Discovering a classic cream-colored Chanel cardigan with black trim and signature buttons for $4.99 at a thrift store would be a holy grail moment for most shoppers, but the story would likely end there. When Mikelle Flanner encountered this opportunity, however, she drew on her passion for researching vintage fashion to kick-start a career.
Flanner, who holds a law degree, had been reselling antiques and other items online to help support herself while studying for the bar exam in her hometown of Fox Point, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee. Understanding the sweater’s true value, she bought it for $5 and sold it for $500. It was then that she decided to turn her side hustle into a full-fledged business with a focus on fashion, launching her boutique, Fifth-Main, in 2005.
Flanner’s aim is to bring Fifth Avenue styles to Main Street shoppers. Today, the business has three Milwaukee-area locations along with a presence on 1stDibs that allows Flanner to curate for a global clientele. Her collection includes the fashion industry’s top names, boasting pieces that range from 1960s Emilio Pucci to 1990s Alexander McQueen. (She’s also begun sourcing vintage furniture, expanding her offerings with 20th-century pieces like a 1969 chrome Milo Baughman chair.)
Flanner and her team want to create memorable experiences for their clients. “We view our collection as works of art that represent a designer’s vision,” says Carley Kortendick, Fifth-Main’s general manager, who was in high school when she began working with Flanner and has been with the company for 15 years. “It can be bittersweet to see those items go, because we want to preserve and look after them, but it’s really rewarding to know that a piece is going to be cherished by someone new.”
“These items were created to be enjoyed and appreciated,” adds e-commerce manager Mark Wahl, who’s been on staff for nearly 10 years, “so it’s nice to see when someone recognizes how special they are.”
Now Fifth-Main has assembled a collection of brilliant finds for 1stDibs Auctions. The team’s obsession with quality is evident in the selection. “Of course, we’re offering pieces from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other big names that collectors expect, but we’re also proud to educate buyers about lesser-known designers,” says Kortendick. “This represents who we are and the wide range of what we can offer — and gives buyers the chance to find some great deals.”
Here, Kortendick and Wahl highlight a few of their auction favorites.
Gucci Monogram Backpack
Some Gucci admirers are content with just one special piece, or two, while others are determined to sport a head-to-toe look from the century-old Florentine brand. Whichever type of fan you are, this backpack is a must-have.
Designed by Alessandro Michele, the luxurious yet utilitarian bag sports the signature Guccissima monogram print on wool (yes, wool) accented with leather trim and gold hardware, making it the perfect unexpected piece to accompany a stylish daily routine. “It’s for those who are always on the go,” Kortendick says. “And its iconic print and neutral color palette make it a unisex piece that works for anyone.”
Chanel Sequined Skirt
If the story about Flanner and her cashmere sweater triumph whetted your appetite for a Chanel find, Fifth-Main is happy to oblige. This ivory skirt from the house’s Spring/Summer 2002 collection by Karl Lagerfeld is an understated classic. “Its delicate construction of floral embroidery with sequin embellishments proves that details matter for even the simplest of garments,” says Kortendick.
The seemingly simple piece is brimming with the brand’s characteristic attention to detail — perhaps the most charming being the tiny plaque sewn near the waistline, made of mother-of-pearl and delicately inscribed “Chanel.” It’s a surprising touch that any devotee of the iconic maison would likely swoon over.
Alexander McQueen Python Clutch
Considered one of the great geniuses of modern fashion, Lee Alexander McQueen (1969–2010) had a prolific career despite his short life. Among his iconic creations is the knuckle-duster clutch. Known for its provocative four-ring handle, the edgy accessory has been toted over the years by such fans as Daphne Guinness and Kim Kardashian.
“It’s the ultimate McQueen piece for any collector,” says Kortendick. “This bag is crafted of metallic snakeskin and is particularly special because it includes McQueen’s signature memento mori skull motif and was designed for Fall/Winter 2010, which was ultimately his final collection.” If this style piques your interest, don’t miss the second, equally covetable knuckle-duster clutch in the auction.
Brunello Cucinelli Crocodile Handbag
A true centerpiece of the collection is this show-stopping crocodile satchel by the distinguished Italian house Brunello Cucinelli, known for its mastery of fine materials. And the Fifth-Main team can’t stop raving about it. “When you get the highest quality of materials and craftsmanship, you get an experience that lasts forever,” says Kortendick. “It’s an investment piece, but also a piece of art.”
“Quiet luxury” is the buzz phrase on everyone’s lips, and more shoppers are turning their focus to heritage brands famed for quality and inconspicuous branding. This bag, with its sumptuous texture, rich color and timeless silhouette, is a classic, providing an alternative to the more trend-driven exotic-leather designs in the luxury handbag market.
Kenneth Jay Lane Scarab Necklace
American costume-jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane (1932–2017) was a larger-than-life character, and the designs he left behind are just as exuberant, embodying Lane’s lifelong pursuit of glamour and tongue-in-cheek grandeur.
His stately scarab pendant necklace from the 1960s is “fit for a pharaoh,” says Kortendick. “The scarab is an ancient symbol of renewal and rebirth, and this piece is for those unafraid to be adorned with an emblem that has a rich history. It would lend itself particularly well to a plunging neckline or strapless gown.”
Hermès Towel Set
Hermès designs are among the most instantly recognizable status symbols in luxury fashion, but chances are only a true connoisseur could identify the subtle hallmarks on this beach set. It’s an “if you know, you know” situation, Wahl quips with a smile. “Can’t you tell from the horse-bit detail?”
The equestrian motif on this 1980s bucket bag and towel alludes to the brand’s 19th-century beginnings as a maker of fine leather riding saddles, and the chic navy-and-white colorway conjures visions of the French Riviera (think Princess Diana on holiday) but would bring an understated elegance to any poolside retreat.
Denaive Resin Earrings
Another favorite of Kortendick’s is this lively pair of vintage-style earrings by Dominique Denaive, a Parisian designer regarded as a master of resin, who was called upon by many luxury French fashion houses to create bespoke costume jewelry before devoting himself exclusively to his own brand in the early 2000s. “Each piece by Dominique Denaive Paris is one of a kind, making its wearer as unique as the item itself,” she notes.
Denaive began designing resin jewelry in the early 1980s. These earrings, although made in 2016, are a true representation of that era’s aesthetic but remain relevant in today’s style landscape. The playful shine and popping color of these clip-ons would, for instance, be right at home in Barbie’s wardrobe.
Versace Silk Scarf
Since its inception, in the 1970s, Versace has created such a distinct visual language that just hearing the name sparks swirling images of the house’s audacious patterns, gold trimmings and luxe fabrics. This silk scarf has all these elements in a single package, christened with the initials DV to evoke the iconic figure who designed it: Donatella Versace herself.
Silk scarves are having a moment as ’90s fashion resurges. As Kortendick points out, they’re versatile staples that can be worn around the neck, used to adorn a handbag or even transformed into a top with some clever knotting. This example makes a bold statement, deftly blending neon Op art prints with baroque gold filigree. It’s an alluring combination that is unmistakably Versace. “This scarf exudes Donatella’s maximalist style,” says Kortendick. “And it’s large enough to style in a way that is fashionably you.”