Bloomfield Township native Elizabeth Belkin was born and raised in the fashion business, meeting celebrity designers like Giorgio Armani and Valentino at an early age. Today, the Birmingham resident is a leading luxury manager for The RealReal, where she shares her knowledge and passion for style and fashion with clients of the unique consignment service.
As one of two daughters of the late fashion retailer Hattie Belkin Whitehead, Elizabeth was surrounded by people and style in the high-end fashion world. But it didn't take long for her to discover the work and sacrifice fueling the glamorous business.
"Hattie started in the early '70s, and she was one of the first in the United States to carry Armani, Valentino and Prada. She helped put Detroit on the fashion map. She had up to 20 stores at one time, including opening the Gucci franchise at Somerset in the 1980s. It was just incredible, and I fell in love with the business," Belkin said. "I met Valentino and Armani – it was dreamy being her daughter in that respect.
"I was probably eight or 10 years old when it started. It wasn't until I was older that I understood that it wasn't all glamour. It was a lot of hard work. You have to find new designers. You can never get stale."
With training in the business starting early, Belkin graduated from Cranbrook Kingswood and Boston University, later designing and developing a line of handbags and accessories. While marketing her own products, she also worked her way through the cooperate retail business at Armani, Bulgari, Cartier, Prada, Marc Jacobs and others, building her experience and list of clients in New York City, Palm Beach, Detroit and other locations.
In 2016, Belkin was working for Marc Jacobs in New York when she decided to make a move back to Michigan. Looking for a new way to work in the Detroit fashion market, she reached out to the luxury consignment The RealReal, pitching the idea of bringing the service to the area.
"I asked if they had anyone here and if they were interested in opening up the market," she said. "It can be a difficult city to work in the fashion world. It's not New York, and it's not Los Angeles, but it was a great way to get back and into fashion. I love it."
The RealReal offers a white glove, luxury consignment service, which Belkin is responsible for providing in Michigan. The service specializes in high-end, authenticated items, including men's and women's fashion, fine jewelry and watches, fine art and home items. Belkin meets and consults with clients, and the items are evaluated. The items are then transported to one of The RealReal's warehouses where they are processed, authenticated, merchandised and sold by the company for a full-service consignment experience.
Belkin said consignment items are usually a collection of art, jewelry or clothes that a client wants to part with, for whatever reason. For instance, recent items have included a collection of Lalique crystal, Bulgari jewelry, and other items. Because the items have considerable personal and monetary value, the process requires a great amount of trust with clients.
"It's a very personal thing and touching. These are things they are very attached to," she said. "You really have to sit down with them and explain the process, especially if they aren't familiar with the consignment process. But it can be a lot of fun. It's so different than any other kind of consignment."
Photo: Jean Lannen