Sunday, September 24, 2023

One on One With Encore Plus Co-Owner Chantal Gaudreau

In the heart of downtown Boca Raton, you’ll find a trove of luxury goods at Encore Plus, an upscale designer resale boutique. If you are coveting a hard-to-find Birkin, Kelly or find that the skyrocketing prices in luxury goods are a tad bit outrageous, then look no further because you have found the place. It’s a fashion lover’s dream, but what puts Encore Plus at the forefront of luxury consignment are the glamorous co-owners, Chantal Gaudreau and Ayla Habibi. 

Ayla Habibi and Chantal Gaudreau

Gaudreau and Habibi have been in business together for nearly 15 years and looking back, they were visionaries. The sustainability chatter was not as loud and important then, not to mention that famed online consignment platform The Real Real was not even yet established. With different backgrounds, but a shared passion for fashion, Gaudreau and Habibi merged their talents, intellects and experiences to create an ever-growing business. 

On any given day, you’ll be charmingly greeted by either ladies. But, don’t be fooled by their ease, poise and friendliness because they could also pass as fashion historians. Gaudreau and Habibi know the story behind each bag, garment, shoe, and jewelry. They even have an onsite seamstress for alterations and recently launched shoe and handbag repair. It’s all part of the circular design journey that is now being embraced with open arms. 

I sat down with Gaudreau to learn more about Encore Plus, the founders behind this local business, the luxury resale market and what is the most in-demand item right now.

When did you start your business? What was the catalyst behind the idea to establish a luxury designer resale boutique?  

Encore Plus was founded in 2009. Initially, we were operating out of a 700 square foot space in Deerfield Beach. I was transitioning from an eponymously named fashion line in Milan and my business partner Ayla had an existing business in the space which offered alterations. We had become friends over the years and decided to go into the consignment business together and utilized her existing space to launch the company.

Over the years, how has your business grown and evolved? 

In 2011 we re-located the business to downtown Boca Raton to our current space, which is more then three times the size of the original store in Deerfield. We currently offer not only women’s fashion, but, men’s, home accessories, alterations, shoe repair and even personal styling.

In addition to your brick and mortar boutique in downtown Boca Raton, you also sell online through a few key platforms. At first, was it a challenge to incorporate digital sales channels while maintaining that special one-on-one client relationship that you’re innately giving when together in person? 

Integrating online sales was an inescapable component to expand our reach, but, like any small business, we did face some challenges initially. Back in 2015 we started with Tradesy, our first national platform. Vestiaire Collective approached us to participate in their international platform a few years later and now we have incorporated Livestream shopping through ShopShops and Instagram weekly.  We have added a series of people dedicated to that endeavor, so we can continue to stay focused on providing each client, whether online or in store with the same one on one attention they’ve come to expect from working with us.

It’s a very competitive market, so what makes Encore Plus stand out amongst the crowd of luxury resale avenues? What would you mainly attribute to your business’ success?

Over the past fourteen years, we have built an exceptionally loyal clientele which has been met with unsurpassed service. Most of our growth can be attributed to the organic word of mouth referrals our clients have given us.

How do you, Chantal and Ayla, complement each other and have you learned something new about one another in the process of working together?

My partner, Ayla, excels at the sales side while I spend most of my time working with acquisitions and consignors.

As far as the resale market goes, what are key pieces that are worth buying because they will actually hold value over time? 

Unquestionably, Chanel and Hermes keep their value as they have demonstrated over decades. Specifically, the classic Chanel bags and the Hermes Birkin and Kelly are the key pieces for value retention.

What is most in demand at this moment?

Chanel classic flap bags and costume jewelry are the most in demand currently.

What was the one hard item that a client was in search for that you were able to secure? Can you pretty much get your hands on any highly-coveted item?

We had a client based in New York city that needed a gown for a movie premiere in Rome. We wound up sourcing a vintage Valentino gown from Miami that was a perfect fit. Generally, given enough time, we can get our hands on just about anything a client wants to find.

How do you authenticate all the items that come in?

Ayla and I are both trained with Entrupy, which is a system to weed out fake/counterfeit items. It utilizes a combination of AI and microscopy (think jewelers loop with light). It has a 99.1% efficacy in determining authenticity of a bag. That coupled with our years of experience provides peace of mind for our client base.

What are the benefits to buying fashion items on the secondary market?

Beyond the fact that conscious curation is more in fashion now than ever before and that you tend to secure items which are more unique, such as things which were limited edition or sold out otherwise. We don’t see the velocity of the luxury market slowing down, but our resale model makes it accessible for many consumers for whom those ever increasing prices may be out of reach. Ultimately, the reduction in carbon footprint and affordability make it an easy decision.

What is the best advice you’ve received in business and/or life?

Opportunities don’t happen, you create them. 

Now, for fun… Who is your celebrity style crush? 

My celebrity crush is Laura Santo Domingo with the Instagram handle @thelsd. She is not really a celebrity but a business women who I think is truly classic and elegant and at the forefront of fashion.

What’s the one piece that you are currently eyeing for yourself? 

I am eyeing right now the Dolce & Gabbana navy and white print maxi skirt for the summer.

How would you describe your style in three words?

Simple, effortless and chic.

Encore Plus Boutique; 281 E Palmetto Park Rd, Boca Raton;

For more from Olivia Hollaus, click here.

Olivia Hollaus
Olivia Hollaus
Olivia Hollaus is the Founder and Creative Director of Protect My Shoes, a brand focused on creating stylish, sustainable, and practical shoe care products. She loves fashion, design, and all things fabulous, so she’s always on the lookout for what’s new and unique. Aside from running her own business, Olivia is the proud mom of two boys who keep her on her toes. IG: @protectmyshoes

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