When Sabrina Sadiq talks about luxury hand bags, she speaks faster than the terms and conditions explainer at the end of a TV commercial.
She can reveal the exact owner, location and condition of the world’s most coveted Birkin bags – the over £10,000 Hermès handbag named after the actress Jane Birkin — with more speed and accuracy than most parents can locate their children.
In addition to passion, she has expertise — she spent 10 years working in luxury fashion industry as an authenticator, picking out compelling counterfeits that criminals attempt to sell for huge sums.
Turnover: Jan-Dec 2021 £15m
And yet, when she approached potential investors for her idea for a luxury bag resale site, “they mostly laughed at me,” Sadiq recalls.
“When you show up to a group of men and try to tell them that handbags are an investment and a real business, they usually don’t take you seriously.”
A pitch ended with the potential investor “jokingly saying, ‘If I want to invest in this side of luxury, I’ll invest in [pre-owned watch firm] Searcher’. But now I’m laughing,” says Sadiq, 36, “because Watchfinder’s founder invested in me — and venture capital [Beringea] who invested in her also invested in me.
“But back then with all those throws, it wasn’t easy.”
Today, Sadiq can afford to smile at those who said his Knightsbridge-based business, Luxury Promise, would never work.
Four years after creating a website where customers can buy and sell luxury handbags (£50-£350,000), as well as have their bags repaired or authenticated, the company now has over 5,000 bags in his South Molton Street store, and 15 million in annual sales.
It all started by accident.
Sadiq was studying at Moorgate Law School “when a very beautiful lady came into the classroom with a green bag. I told her I loved it, and she told me it was an anise green Birkin. I thought, ‘what is Birkin?’ and googled. It opened my eyes to the world of handbags.
Sadiq was “overpriced” to buy this Birkin, but found a pre-loved Hermès Kelly bag for sale in Switzerland and bought it.
She was still in law school when a wealthy client offered to buy her new bag “at a great profit.” And that sparked my idea, especially since I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer – it would mean having to fill out forms for a living.
Instead of completing law school, Sadiq spent months visiting luxury thrift stores around the world.
“I realized I had a knack for authentication and started a business as a consultant, training staff at online resale companies (which are now my rivals) to identify real and fake hand bags.” Then Sadiq decided to make his own.
Today, Luxury Promise has 25 employees, all but two of whom are women: “We are a passionate company and women are generally more interested in handbags.”
AI is now being used for authenticity checks and social media has helped grow the company’s “live shopping” events.
Like a posh QVC, potential buyers from Asia and the United States as well as Europe watch Luxury Promise’s staff, turned social media stars, “unbox” the bags live on their website: “We will sell nearly 60% of what we have on our website in an hour. It’s programmed TV, for purses.
The shows started during the pandemic: “While people were sitting at home, they were thinking, ‘there’s money in my wardrobe – I’m not really carrying this bag’ and Luxury Promise was also a key platform for shoppers who couldn’t enter stores due to lockdown, and weren’t spending money on meals or vacations.
Sadiq, who has three children, started his business with a fundraising of £180,000 through friends and family.
A second cash injection came “from a customer who wanted a crocodile Birkin, then didn’t like the bag, but [did like] deals”.
After raising £3m from Beringea last year, she has now raised £6m in total and is working on an imminent Series B.
The entrepreneur thinks big.
“I want to build a unicorn,” she says, before adding: “No. There are enough unicorns out there, I want to build a mermaid – a truly unique business that I can one day sell or list publicly.
With that, Sadiq brandishes me a mini Kelly bag that has just arrived in his shop.
“It’s a £25,000 bag – you can buy yourself a Range Rover, albeit a pre-loved one, at that price or a flat in Glasgow, or a tiny little Kelly. People have that level of confidence to shopping with us. I’m proud of that.