Photography by Carly May.

SHIRLEY CHEN AND CYNTHIA HUDSON were hanging out at Hudson’s Lakewood home, talking about the mess of 2020 last March. After spending 20 years at Neiman Marcus, Hudson had recently found out her division was being dissolved while the retailer went through a bankruptcy.

“We were just talking about different ways we could reinvent ourselves and different opportunities out there,” Hudson says.

Chen and Hudson met over a decade ago through a mutual friend. Incidentally, they both worked at Neiman Marcus, but they never crossed paths. Eventually the friend moved to Chicago, but Chen and Hudson are now close friends and business partners. With over 40 combined years in the fashion industry, they launched Luxe Crush, an online marketplace for people to sell, buy, lend and rent their designer bags, jewelry and accessories during the pandemic. Unlike other rental programs, Luxe Crush offers flexible rental periods, a try-before-you-buy program and a White Glove Membership option for sellers and lenders.

The luxury resell market is one of the fastest-growing retail segments. It’s gone from being small consignment shops to multimillion e-commerce businesses like Poshmark, Thred-up and The Real Real. A storefront for The Real Real opened in Knox Henderson in spring 2021. It’s not just about sustainable fashion, either.

“The younger generation didn’t necessarily need to own something, but they like experiences,” Chen says.

Photography by Carly May.

Luxe Crush provides style without the commitment to a handbag that costs several thousand dollars. What makes it different from other luxury consignment shops is that individual luxury lovers can monetize their own closets as well as consignment selling.

“This is an alternative where maybe you’re not ready to sell, but you can actually rent out and make extra income,” Hudson says.

The company insures up to $10,000, so lenders can have peace of mind knowing their bag will come back pristine. Only premium luxury brands are listed on the site, another differentiator from The Real Real or apparel-focused Rent the Runway. The duo especially have their eye out for the holy trinity of Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

The priciest bag on the site, a classic black Chanel double flap with an estimated retail value of  $6,500, can be rented for a month for $650 or $260 for four days. Or if a shopper wanted a steal, they can drop $4,750 to own the bag.

Orders didn’t just start rolling in when they launched. Special events where high-end jewelry and special bags are often touted were on pause. Most of the inventory on the site is from their own personal collection.

“The real work starts now,” Chen says. “Our big challenge right now is getting brand awareness.”

They got the attention of a prop master from NBC’s Good Girls, who rented a bulk order of bags for an episode focused on counterfeit goods.

Chen and Hudson want users to use Luxe Crush not just for events, but to make every occasion special.

“We really want it to be a part of your lifestyle,” Hudson says. “You still should be able to treat yourself, dress up for those everyday occasions.”