by Brenna Egan
Getty ImagesLast year, when Jeana Sohn of one of my fave bookmarked blogs, Closet Visit, wanted to profile my closet, I had a major awakening. I realized my entire home was a closet. Clothing racks invaded every inch of my office (see above for proof), shoes doubled as "art" on bookshelves, and, yes, bags were forever in fear of being accidentally baked in the oven. Remember, people, I live in L.A., so I have space in spades, and zero excuses. Could I be a...fashion hoarder? After our shoot, where I carefully art directed around my organized piles of chaos, I realized it was time to bring in the big guns.
Enter Christos Garkinos, of the divine consignment store Decades (and Dukes of Melrose fame), and Elizabeth Kott, behind online resale mecca Closet Rich, who both helped me realize that I was keeping clothes for every excuse under the sun ("But my daughter will thank me for this someday" about a random H&M dress, and "I wore that to an epic Beck concert 10 years ago" regarding a hideous fringed vest). When I watched myself fight tooth and nail to let inane things escape my cold, hard grip, I realized these two are just as much counselors as they are consignors. If you've ever watched A&E's Hoarders, you know this can be a very serious issue, and I'm in no way downplaying it--there are "levels" of the illness, though. No matter where I personally fall on the scale, I'm glad I sought an intervention. Sure, I may regret some of the rejects when my offspring wants to be a hippie for Halloween in 2020, but my apartment and mind is much more Zen because of it.
Here, my saviors offer up their words of wisdom for you. So pretend you're lying back on a (very luxe) therapist's couch and listen up!
What is the difference between fashion hoarding versus collecting?
Christos Garkinos: I am often in closets with shopping addicts. You can tell the hoarders versus the collectors. The hoarders will have three of the same Chanel blouse in different colors--all with the tags on and never worn. And, then they turn to me and ask "Do you think I'm crazy?" Umm...my response is usually a high-pitched "No, of course not!" Collectors gather important pieces from designers and are not full of the consumption urge; they're more like editors.
Elizabeth Kott: The difference is mere intent. When we collect, one does so with purpose versus the dreaded hoard, which seems to occur without us knowing, and then suddenly it is like an embarrassment of riches gone awry.
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When do people call for you help?
Christos Garkinos: Women have called me on the phone and whisper: 'I hear you can help people.' That's my cue that I'm talking to a hoarder. So, I go and try to help. I'm not forceful per se, but more direct and empathetic because I get it (my coat collection is insanely large). Usually there is a story behind the hoarding: divorce, weight loss (they don't want to get rid of the "fat" clothes), or other emotional issues. I try to identify the problem and then slowly apply my magic.
Elizabeth Kott: I come across this a lot, but my younger clients can find it challenging to hoard simply due to space, whereas, I find my older clientele, who typically have some sizable closet square footage, find themselves "unintentionally collecting" more often.
What about one of the best "collections" you've seen, and what deemed it as such?
Elizabeth Kott: Well, I go into some pretty insane closets, but nothing tops the closets of my former boss Rachel Zoe. Her archive of vintage dresses is off the charts. They're true wearable works of art that, without a doubt, will be on display in an exhibit one day.
What are some telltale signs when someone should seek help for actual hoarding?
Elizabeth Kott: It's an issue any time your stuff owns you as opposed to the other way around. Because there's a direct correlation between a messy closet and a messy brain, if the task to get rid of your stuff seems overwhelming and not like something that can be tackled by one's lonesome, enlisting a friend or even an army of friends is key. If it's more than that--if the task just seems too daunting or the idea of letting go even though you know it's a necessity seems unmanageable, asking for help in a serious way is a great thing and an important step towards a new positive space and head space.
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What's your best advice when letting go of items?
Elizabeth Kott: When helping with a purge, I find it important to be the sensible, objective voice in the situation. Since I don't have an emotional attachment to the items, I can look upon the situation with pure practicality. Friends, take note: The objective voice is key in such scenarios.
To start, make some piles: One of what to hold on to, one for selling, one for the sister or friend, and one for donation. If a client is apprehensive of the purge, I advise creating another pile for questionable items. The contents of that pile gets put away for at least a month and the assortment is revisited to see if anything was missed--that is always the best test for a purge. Anything done in haste can often lead to regret later on.
What five pieces will appreciate in value over time?
Christos Garkinos: If you don't want to sell to Decades, then I would hold on to the Stephen Sprouse for Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton collection, the sequin Chloé horse pants from the Stella McCartney/Phoebe Philo era, Chanel backpacks, and any dress for Dior by Raf Simons and Tom Ford for Gucci.
Elizabeth Kott: I always urge people to hang on to designer items with emblems on their hardware, transferable items like accessories, easily tailored pieces like suit jackets, bags, and of course, anything you feel like you will want to pass on to a loved one.
What items are good to liquidate now while the iron's hot?
Christos Garkinos: Well, ironically, some of those brands I said to keep, ha! For example, Tom Ford for Gucci, the Stella McCartney Falabella bag is hot right now, and Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga pieces.
Elizabeth Kott: As we embark on the holiday season, it's a great time to oust coats, hats, and gloves for donation. In terms of selling, dresses that you've had your moment with and don't feel you will have again. Yeah, those can go!
Fess up! Are you a fashion hoarder? Time to clean out your closet? We're here to support you--let's talk!
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