By Julie Shapiro
TRIBECA — Tania Anthony, founder of the booming online fashion boutique Resale Riches, sometimes wishes she'd gotten a degree in psychology.
It would come in handy when she travels around Manhattan to the closets of the city's top fashionistas and encourages them to part with their barely-worn Gucci handbags and Burberry ponchos.
"Some people can't let go," said Anthony, 41, who runs her business out of TriBeCa. "You have to walk them through it: If you haven't worn it in three years, you're not going to wear it."
Anthony has made that pitch hundreds of times over the last few years, amassing an enviable collection of designer merchandise that she sells on her website. She exhaustively researches each item, checking, for example, whether a celebrity has been photographed wearing it, which could add $100 or more to the price.
"It's an addiction more than anything," Anthony said with a smile, displaying one of her collection's Gucci bags on one arm and a Prada bag on the other. "It's a lot of fun."
Anthony said she gets most of her inventory from "big names" in the fashion world, including editors of fashion magazines and a few of the celebrities who strut Manhattan's streets or runways and would never be caught in the same outfit twice.
These clients, whose identity Anthony keeps private, turn their castoff designer goods over to Anthony for four months. Once she sells an item, the original owner gets 60 to 80 percent of the sale price, and Anthony keeps the rest. If an item doesn't sell after four months, the owners can take it back for free.
The hottest, easiest-to-sell goods are usually handbags, because they retain their value well over time. Anthony recently sold a Hermés bag for $2,500, and she regularly sells shoes for over $400, But recently, she has been having trouble moving Marc Jacobs merchandise that is priced under $200.
"The more expensive things are, the better they sell," Anthony said.
The recession hasn't hurt her business, partly because she sells to customers all over the world, she said.
Anthony's biggest challenge is determining whether a high-end designer piece is genuine or a knockoff.
She recently received a Fendi Spy Bag that retails for at least $2,500, and the owner swore it was real — but Anthony noticed that part of the clasp was broken, a giveaway that the material was cheap. She also saw that the decorative stitching wasn't as noticeable as it should have been.
"I have to be really, really careful," Anthony said. "I almost have to interrogate my clients."
Some clients know an item is fake when they try to sell it, but others have been duped themselves, often by unscrupulous eBay dealers, Anthony said.
Anthony has lived in TriBeCa since 1993 and started selling consignment clothes online when she was laid off from her job with a software company after 9/11. She thought of it as a hobby at first and scoured consignment shops and sample sales for good deals that she could turn around for a profit online.
But as Anthony's two daughters, now 13 and 16, got older and her online sales boomed, Anthony turned Resale Riches into a full-time job and developed a loyal following of regular clients and customers.
"It's like my fourth child, with my husband being my third child," Anthony said with a laugh. Asked the hours she works, she replied, "Whatever time I'm not sleeping."
Although Anthony mostly dresses in a traditional New York uniform of all-black pants and button-downs, she loves being surrounded by the well-crafted clothing she sells.
"Super-expensive, beautiful clothes are expensive for a reason," Anthony said, pointing out supple materials and detailed stitching an amateur eye might miss. "I like good quality. I'd rather have three things that are really good quality than 100 things from Forever 21."