Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.
If you're a seasoned shopper, chances are you've dug through The Closet's treasures at one point or another. If not, you've got some serious work to do. Ok, maybe work's the wrong word—with racks and racks of "gently worn and gently priced" Rick Owens, Isabel Marant, Kenzo, and more—perusing The Closet's vast interior is the furthest thing from a chore we can think of. Here, we chat with its Founder, Kevin Kish and Cassie Knight – the store's General Manager.
How did The Closet come to be? Tell us the origin story.
Kevin: The Closet was dreamt up in a living room in 1978, by a number of guys that wanted to find a way to make more money, as a supplement to their day jobs.
Was it always at 175 Newbury?
Kevin: 175 Newbury has been The Closet's home since 1988...going on 25 years. The store actually began selling men's clothes, and when it moved from Boylston to Newbury Street there was an upstairs and a downstairs. That's how The Closet Upstairs, the former vintage store was born. The Closet was downstairs.
How long as The Closet been around? How has it changed from then to now?
Cassie: The store just celebrated its 35th birthday...it is one of the oldest stores on Newbury Street. We love when customers come in reminiscing about shopping here when they were in college, or they'll say "I shopped her 20 years ago!" It's fun to be a part of a place that has been around for so long.
Have you ever thought about expanding?
C: When the racks are bursting with cashmere, and I can barely fit another Moncler coat on the rack, the thought does cross my mind, BUT part of what makes The Closet special is that there is only one location, and the size lets us choose the 'best of the best' from our consignors. We don't have to fill the store with junk.
Can you explain to us the science of consigning?
Be willing to accept your mistakes, and remove them from your closet. Let's face it, you are never going to get back what you spent, but consignment is a great way to edit your own wardrobe down to pieces that you love, wear, and reach for.
What are some tips for our readers who want to consign their items?
Try to stay ahead by making an appointment early in the season, we take Fall starting in August/September, Spring in February/March. Before making an appointment, I'll ask, if you saw that item in our store, would you buy it? If not, donation might make more sense. But, if you wore it once or twice, and it just doesn't work, get it out of your house while it still has some value.
Do buyers from large stores ever come through? Ever had any celebrity stylists or costumers from movies? Any notables?
K: OF course, but I am NOT going to tell!
C: I love when a certain magazine editor comes in, just as a regular shopper, and finds a few things. That's the ultimate validation for me.
What products seem to sell the best at The Closet?
We are known for our handbags, our selection definitely rivals some of the best shops in NYC. You will also see lots of unusual Japanese labels, as well as Akris, Dries van Noten, and The Row. Our consignors are serious shoppers and our inventory reflects that.
Any specific designers that people are always looking for?
Right now...Rick Owens, Isabel Marant, Alaia, always, Chanel chain bags.
Do you ever approach specific people to consign with you? What do you look for an ideal consign-ee?
Most often we'll get calls from people who say they were told "you have to go to The Closet, it's the only place to go." The Closet is a one of a kind shop. You'll always see the same faces when you come in, we'll get to know you by name, your style, who to call after you drop off...we have long term relationships with our consignors. So I guess, I'm looking for anyone who finds those facts appealing.
What's your pricing process?
I look at the condition, the age of the item, how rare it is, the original retail, the trendiness factor...after all these years its almost automatic. Certain things hold their value really well, like Louis Vuitton bags...so it really depends on the item.
What's the typical "The Closet" customer like?
C: There really isn't a typical customer, if you stood some of our regulars next to each other in a lineup, there would be no way to group them, besides their stylish outfits.
Do you have a peak season?
K: Fall, October is like Christmas for consignment shops.
Is the store merchandised in a particular way? Can you walk us through it?
C: It is easy to get overwhelmed in a shop like ours, but we group everything by category, color, and size, if possible. We have sections for popular labels like Vince, DVF, and Marni. Shopping at The Closet is like digging for treasure, the hunt is part of the experience. You have work for your bargains here, but it's not like it's not worth it. An Alexander Wang peplum skirt for $78? Yes please!
You guys are pretty active on social media – namely the blog and Instagram. How has that helped business?
C: We love to highlight special pieces that come into the store, a consignment shopper will do their research before coming in, so it's great for visitors to be able to find out about the store before they come to town. With consignment, there's only one of everything, so a photo or tweet is a real tease, but that's part of the fun.
If you could move The Closet into any other space in Boston, where would it be?
C: I think we have the best spot on the street, being right in the middle of Newbury helps us attract an amazingly varied clientele. I guess, in my dreams, I'd have the whole building...and entire floor for handbags!
Cassie, what's it like being GM of The Closet?
C: I've been with The Closet for 11 years, I began working part time while I was in college, and never left. The longer I'm here, the more I enjoy it.
Any plans to start your own business?
C: Yes, it has always been a goal to have my own store. I'm turning 30 this year, so it's kind of, store or baby. I'm leaning towards store.
Any career advice for people looking into going into consignment? Or advice for stylish people with great wardrobes who may look into consignment later?
K: There is a high level of trust between a consignor and their chosen shop, and that's something we place a high value on.
C: I love when a new consignor comes in, brings an armload of clothes, and lets us work our magic. They just want the clothes to go to a good home, and when its a good fit, we make that happen.
And now, for the lightning round...
Favorite item in the store right now?
Something I can afford? A girl can never have enough cashmere sweaters.
Something I can't? Miu Miu studded ankle boots...Boston's sidewalks will eat them alive, but if nobody else buys them, they're mine.
Anything you're excited about coming into the store in the coming weeks?
It's always a surprise, that's the most fun part for me. You never know what the day will bring. Some recent favorites are a Peter Pilotto top (sold the same day it came in) and an Alexander McQueen waistcoat (still for sale!)...I feel like a big shopping spree usually inspires a clean out, and if the past few weeks are any example, it's going to be a good season.
1980s or 1990s?
1980s...my most recent purchases are leather pants and a fringe vest.
8am or 8PM?
An 8am run around the Charles River sets me straight before a busy Saturday.
South End or Cambridge?
Cambridge, 'cause it's my home. Kevin would say the South End.
North West or Blue Ivy?
C: Neither...my guilty pleasure is style.com.
Items in your closet you'd be lost without?
For the fall: vintage Ferragamo stole, Loeffler Randall riding boots, J Brand jeans.