Retail Therapy

Sep 27, 2010 No Comments

“I asked my parents for a subscription to Women’s Wear Daily when I was twelve,” Andrea Waters said laughing. She’s all smiles today as the proprietor of Great Labels, a couture consignment shop for those who don’t mind a little wear to go with their savoir-faire.great-labels

Waters began her career in the fashion industry as a sales representative for Calvin Klein.  She went on to work for various other top designers and traveled the world in search of what was hot and what was not. Along the way, she found her Armani sole mate and got stitched, I mean hitched. After honeymooning in Milan, Waters began birthing her own line of little fashionistas and made the decision to be a stay-at-home mother, wife and shopaholic.

Ten years later, her husband ran off with his own project runway, leaving Andrea to Fendi for herself. In a divorce daze, Andrea found herself in her closet, gazing at the personal boutique she had amassed over the years.  The only thing missing was a warning label.

One day in the middle of a shopping binge, Andrea walked into a high-end re-sale boutique in Newport Beach, CA. She didn’t know such a place existed.  She purchased a few items and the next day she decided to go through her closet and return to the re-sale store. “I loaded up my car, pulled up to the store and was so nervous that they were going to reject my clothes, I turned the car around and left.  I felt my very professional opinion was on the line…what if they don’t want my clothes?” She mustered up the courage to return with her tailored treasures. The store accepted and sold every item. Waters walked out with a huge check.

“That’s when the idea first hit me. I thought to myself, I could do this. I knew I needed to do something.” Waters returned to the shop several times to hang out, watch and learn. She eventually asked for a job and was hired.  She was paid $7.00 an hour. She didn’t want to work the floor; she had confidence in her ability to sell.  Andrea wanted to work in the back office and learn everything about the consignment business. She learned quickly how lucrative a business it was.
There were several high-end consignments shops in the vicinity, so she decided, and out of respect for her employer to pack up the kids and head west to Santa Monica where there were only two other such shops at the time.

Great Labels opened its doors in the summer of 1997. On the day it opened the shop was filled with designer clothes, shoes, purses and accessories – all straight out of Andrea’s closet. “It was the happiest day of my life. I became a new person. I loved it.  Business to me was good from the get go. When I look at the numbers, I can see it really wasn’t as good as I thought, but it was to me, it felt like I was making money from the day I opened my doors.”


In the beginning, there were no advertising funds to speak of, “I put a huge sign in the window – accepting new consigners. I invested everything I had in the business.  My friends cleaned out their closets. I worked 7 days a week and had one part-time employee.” Her big break came when a huge competitor closed its doors and she bought their consignment list. Suddenly she had an A list of clients from the mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, to the surfside residents of Santa Monica and Malibu. “Every season, the ladies cleared out their walk-in closets to make room for the new arrivals. I would personally pick up their lovely wears and price and display them in my shop. My best find was the 100 plus pairs of never worn Manolo Blahniks shoes – all the current styles in every color. This woman was a collector. Then she went through a divorce and started unloading. I think she was in need of a shoe shrink. I speak from experience.”

Today, Great Labels is thriving and has two full-time and two part-time employees.  And yes, Andrea is still there 7 days a week.  “I envisioned a place for women to meet for conversation, shopping, laughter, and support: a place for the diverse women of our neighborhood and our city to build a community. Though all the changes, my original vision has remained true. Since the first day I peered in the window of the initial space, I had a dream of a beautiful, peaceful place of refuge where women could come together to sell their treasured belongings to a new set of women. To encourage a type of green recycling, and to be received with kindness and respect.”

great labels

Last year, Andrea staged a 90% off parking lot sale for items that went unsold with all proceeds going to charity. “I plan on doing this twice a year. It’s my small way of giving back to those that have given me so much.”

So listen up all you Haute Hoarders out there. It’s time to take a personal closet inventory. If the tags are still on, or you’re still waiting to fit into that outfit, sell it and make room for a deserving designer creation you’ll surely find at Great Labels or the nearest consignment store in your area. Great Labels is filled with Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Dolce Gabanna and many more top designers du jour.

Written By: Valerie Scott
Edited By: Bridgette

1126 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA  90401

Cities, Fashion, Los Angeles
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