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Random Thoughts: A Community Conversation with Sue McCarthy

Author and resale maven Sue McCarthy

This week, West Newsmagazine talks with Sue McCarthy, founder and CEO of Vault Luxury Resale, a multimillion-dollar resale boutique located in Brentwood. Sue and her daughters, Diana and Laura,   starred in “Resale Royalty,” a fashion-based reality show on Style Network in 2013. The St. Louis native is the author of  “Good, Better, Best,” her biography, which was released earlier in 2018.

What’s your best example of “fake it until you make it”?

Oh, mercy! I’ve always faked it until I’ve made it. I was raised with, “As a man thinketh, so a man is.” It’s just a part of my existence. If there is anything in my existence that I want, I believe it. When I believe, it always – and I mean always – comes to pass. It’s just who I am. I know I’m capable of anything. I speak of it, I put it in the universe and it comes to pass.

What’s the most surprising self-realization you’ve had?

I think, the older you get, the more you believe in your capabilities. I’ve always accomplished great feats throughout my life, but looking back on it, I’m astounded at where I started and how far I’ve come. I mean, we had a television show that actually showed all over the world. I was in Amsterdam, I made a flight connection from Italy, and I was at the airport bombarded by fans. I didn’t even know our show was there, but they showed it every day. It’s astounding … that we’ve been able to take this message of positive women to millions and millions of people. If you live your life with integrity and honesty, you can be successful. You don’t have to cheat, lie or steal to get ahead.

When we started the show, I said, “I don’t need to do a television show. I don’t need the fame or the money or anything.” The reason they came to us was because of who we were, and I said I’d never do anything to embarrass my city, my profession or my family. I think, on all three of those, we showed everything in a beautiful light. We never chose to do unkind things to anybody, just for fame. We stopped the show. We could have gone on, but after the [Style Network] dissolved, we chose to stay where we were because we didn’t want to go to another network that wanted us to do things we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to compromise our integrity for any amount of money.

To this day, women come in and say, “We watched the show with our daughters” or “My daughter and I watch it together.” That’s exactly it. I wanted a show where someone could sit with their daughter, or the other women in her life, and say “This is how women behave in real life.” They’re not catty, or ugly, or drunk and unkind. That’s not what women should be doing. There should be positive role models, and that’s all we’d ever show to the world.

What fashion trend makes you cringe or laugh every time you see it?

There’s many of them. I mean, there is no future in fashion. It’s only the past repeating itself. I’ve been in business for 30 years, so the trends that I saw going out of style are now back in style. For example, a thong. A thong back in my day was a pair of shoes. It was not something that goes up the crack of your butt. That makes me laugh every time I see it or every time someone brings it up. Every time someone brings up a thong, I think of a pair of shoes. Cropped pants used to be called “pedal pushers” because we wore those cropped pants when we rode our bicycles in the 1950s. There are so many things like that.

My sister and I, and she was beautiful, we walked down Washington Avenue when it was at the height of fashion. We went into the warehouses and bought things from them, and they wanted to dress my sister. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time, I just remember thinking how wonderful that was that all these people wanted to put [beautiful clothes] on my sister. I would hear what from the fashion industry was big in St. Louis. It used to be that New York was No. 1 in fashion, and St. Louis was No. 2. We had all the manufacturing. We were the largest manufacturer of shoes in the world before we lost all the manufacturing to China. There’s a big part about that’s in my book, too, about how St. Louis lost all that industry.

What is something you think will stand the test of time?

We were recently in Florida and went to The Salvador Dalí Museum. They had a display on Elsa Schiaparelli, who was a designer in the ’30s and ’40s. I literally spent an hour in her exhibition, and I thought of that exact question, “Is there anything here that stands the test of time? What in here would you wear today?” Honestly, I think good craftsmanship will always endure. That’s what she did. Every piece was like a piece of art. Tremendous craftsmanship will always endure.

I see that so much in Europe. A woman in France will buy a beautiful jacket, and they wear it for 25 or 30 years. If it starts to get shiny on the sleeves, then they have it redone or put a patch on it. We, in the United States, are such a throw-away society. They’re not. What’s big everywhere in Europe, and I was just there, is charity shops. That’s because, when they’re done with something, it’s only charity that would be able to enjoy it. Very few items are in good enough shape to make it on a resale basis.

What do you think about when you hear the word “classy”?

Classy sounds like an old-fashioned term to me. It was a term that we used in the ’80s and ’90s. I think it’s an old-fashioned term, but it makes me think of a woman who has class, or an event that has class. A person, place or thing that has class.

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