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Retail therapy: Designers at half the price

Wander through many upmarket neighbourhoods in New York and you're likely to stumble across small boutiques selling a limited range of second-hand designer fashion. The drop-off point for fashionable New Yorkers with a desire to to update their wardrobes, often the items they're getting rid of have never been worn. Sold at greatly reduced prices, they're a magnet for shoppers who love designer clothing but can't afford runway prices.

When consignment store fan and native New Yorker Emily Oberlin moved to Melbourne she struggled to find similar stores, especially on the northern side of the city, so together with her Australian partner Dan Nielsenbeck, they opened their own, first in Fitzroy, and since last year, a second Bruce in Clifton Hill.

Like their New York equivalents, each store reflects the local neighbourhood and customer base. In Fitzroy, Oberlin and Nielsenbeck sell avant-garde fashion by Japanese and Belgian designers. In Clifton Hill, the range leans towards contemporary US and French labels including Diane Von Furstenberg, Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruce, Marni, Prada and Chloe.

"Everything we stock looks like new," says Nielsenbeck. "And some pieces have actually never been worn." Oberlin points to a pair of unworn Christian Louboutin heels and a new season Gucci bag. Unused, both are priced at approximately half their original cost.

"Some people like to buy our clothes for ethical reasons, but most people simply want something unique," says Oberlin. "And, of course, some just really want that $1600 dress but can't afford it. That's where we can help."

Bruce is at 284 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill, 9486 5432. Open Mon-Thurs 10am to 6pm, Fri & Sat 10am to 5pm and Sun 11am to 3pm. Also at 157 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 9416 1126. Open Mon-Fri 11am to 6pm, Sat 11am to 5pm and Sun noon to 5pm. shopbruce.com.au