Designer handbags have long been deemed “the investment piece” for your closet. And while this idea might only be justification for dropping thousands of dollars on a purse, these luxury pieces can be a prudent investment. As styles circle back around and vintage and resale marketplaces have taken off in recent years, keeping a few classic designer bags in your collection isn’t such a bad thing.
No one knows this more than Kristen Donnell, who owns Keeks Designer Handbags, a luxury designer handbag resale shop in Plano. Donnell says “pre-owned retail is in my blood.” When she was a toddler, her weekends were spent at a Garland flea market where her dad, Mark Edward Kane, sold used CDs. She had a front row seat as he grew his business from the flea market booth into CD Warehouse and launched other concepts, like Movie Trading Company.
Wanting to cultivate something of her own as an adult, with a product line that would appeal to women, Donnell decided to focus on handbags. She launched her resale shop in 2010. “We deeply believe that everyone deserves luxury, and [we] wanted to create a fun, more attainable way to get it,” Donnell says.
And her investment in the label has paid off. Donnell says a string of “little bets” since opening 12 years ago has helped her grow Keeks (her nickname) into a 10,000-square-foot flagship store in Plano.
She first started selling pre-owned handbags in a small Collin Creek Mall store in 2010. At the time, she carried predominantly lower-end designers. But her customers were drawn to her more luxury offerings. The first purse she sold was the only Louis Vuitton Speedy she had in-stock. Donnell now sees that as a foreshadowing for her current wares.
“The business plodded along until we decided to make a ‘little bet’ and buy a significant amount of pre-owned Louis Vuitton to try to sell,” Donnell says. “We were shocked when it flew off the shelves. That was when we figured out that higher-end luxury was the way forward.”
Donnell now sells luxe purses, shoes, and accessories. Her 4,000-hangbag inventory includes pieces from some of fashion’s most exclusive—and expensive—designers, like Hermes, Givenchy, Prada, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, natch, and more, at a discounted rate.
That discount is, perhaps, the most obvious benefit of buying used pieces. But other, often overlooked benefits include sustainability—buying an old bag keeps it out of a landfill—and finding rare, discontinued items, Donnell says.
“Another benefit to buying resale is that we have hundreds of pieces that are no longer in production,” Donnell says. “We recently made a customer so happy because she had been dreaming about the discontinued Louis Vuitton Sully and we had it.”
Donnell often works to connect customers with a discontinued bag or accessory they’ve been coveting but can’t find. Right now, some of her hottest items include several Chanel Grand Shopping Totes, which were discontinued in 2015. But her rarest pieces currently in-stock include an Hermes Kelly 35, an ostrich Prada Galleria, and several discontinued special-edition Louis Vuitton prints.
Keeks’ business model operates on the concept of providing designer fashion without the designer attitude. Donnell wants her customers to have a special experience and not that Pretty Woman Rodeo Drive moment, where they feel intimidated or are turned away, when shopping at Keeks. Although the items are technically second-hand, Donnell wants her customers to feel celebrated with the investment they are making. As many purchases are accompanied by a major life moment or milestone, like graduations or birthdays, she commemorates designated purchase levels with a bottle of champagne for customers.
Although the bulk of Keeks’ business comes from in-store purchasing, Donnell saw a major turning point in 2020. Like many other retail brands, Keeks increased its e-commerce and social media efforts during the pandemic. They worked hard to upgrade the online shopping experience, Donnell says. “Now I’d say we have a brick-and-click model.”
Online purchases currently make up 33 percent of her sales, Donnell says. She has customers from all over the world, and she’s even had out-of-towners visit her Plano store in person from as far away as New York City.
Donnell has big plans for the future of Keeks Designer Handbags, including another big box location outside of Plano and aggressively expanding her luxury shoe and accessory collections. But like her father’s ventures growing up, her business is still a family affair. Both her dad and her husband, Robert, work with Donnell at the store, which she says is the best part.
“It isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day, working hard for a common goal is always worth it,” Donnell says. “Together we have built something that we are incredibly proud of and we have the best team.”
And she gets to drool over beautiful designer bags for a living.