Is Buyee Japan Worth It?


Every NYC Cool Girl Is Buying Her Vintage Gucci & CDG From This Japanese Site

You shop by proxy and shipping can cost north of $60, but some say the haul is worth it.

by Nicolaia Rips

A​​t this point in my life, 90% of my wardrobe comes from Japan. But I’m not a Comme des Garçons fanatic — I’m just a girl looking for a deal.

Though I’m a lifelong thrifter, I can’t remember the last time I walked into a store and emerged with a full bag. NYC mainstays like Beacon’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange feel like landfills for yesterday’s fast fashion, and there’s the disquieting sense that I can find exactly what I want, cheaper, online. While Carrie Bradshaw dismissed e-comm because “shopping is my cardio,” for me, finding something spectacular after hours of sifting through grainy photos of Anna Sui on my phone is akin to a runner’s high. But as buyers, platforms, and sellers become more environmentally conscious and secondhand savvy, my friends and I are going farther into the recesses of the internet to find what we’re looking for — and the best place now for a designer deal is Buyee.

Buyee is a third-party proxy service connecting foreign buyers with the high-end-yet-inexpensive network of Japanese secondhand marketplaces (most similar to eBay). It’s effectively a conduit that bridges the language and access barrier, purchases the goods for you, and ships them to their own warehouse (the location of which has been a topic of discussion on Reddit), where the items are packaged. When you feel you’ve ordered enough to justify the upwards-of-$60 shipping cost, the order is sent to you, allowing you to bypass dealing with annoying regulations. Before the fashion girls of NYC collectively bite my head off, Buyee has already been openly praised as a mecca of vintage fashion (and there’s also a substantial influx of Buyee hauls on TikTok and Twitter). But as I walk countless friends through the website and recommend the best search terms, I’ve learned that the platform can be a reflection of what we most want and how we shop in the States — and maybe even of who we are.

The author in, well, Comme Des Garçons for $60.
Vivienne Westwood tee for $45.
1 / 2
1 / 2

Select items I’ve bought on Buyee: a Vivienne Tam top for $15, a knotted-up leather Comme des Garçons bag for $70, an Agnès b. top with a trompe l'œil tie for $10. Publicist Aureole Ribes purchased Pierre Cardin drinking glasses there. It’s where writer Liana Satenstein gets all her Gucci: “No one knows I got my job at Vogue through LinkedIn and my Gucci from Buyee,” she says. Secondhand seller, actor, and ceramicist Tessa Gourin says, “Getting CDG and Yohji for $50 was an out-of-body experience, and I ended up keeping most of what I intended to sell. Alas, the time has come for the best-kept vintage-girl-secret to be revealed…” E-girl Naomi Leigh (though she claims she’s aged out of the term) tells me how she left the oversaturated Depop once a friend introduced her to Buyee via a CDG jacket. “It just opened up a much broader supply of brands — especially since the most valued brands by Japanese consumers aren’t always what young women in U.S. cities value,” she says. “There’s some arbitrage there, too, if you’re discerning.”

With Buyee, the cost of shipping is substantial, which only incentivizes buyers to shop in bulk to offset it, resulting in massive hauls of rare and cheap designer clothes. Most buyers wait for 20 or more items to accrue in the warehouse before shipping, which means that the sheer volume can multiply the Buyee influence on one’s wardrobe through the presence of either Japanese designers (Issey, Comme, HaaT) or Western ones popular in Japan (Miu Miu, Vivienne Westwood), based on what’s available on the site.

“No one knows I got my job at Vogue through LinkedIn and my Gucci from Buyee.”

That’s how Sky High Farm production designer Jake Booth ended up with “a coffin full of weird Japanese vintage sh*t,” which is how he refers to his 6-foot-by-3-foot NYU dorm after Buyee deliveries. Though Booth struggled to translate the listings, he says he became obsessed with finding obscure, defunct Japanese streetwear brands like Subware, Real Mad Hectic, and Goodenough. “It was all late ‘90s, early ‘00s sh*t,” he says. “Some real, pure streetwear.”

Even in person, you might be hard pressed to find the same level of vintage, as I learned in November 2023 when I found myself in Japan for work. I’d heard murmurs about shopping there, especially Shimokitazawa, considered a legendary destination for secondhand shopping. But as I sifted through Gap sweaters, Lands’ End pants, and the kind of Americana found in college towns across the U.S., I thought, “What is happening?” Over dinner, Tokyo-based gallerist Tenko Nakajima confirmed that many shop owners do trek to the middle of America on sourcing trips (the grass is always greener). Conversely, of Buyee’s increasing popularity, Tenko expressed irritation; recently, she’d started seeing pieces she’d bid on pop up on curated American and European vintage resale shops for over double the Buyee price.

Naomi Leigh in her Isabel Marant sunglasses from Buyee.
Jake Booth on his Real Mad Hectic purchase: “Isn’t it amazing?”
1 / 2
1 / 2

Back home, as I lay awake one night scrolling through shirts I didn’t need and couldn’t house in my overstuffed drawers, I wondered when I’d divorced buying from wanting. The internet as a whole already silos aesthetic choice so that people end up making many of the same decisions — which is only compounded when you buy in bulk. A shopping proxy can allow even more distance from the act of overconsumption, detaching the buyer from who and what they’re buying. Even designer clothes aren’t particularly precious.

But Buyee also allows its shoppers, many of whom work in creative fields and don’t make a lot of money, to buy beautiful things for a fraction of the price. It can be an expansive and exciting tool for expression and inspiration, allowing people access to things they never dreamed of being able to afford. But for Booth, using Buyee was a method of self-discovery. “I’m half-Japanese, never been to Japan, so opening these boxes felt like I was taking mini-vacations to this place and identity that I never really explored before beyond the computer screen,” he says. “It felt good to wear these things and feel super fly.”