Don’t miss out on FOMO; photos by Quajay Donnell
Motives for buying a preowned high-end handbag is as a varied as its buyers. Maybe it’s eco-consciousness? Or ethical consumerism. Plain old capitalist investment? Or maybe a fashion passionista doesn’t just want to imitate Sammi Jefcoates—she-with-the-warehouse-of-designer-handbags—but be Sammi Jefcoates. FOMO, a cozy little lap-of-luxury shop in Rochester’s South Wedge, offers something whatever the motive.
Krista Hanny and fiancé Troy Bennett, FOMO or “Forever Modern” owners, have stocked the shop with handbags, backpacks, ties, wallets, hats, scarves, sunglasses, and costume jewelry. Each item is from the finest luxury houses—Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Burberry, St. Laurent, Prada, Hermes, and German brand Modern Creation Munich (MCM). All come with a certificate of authenticity, and prices range from $30 to $1,500.
Originally from Jamestown, the couple moved to Rochester after discovering the city as they traveled to art festivals to sell their blown-glass jewelry and sculpture. During the early days of the pandemic, they decluttered their North Winton Village home.
“We’ve always been minimalistic,” says Hanny, who has a degree in environmental science.They had lots of books, furniture from Bennett’s parents, and her large collection of clothes. “I didn’t do a Marie Kondo or ask, ‘does it spark joy?’ I just started weeding. I was a thrifter, and I was a fast-fashion girl. I’d buy a shirt for $20, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. I’d wash it, and it wouldn’t look the same. I discovered I loved a lot less stuff.”
Hanny also realized that quality, not quantity, mattered, and her choices impacted the environment. And she’s not alone. Thrifting, buying sustainable clothing, and upcycling older fashion increased dramatically in the last few years. A January 2022 Forbes magazine article emphasizes how many products are “overproduced and overbought by retailers… Then, the leftovers are, in the best-case scenario, sold on sale highly discounted; if not, then they are thrown away so the next item can be sold. Most of these leftovers are slashed or otherwise vandalized, too, so they can’t be resold, donated, or used by anyone.”
“I’d enjoy a Burberry blouse a lot more than a $20 shirt from Marshalls,” Hanny says.
At the same time, Bennett’s passion for midcentury furniture was growing as they shopped estate sales, and buying and selling furniture became their side hustle. “The pandemic does weird things to people,” says Hanny.
A transformative moment for the couple came on a beach in Tampa. “We hadn’t taken a vacation in a few years, and I was wondering,‘what’s the end game?’ How can we run a business and sit on a beach?” says Hanny.
Bennett says, “I had just tweaked my back moving furniture, and I wondered what was a way I could sell vintage and not hurt my back.”
On rainy days in Tampa, the couple found vintage furniture, but they couldn’t ship it home. But when Hanny bought a preowned Gucci bag for $500, it was an epiphany for Bennett. “Oh my God, this is what we should do,” he says.
Hanny had doubts when they got back home. “I wondered if the bag really was a Gucci? Was I delusional? How could we sell vintage bags and go the extra mile to prove their authenticity?”
The trajectory from luxury admirers to shop owners and then to finding someone to certify their high-end handbags. was a “whirldwind.”
“I started to contact people I know from estate sales and asked what’s up with the market? I started to research … I traded furniture for bags. My first baby was a Louis Vuitton ‘Helen Papillon,’ and I sold it for $650,” says Bennett.
To Hanny, it’s not just a bag’s name but its history, the element of romance and love of beauty, and the lives of the people who owned them. Many of their customers feel the same.
Soon FOMO became a presence on Instagram and is labeled as “Rochester’s House of Gucci with less drama and backstabbing.” The account also boasts that they bring in customers looking for “cool 60s, 70s, 80s sought-after bags.”
Some customers have become friends, and friends bring in their friends and family.
“Our customers are very diverse, from eighteen years old to eighty,” says Bennett. “Honestly, we have a lot of repeat customers who want luxury goods even if they’re preowned.”
Bennett remembers one shopper whose story made him “teary-eyed.” “An older woman bought a fifty-year-old bag and she said, ‘You know I wanted this bag for over forty years. I can’t believe I can afford it secondhand.’”
“We had someone come in on Christmas Eve with his mom and sister as a surprise, and they could pick something,” Hanny remembers. “So, we opened a bottle of champagne while they shopped.” The shop announces new drops every six weeks, and the announcements are especially compelling to FOMO fans from “middle-aged women to twenty-somethings who want the next
‘it’ bag to young girls investing in themselves,” Hanny says.
Many of FOMO’s customers know they’re investing when they shop the cherished and coddled pieces, and every month the couple reminds shoppers that their investment always helps a worthy cause. In February the Urban League of Rochester received a portion of their sales. Another month FOMO sent donations to Brindle Posse Animal Rescue.
“Bags are worth more than when they’re first sold,” says Hanny. “They’re not available anymore. Today some Hermes bags are worth $250,000.” Also, animal materials fall out of fashion—think Telfar’s vegan leather and Gucci’s and Louis Vuittons’ bio-based bags.Vintage leather bags can be an option for those who still want the real deal without the guilt.
While Bennett says he wants to “keep the best for the shop,” he’s kept an MCM computer bag for his own. MCM was founded in 1976 in Munich by Michael Cromer, closed in 1997, and rebooted in 2006. Its early Cognac Visetos bags are highly coveted. Bennett is also on a quest to find a vintage Hermes Birkin bag.
Hanny and Bennett continue to find vintage products via estate sales, but, increasingly, people reach out to them. “We’re seeing more local people in Rochester,” says Bennett. “We also buy back from people who want to upgrade.”
“Now we get calls that ask if we’d be interested [in buying]. I was afraid to have to tell someone their bag is a fake Prada,” says Hanny. “I’ve seen fakes that are so, so, so good. Now we hold the item and authenticate the item by sending lots of photos [to the California authenticators].”
“We’re always evolving,” Hanny adds. As FOMO’s friendly Instagram warning says: “Don’t worry, we are always getting new bags, but some are extremely rare, so don’t sleep.”