SPOTLIGHT ON: TAMMY FLUHR-GATES, CO-OWNER, MICHAEL'S CONSIGNMENT
We got a chance to speak with Tammy Gates, co-owner of Michael's Consignment in NYC and here's the scoop on the family business that's been around for over 50 years.
What are authenticity practices do you have in place?
Experience matters, we've been in the business since 1954. We have seen, touched and handled pieces from every designer out there. We've had employees that have been with us for over 30 years that know what to look for because they have the training and experience. Every item is handpicked and inspected for authenticity and we stand behind our merchandise’s authenticity 100%. We also have experts from the fashion houses that we can call upon if we need additional information.
How has the industry evolved since you started?
The industry is hot right now. Growing up and coming into the store, people were hush-hush about everything. But today, everyone recognizes how smart and savvy consignment is. The industry is primed and ready for growth.
Sometimes there are women who are just starting out in their careers and need a bit of guidance in finding their first bag. What's an example of a time like this?
I remember a student from Columbia University came in with a friend looking for a handbag to celebrate the next big step in her life. She had just graduated and was getting ready to start a job that paid well enough to splurge on a handbag. She was familiar with the major names in luxury but didn't quite grasp the differences between the fashion houses. Since she was just starting in the world of luxury, this was an opportunity to offer her an education on the brands while helping her find the right bag. After explaining the history of certain bags, the differences in leather quality, hardware, and ultimately why a Chanel would cost more than Marni, we found her the perfect Marni briefcase in brown. She is still a client today, almost 15 years later; and 3 years after she purchased that first Marni bag she came in and purchased her first Chanel bag. Stories like this are why we're in the business this long.
50 years is a long time in business, so what's next for you guys?
We've been fortunate enough to have clients that have stuck with us for many years. Today we sometimes see three generations of customers in the store: mother, daughter, and granddaughter. We’ve also been fortunate enough to understand how the marketplace is shifting and have stayed on top of those changes. A large number of young professionals spend their time on their devices thus we've introduced an e-commerce site that is mobile friendly. We've seen it all and have lived to tell the tale. Consignment just runs in my blood. My great-great-great-grandfather started off with clothing carts in Russia in the 1890s reselling garments that otherwise would have been tossed. My great-great-grandfather, Simon, had a shop on the lower east side of Manhattan; my great-grandfather, Aaron, opened The Ritz on 57th street and my grandfather, Michael, had the foresight to start this business on Madison Avenue in 1954. My mother and I have enjoyed our roles at Michael’s since we joined and we continue to adapt to the market and grow with the changes.
Who are your top 3 style icons?
It’s difficult to pick just three as my style is eclectic and can change with my mood. I describe my style as Bohemian Rock n’ Roll. Today I’m loving Sienna Miller, Olivia Palermo, and Audrey Hepburn… maybe some Madonna thrown in more because of the risks she’s taken over time.
What’s your favorite place to get dinner in New York?
Gramercy Tavern is an old time favorite or Little Owl in the Village
What’s the difference between LA and NYC style?
In very broad terms; LA has more color and can lean towards bohemian and carefree style. NYC fashion is more sleek, polished and trendy. Weather is a big factor in this and of course, there are times when both types of styles exist on either coast.
What's the best advice you can give about shopping?
Shopping consignment is an adventure. It’s best to come into the store with an open mind ready to see and experience whatever is there on any given day. Same goes for shopping online. Taking the time to look through the site, page by page may uncover a treasure you didn’t even know you needed. Most of all, make sure you shop well above and below your size and try on everything that catches your eye. You never know how it will look and feel on. Size is just a number, it is more about how the individual garment feels and looks on you!
What's the rarest item you've come across at Michael's?
Oh, there have been so many but the most memorable that comes to mind is a patchwork denim Louis Vuitton bag that came from one of our consignors in Italy. We had never seen anything like it. We brought it to Louis Vuitton and they had never seen anything like it either. It wasn’t until we consulted one of our LV experts that we learned this bag was one of 7 made that year for the runway shows. Louis has since done lines of patchwork denim bags, but nothing like the one we saw then or since.
What do you do for fun?
I have a great husband and two fabulous kids. We spend a lot of time in the outdoors hiking, skiing and laughing. I also love a girls night out on the town (or in with a bottle of wine and great take out). Nothing beats time with lifelong friends.