The New York Times
Along the way, Mr. Halás has amassed his own fashion archive, which includes nearly 500 pieces currently stored at his home in Jersey City, NJ, his parents’ home in Montclair, and his brother’s dorm room at Bard College. “A significant portion of my net worth is in clothing, so I hope it works,” she said of her collection, which includes men’s and women’s clothing from designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Helmut Lang. Hedi Slimane is another favourite, especially the pieces from Dior Homme’s fall 2003 collection.
In addition to clothing, Mr. Halás also collects old lookbooks that he and other RealReal validators use for research.
Asked how often he saw a counterfeit product, Mr. Halás looked visibly annoyed and glanced at his boss, Ms. Viasman, before answering. “I see parts that cannot be verified several times a day,” he said. “I’ve come across fake products made to look like 80s or 90s clothes.”
All products shipped to the company are ranked from one to five according to the probability of a piece being counterfeit. Mr Halás said a pair of contemporary designer jeans would be on the lower end of the scale because the resale value would not be more than the cost of producing a fake pair. On the higher end: bags with tags that say Chanel, Gucci or Louis Vuitton, which are often fake. With regard to bags, validators take help from a proprietary, patent-pending software called Vision, which catalogs photos of original styles that can be used as references.
“This is how we scale the Dominicans of the world,” said Ms. Viasman.
The most difficult items to judge are reserved for veteran authenticators like Mr. Halás. Glancing at a black Yohji Yamamoto coat, he paid particular attention to the labels indicating the size of the jacket with a number; this was a detail that meant the piece was introduced after the spring 2000 collection (before that, he explained it was noted with the sizes). literature). A serif font is also used on the labels, a detail Mr Halás said indicates that the coat is from a collection prior to 2010. He added that the jacket’s two-pull YKK zipper is a common element in the pieces on the label.
“I know this fits the collection,” said Mr. Halás, who finally decided that the coat was from the fall 2002 collection.
A sweater with a Louis Vuitton label was more suspicious. Like other pieces in the brand’s fall 2018 collection, there was a graphic that said “peace and love” on it. Upon closer inspection, however, it was revealed that the seams of the suit were not aligned properly and the tag was thicker than other Vuitton pieces. The label also states that it contains vicuñas wool, which is very fine. Mr. Halás said he could tell by touching the sweater that it was too rough to hold the material, so he decided that the garment was fake.
Most sellers are notified when RealReal is unable to authenticate an item. Suspicious parts sent unknowingly will be returned. “We have a three-hit policy,” Ms. Viasman said. “We will inform the shipper why we cannot accept the product.” “When we suspect clear fraudulent intent, we confiscate the item, destroy the item, and work with law enforcement,” the verifiers added.
If customers think that something they bought from the company is not genuine, “we always take it back and have it reviewed by an expert,” said Ms. Viasman.
Watching Mr. Halás at work showed that his job wasn’t exactly a science. Identifying the authenticity of certain garments, like a Louis Vuitton sweater or a light blue nylon jacket with the Prada logo on it, can sometimes be more of an art.
“The quality of the material pisses me off,” he said, holding the nylon jacket. “I feel authentic Prada as ready-to-wear every day and the best I can say is that it doesn’t feel expensive enough.”