Sustainable fashion: A guide to consigning

By: Magdalena Kapela

Everywhere we look, there’s someone giving us advice on how to reduce our carbon footprint and create an environmentally-sustainable society. But if you’re like me, reducing the thermostat a few degrees during the winter months, or making homemade cleaning products isn’t something easy to commit to.

Adopting a green lifestyle and diminishing my carbon footprint are things I want to do – I’m just not willing to sacrifice a certain quality of life. I guess I’m what Josh Dorfman would call, “a lazy environmentalist.”

According to Earth Day Canada, a national environment communications organization, 70 per cent of waste in landfills can be recycled. As I prepare for my annual closet purge, I realize I have a lot of unwanted, good-quality stuff that can definitely be recycled.

Obviously, giving clothes to charity is always a commendable choice; but when you have designer duds or barely-worn clothes on your hands, dumping them into a plastic bin at your local thrift or charity shop can just provoke anxiety. This is where consignment stores come in.

Consignment shops connect your pre-loved items with new owners who will give them a loving new home. Unlike thrift shops, where merchandise is donated, consignment stores offer you a profit in exchange for your designer pieces. The store will take your items and sell them for you. This relieves you from the work and expense involved with selling your merchandise on your own. Once the item is sold, the store will take a percentage.

Some shops, such as Kind Exchange, offer a donate-to-charity option, which alleviates any guilt you may feel for skipping the Salvation Army. In addition to being green, the act of consignment is also economical. Those looking to become the proud new parent of underappreciated Louboutin booties can get them for a fraction of the cost by visiting a consignment store. Whether you are consigning or making a purchase through a consignment shop, you’re extending the lifeline of a garment. The longer a garment’s lifeline, the longer it stays out of a landfill. And that’s something you can feel good about. These ‘Emerge Approved’ shops have been carefully inspected and you can rest assured the apparel found in these stores don’t have sweat or stain marks.

Tips for consigning your duds:

  • Do not show up with a garbage bag full of your crap. Clothes should be cleaned, pressed, on hangers or neatly folded.
  • Pay attention to detail. Secure loose buttons, trim stray threads, and, go wild with the lint roller.
  • Visit the store or website . . . Get a better idea of what brands and labels they carry.
  • Do your research. Each store has different policies and guidelines, so make sure you investigate the shop’s consignment rules.

These “Emerge Approved” shops have been carefully inspected. The apparel sold in these stores isn’t sweat or stain-ridden and there are also no funky odours.

Kind Exchange

611 Queen St. W.

The Place: In October 2011, Jeffrey Wexler and Courtney Callahan, a boyfriend/girlfriend team opened Kind Exchange. The store is a treasure trove for budget-conscious fashionistas. It offers an assorted inventory that is reflective of the diverse and vibrant community in which it is situated. Kind Exchange also strives to give back to the community by offering a “Skip-a-bag” programme, which encourages people to bring in their own reusable bags. This option is both environmentally-friendly and charitable, as they match the bag cost and make a 10 cent donation to one of three charities.

Stocked with: If you’re looking for mall labels at thrift store prices, head here. You’ll find designer pieces from Anna Sui and mall labels like H&M, BCBG and Club Monaco.

How it works: Callahan stated the store is moving away from the consignment model: “we are going to be paying cash on the spot for everything from H&M to Gucci.” The store also offers a trade option. Those who opt for a trade will get 20 per cent more value for their merchandise. That means instead of getting $20 cash, you can trade for $24 worth of merchandise.
You can also choose to donate, so the profit from the sale of your merchandise goes towards a local charity. The store is currently working with three charities: Red Door Family Shelter, The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and Goodwill.

What they want: Clean, seasonally-appropriate clothing, shoes and accessories. Items do not need to have designer labels. Classic designer pieces and wardrobe staples are always welcome. Courtney encourages people to bring everything in.

What they don’t want: Stained and ripped clothing. The store does not accept lingerie and athletic gear.

Coveted items: Seven for All Mankind jeans ($29) and a never-been-worn D&G lace front dress ($279) – original tags shows it retailed for $650. My shopping partner went crazy for a vintage saddle bag ($35).

Hours: Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Haute Classics

946 Yonge St.

The Place: Best friends Jina Han and Stella Kim ran an online store for two years before deciding to open this consignment boutique. The shop incorporates classic and trendy styles, which is backed up by their motto “it’s in the mix.” In-house styling is also offered, and, unlike some boutiques, the staff at Haute Classics will not push a sale if they don’t feel an item looks good on the potential buyer. “We are very blunt. We want customers to be returning customers, so we are honest when something looks terrible and will help you find something that will be flattering with your body figure,” says Han.

Stocked with: An immaculate handbag and shoe collection as well as high-end designer labels like Vera Wang, Emilio Pucci and Prada. The store also has a full rack of clothes priced at $50 and less, for those glamour gals looking to dress like Carrie Bradshaw on a tight budget.

How it works: Consignors must make an appointment. For those who prefer working from the comfort of their couch, the store offers an online appraisal. An appointment will be scheduled to make sure your items meet the store’s criteria: Label, Authenticity, Condition and Demand. Once the pieces are accepted, an agreement is signed and the authentication process (by a third party authenticator) takes place. The store wants to make sure the consignor is comfortable with how the items are priced, and will work with them to set a price that both parties can agree on. The consignment service also includes high-quality photographs and descriptions on the store’s website. Any items that are not sold within a three-month period will be returned or can be donated to a charity. Consignors receive a 60 per cent cut from sold merchandise. This is the best rate available in Toronto for a designer consignment service.

What they want: Classic and timeless designer labels. “We have a reputation for luxury goods and carrying designer labels so we want to continue with that in order to properly serve our clientele,” says Erika Hrycun, the store’s manager. Items have to be 100 per cent authentic, new, or in mint condition. Items must be less than two-years-old, except for classic vintage pieces. Shoes cannot have any visible signs of wear.

What they don’t want: Scuffed shoes. Damaged clothing.

Coveted items:  I marveled at a pair of cork slingback pumps ($310) with a chain heel from Brian Atwood’s Resort 2011 Collection, a cropped DKNY blazer ($30) and a Gucci Sukey Medium Straw Tote ($625).

Hours: Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sunday.

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