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Industry + Insights / January 16, 2014 / Katie Flanagan
The Legendary NYC Consignment Boutique Every Fashion-Insider Should Know About
When you set the barre, it's entirely up to you how high you'd like to land your sights. In Ina Bernstein's case, she set the mark pretty high in the world of luxury resale when she opened INA Consignment 21 years ago. With a smashing success, both from her fantastic staff and label-loving clientele, Ina shares with SNOBSWAP how the store and its unbelievable growth came to be. Excited yet humble, Ina talks to us about the store's prestigious press pedigree. With write ups in the likes of Vogue Daily, a regularly updated company blog, and dibs on merchandise before major department stores (sample sale recycling anyone?!), INA is sure to become your next hidden gem uncovered. Read on to get the full scoop about the business and their offerings through SNOBSWAP. [caption id="attachment_8771" align="alignnone" width="254" caption="Owner Ina Bernstein"]INA NYC, Consignment, Secondhand, Ina Bernstein, Consignment Shopping[/caption] 1. Your store has several locations now, but how did INA get its start? Where did you passion for consignment originate from, and how did you decide to turn it into a business? We have five locations and we are opening a sixth store in Union Square in March. It’s very large so we’ll be able to take in more of the contemporary items at lower price points we can’t take in other stores. I had a showroom in SOHO and represented small designers. After 20 years I decided I was done! I happened to stumble upon a space in SOHO for rent, and between my contacts in the fashion world and my own source of merchandise, I was able to turn it into a shop. [Expansion] was a little bit of an accident; it happened as we outgrew each space and there was a need for a larger one.   [caption id="attachment_8774" align="alignnone" width="543" caption="The Storefront of INA's Nolita Location"]Consignment, Consignment Shopping, Secondhand, Storefront, INA NYC[/caption]   2. In a competitive market like NYC, What specifically do you offer that keeps your clientele coming back for more? I think longevity helps; in the first ten years we also got an incredible amount of press because I was one of the first consignment shops “editing” merchandise and being selective. With our focus on curating the inventory, we paved the way for others to do the same. Now about 30 other stores in the city are following suit with a strict emphasis on fashion. We also feature a breadth of labels with something for everyone ages 18-80. This is true of our Men’s and Women’s collections.   [caption id="attachment_8772" align="alignnone" width="800" caption="Jil Sander, Lavin & Chanel; Just a few of the designer duds up for grabs at INA"]Consignment, Secondhand, Designer, Jil Sander, Lanvin, Chanel, INA NYC[/caption]   3. As you mentioned, you have quite the media presence; Vogue Daily even lauded you as the inventor of high-end designer recycling! What has this done for your brand? What would you claim the key to your success to be? About a month after I opened [21 years ago], on a rainy Sunday, The New York Times gave us a half page write up! The following day there were about 40 people outside. The next day I hired my first employee. Once one person writes you up everyone does; after the Times it was Mademoiselle then Glamour and so on. Because my store was the first doing this selective kind of consignment, it really brought in hoards of customers. I feel very lucky. The hard work of our staff has greatly contributed INA’s success.   Consignment Shopping, Press, Vogue Daily, INA NYC, Secondhand, Notoriety   4. Being the hub of your own style driven business, what are your main style staples? I used to dress in Alaïa and heels every day in the 80’s; lots of Commes Des Garçons too. Since then I’ve become more practical and I do wear jeans a lot; I love Dries [Van Noten] for prints and patterns and I’ll dress down a Chanel jacket with a t-shirt. I’m at a point where I don’t feel the need to own everything, but I still wear a lot of designer clothing [haha]. I even have a few [Alexander] McQueen’s. It’s a very varied wardrobe. I also really like skinny leather pants with zippers on the sides.   5. What would you say are the top five transitional pieces for winter into spring, that we can hope to see in your partnership with SNOBSWAP? My five must transitional pieces are a trench, leather motorcycle jacket, skinny leather leggings, oversized pullover sweatshirt perhaps with a print, and hightop sneakers.     6. It would be a safe assumption to say INA will be around for years to come; has the business surpassed your initial vision? What leaps do you hope to make from this point? Oh, Jesus, let me say this: When I opened the first store I kind of thought it’d be my last business venture. By the second year I was outgrowing the first store and went in search of the second space, which ultimately snowballed into a Men’s store. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the store have become what it has. My son is part of the business, which has been integral to the success of the business. Without his ambition, I don’t know that I would have taken on the expansions. INA’s evolution has been very natural. Moving out of our SOHO nucleus allowed us to open in Chelsea; it was time to move into the East. At the end of the day our main commitment is to sell the Consigners clothes and keep it moving.  For this we need space. When we no longer have it, that’s our cue to open a new one.   Be sure to check out this NYC gem on SNOBSWAP!   Photo Credit: INA NYC; Polyvore; Vogue Daily
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