Tech-Infused Elegance: A Glimpse into How AI Has Transformed Luxury Pre-Loved Shopping with Sellier’s Founder Hanushka Toni

by | Aug 17, 2023 | INTERVIEWS | 0 comments

We pick the brains of none other than Hanushka Toni, on AI authentication, Sellier’s strong social media presence, why some handbags hold their values more than others, and which Hermes bags you should be investing in.


How did your career lead you to founding Sellier?

We started Sellier as an alternative to the resale landscape at the time. I had been working as a solicitor before moving industries and working as a Creative Director at Relevance in luxury brand marketing. I was personally buying a lot of pieces in the primary market and whenever I wanted to shop for preloved and vintage I found myself having to scroll through endless listings of products that perhaps weren’t exactly what I was looking for and at the standard that I was after. I wanted to create a destination for people like me who wanted the best in class of preloved, meaning the right piece at the right price, where every single item on the website was appropriately curated. Sellier was therefore born as a destination for the discerning consumer who only wants the best of the best, but is also conscious about sustainability and making great fashion choices.

What did you want to offer shoppers with Sellier that had not been previously offered? 

Sellier is underpinned by the fundamentals of sustainability and our rigorous authentication processes. What differentiates Sellier from our competitors is our commitment to curating the rarest pieces in the market at the most competitive prices. Each piece is in top condition and has been authenticated by experts as well as AI authentication, so consumers can feel comfortable investing in our products. We also have brick and mortar stores, so that clients can come in and see products first hand as well as speaking to our experts. 



Why do you think the pre-loved market is thriving?

Consumers tend to be drawn to the pre-loved market as a means to seek out iconic vintage items, especially when these are highly sought after. The revival of noughties fashion in media, and on shows such as Sex & The City and The Kardashians, has made owning these rare items even more desirable. The knowledge that these vintage pieces will never be produced again brings with it a certain satisfaction that you own something that is one of only a few in existence. From an investment perspective, most vintage pieces from brands such as Chanel and Hermès, will remain timeless and desirable for years to come. Chanel bags from the 90s were not only produced to a higher standard, but these rare models have become collector’s items and will continue to appreciate in value. Not only this, but we have seen changes in consumer behaviour as shoppers move to live more sustainably, and therefore shop more consciously, looking to the pre-loved market when shopping for their wardrobe.


In the past 2 years the prices of luxury (in particular Chanel) have increased sharply. Why do you think this is? 

Over the past two years, sharp increases in luxury prices, including Chanel, can be attributed to a range of factors. Supply chain disruptions, exacerbated by the pandemic, led to production delays and higher costs. Rising demand from emerging markets, an expanding middle class, and renewed consumer confidence played a role. Brands strategically position themselves through price increases to maintain exclusivity. Additionally, cultural influence and marketing (like the Sofia Richie effect we’re seeing currently), as well as limited edition releases, also contribute to these price hikes. However, the quality of Chanel bags made 20+ years ago is still better than the ones produced today (in spite of the price hikes). Chanel used to use 24k gold to plate their hardware. Over time this has been reduced from 24k to 14k to 10k and now the modern day bags have gold-tone hardware, meaning they are more prone to tarnishing.


During the pandemic, you kept luxury lovers smiling with your social media content. How did you find the response?

At the beginning of the pandemic we still had an absolutely tiny social media account with around 1,000 followers. I started doing stories as a way to engage with a completely new audience that at the time was sitting at home and scrolling through their phones. Because we were doing something completely new and different at the time, the response was absolutely phenomenal. We really didn’t expect the account to grow at the rate it did and that’s definitely not something that would be possible to emulate today. 



When did you realise that Sellier’s instagram stories had such great engagement and reach? 

Our Instagram engagement is incredibly strong. Obviously like anyone else we see peaks and declines, but I think we realised how strong the account was when every single item we posted would be sold by the end of the day. That’s how we came up with our slogan #fastestfingerfirst.


In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, you discussed how your Hermes bags performed more effectively than stocks. Can you explain this in more detail?

Brands like Hermès often produce limited quantities of their most coveted items, creating a sense of exclusivity and scarcity. You cannot just walk into a store and buy an Hermes handbag. On average, Hermès shoppers have to spend between £20-30k with their Sales Associate before being offered a Birkin or Kelly to purchase and they don’t even have a choice of colour. This limited supply can contribute to increased demand, which in turn might lead to price appreciation in the resale market. Certain luxury items, like the Louis Vuitton X Supreme holdall or the Tiffany X Fendi baguette bag, become collectibles due to their craftsmanship, history, and iconic status. Collectors are often willing to pay a premium for these items, which can result in increased value over time.



Why are luxury handbags such a good investment? 

An investment piece is a beautifully crafted, timeless item that encapsulates a brand, a moment or an era and crucially, holds its value. Chanel and Hermès bags represent the most desirable bags in the category and derive their value from the scarcity of supply coupled with incredible demand in the resale market. Personally, I am always after those rare vintage pieces that are iconic and will never be produced again. Bags have no doubt been the strongest performer in the preloved category, which has seen a boom in popularity in line with the rise of sustainable fashion. Moreover, it can be said that you’ll get a better return investing in luxury superbrands compared to gold or stocks. Some bags, from the likes of Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, have experienced a valuation spike of an average of 83% in the last ten years. Bags are particularly strong due to the inherent investment value associated with the main superbrands of Chanel and Hermès – these pieces are both timeless and continue to rise in price in both the primary and secondary markets, which means that for the most special pieces, the best time to buy is always now. 


Which Hermes bags would you recommend if someone was looking for an investment piece? 

