By John Williams IV The Baltimore Sun.
In a city that is starved for luxury flagship retail stores, consignment shops are the closest thing fashionistas have to getting the same haute couture looks worn by the world's rich and famous.
Although the fashions might not always be current, they are always a fraction of the cost of clothes found in the shopping districts of New York, Paris, London and L.A.
In Baltimore, the Roland Park neighborhood offers the greatest concentration of high-end consignment shops.
"The Roland Park area is ideal for this industry," said Betsy Wendell, owner of Octavia Cross Keys, a women's boutique in North Baltimore. Wendell frequents consignment shops in Roland Park and promotes them. The area has "a lot of wealthy high-end customers who end up with too many clothes in their closets. ... It's easier shopping. It's very quaint to be in those types of stores. It works when they are all close together."
Andrea Kaplan, owner of Love Me Two Times, opened her boutique in Roland Park in 2011.
"It allows all women the ability to have luxury affordably," Kaplan said.
Kaplan opened her boutique to share her love of luxury designers with others. A good amount of its merchandise is from her own collection, and Kaplan said she loves the adventure of hunting down designer finds and passing them on to her customers.
At nearby ReDeux, co-owners Jan Braun and Linda Eisenbrandt rely on a variety of sources to build their inventory. "We go to a lot of estate sales," Braun said.
"We have some stores who consign with us," Eisenbrandt said as she showed off a gift set of Chanel perfume that a store recently brought to the boutique.
This is a practice some larger retailers use when items do not sell or there is a surplus at the end of the season.
Jenny Teeter is a longtime consignment shop customer. She's been shopping at Wear It's At in nearby Pikesville, Md., since it opened in 2006.
In addition to the designer merchandise, she likes the relationship between customer and staff that isn't always found at a mall.
"The people are a big part of it. They are very helpful," she said. "It is more personal. ... They are tremendously helpful trying to find you the right item in the store."
Mary Box, a Phoenix, Md., resident, has been a customer of Vogue Revisited in Roland Park since 1993 and loves the Chanel pieces she has found over the years.
"Vogue Revisited has treated its customers and consignors as if they are the most important client each and every time for 20 years," she said.
Consignment shop owners say the key to finding great items is to shop often.
"I get new things in every day," said Chris Anderson, owner of Vogue Revisited "The inventory is always changing."