Typically the exotic skinned bags, whether that be a Himlayan or Diamond Birkin 30, are the best investment pieces Hermes has to offer. Sellier are also seeing a huge increase in searches for raffia bags this summer, and the Kelly Mini Picnic 20 is no exception, with a retail price of around £10,000, the bags can fetch upwards of £55,000 on the resale market.



Why do some brands not do as well in terms of holding value/investments? 

Certain luxury brands, particularly Italian ones, may not fare well in holding value as investments due to a number of factors. A brand’s reputation and prestige play a pivotal role. Brands with a history of quality craftsmanship, exclusivity, and innovation tend to hold their value better. 

Consumer perception is also crucial. Brands with strong cultural resonance and iconic designs, like the Chanel Classic Flap and the Goyard Saint Louis Tote, often have enduring appeal, while those following fleeting trends might not age well as investments.

Thirdly, market dynamics matter. Brands that flood the market with products risk saturating demand, eroding the exclusivity that drives value. In comparison to brands like Hermes, Gucci and Prada mass-produce their products, making them very accessible to the luxury shopper. 

Finally, authenticity concerns and counterfeiting pose a threat. Rolex and Louis Vuitton are in the top most-duped brands, and as a result have suffered in terms of reputation and consumer trust, negatively affecting investment potential.


Tell us about your bag collection…! What is on your Wishlist?

I don’t think it will surprise anyone to hear that I have a lot of bags. I have them across the main four french brands (Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior). I tend to buy bags which are colourful and special. I avoid standard finishes as a rule and couldn’t imagine myself buying a bag in a standard spec like black and gold. At the moment, there’s not a lot left on my Wish List! I am still incredibly into vintage Chanel and the rare pieces, so I can never resist one of those.



What is one bag that you regret NOT buying?

A few years ago we had one client send us around 40 vintage Chanel handbags from the nineties and there were two small Chanel Kellys in the consignment. One was in lilac and one was in peach. I ended up buying the peach one and sold the lilac, but I really wish I had kept both.


Sellier now has four stores across Monaco and London. Do you have plans to expand to any other countries?

We are always looking at ways to grow and expand. At the moment we are pretty happy with our presence in the UK and Europe. I think our next destination will probably be the Middle East, but it’s too early to announce!


You recently spoke to the Financial Times about how AI is helping you detect fake handbags. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

At Sellier we are  extremely rigorous in our authentication processes, as there is still a 15% chance for human error with super-fakes. With our low-volume, high-margin strategy, we simply can’t risk shipping out products that are not authentic, which is why we partnered with Entrupy, a technology company that employs AI to provide authentication solutions for luxury products. Entrupy works by sending you a smart device (a microscopic attachment) to attach to an iOS device, if luxury handbags need authenticating; for shoes, it’s simply a case of downloading Entrupy’s app on an iOS device. The app then scans and photographs the item before filing through millions of data points across various images to arrive at a judgement. We have had cases of clients coming into the store to sell products that we have identified as fake. It can be gut-wrenching to reveal this to clients who have been duped into parting with large sums of money for counterfeit goods.


Why are fake designer goods so damaging to the luxury market?

The counterfeit market is worth trillions of dollars, yet it is extremely damaging to the luxury market. Fake designer goods negatively impact the consumer’s perception of the luxury brand and its products. In particular, the consumer’s perception of the product’s quality is dramatically reduced, and in turn, consumers’ brand associations become increasingly negative. Not only do these knockoffs have poor craftsmanship, but they also do not comply with safety standards and therefore are possibly lethal. Sometimes these items contain dyes and toxins that are harmful. Moreover, I have met numerous people who have been duped by super-fakes, which is devastating after the thousands of pounds that are spent on investing in them. Most recently someone had purchased an Hermes Birkin for upwards of £20k, for Sellier to then reveal to them it was a fake. 


What is next for Sellier?

We have just launched an exclusive edit with Matches, which we are extremely excited about. The next drop will be going live before the New Year. 



What is next for you? 

I’m really not one of those people who sets goals as such, but when I see an opportunity I jump on it and throw everything I have at it. So, in a professional capacity it’s never about being the biggest business or competing with anyone else, it’s always simply about being the best we can be everyday and doing the best job we can do with everything that we do. Personally at some point I would love to finish a book that I am writing. I have written half of it already but the problem is I devote so much time to my work, I have very little headspace for anything else.


What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?

The most important advice I would give to someone starting a business would be to get plenty of experience in other businesses, especially smaller ones that are doing well where you can watch the founder or business owner grow the business and see how they do it. I’ve worked in both big and small companies and I think that sometimes in larger companies the process of success is less transparent, whereas when I’ve worked in smaller companies I’ve really been able to watch and understand how one person can drive a business forward and all the things they need to do and learn in order to make it a success.



What is something you wish you knew before starting Sellier?

When I started Sellier at the beginning it was really lonely and quite hard. The business seemed to completely consume my life and there were times when honestly I was completely overwhelmed. Now, several years down the line, I come to work and we have a team of people who all get on like family. I think that’s one of my favourite aspects about the business, the fact that I’m surrounded by people who are so special and who really support each other whilst working for a common goal. The Sellier team is so much more than co-workers and we are all so incredibly close. I’m absolutely sure that these are friendships that we’ll all keep for life.


Tell us about the tech you use (beauty/lifestyle/apps).

In terms of tech, I am mostly on social apps all day long for work so whether it’s Instagram, Tik Tok, Threads, I’ve basically genuinely used them all. I used to listen to audiobooks but have recently returned to good old fashioned books. Otherwise, I try to keep my free time quite paired back and simple so I can focus on things that matter.


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