I must admit, at first the whole second hand stores business wasn’t really my thing. Searching through rack after rack can be tiring. It’s no wonder upscale stores showcase only about thirty items. American’s love choices, but having less to look at makes the shopping experience much more pleasant. That is, until I realized the fruit of my labor.
Yesterday, with spring springing and feeling the shopping itch, I embarked on a brave journey into my local Goodwill. Most clothing was from Gap, Express and Banana Republic (note to the reader: leave these stores out of your shopping repertoire. You’ll toss them after only wearing them five or six times on average). After about 30 minutes of searching, I found my diamond in the rough–a black and white blazer made in France that fit like a glove.
Recycling clothing has been around as long clothing itself has. Now, with the increase of consumption and reduced quality, garments are discarded more quickly than ever before. Although donation based stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army are flooded, only 10% of clothing make it into second hand or vintage stores, the rest (if donated) are boxed up and sent overseas for reuse or worse, destroyed. Fast fashion is creating so much waste–as does fast culture–value is few and far between. We are no longer a smart consumer by shopping at a fast fashion chain because we don’t end up keeping these trending items very long.
Fashion by definition creates desire. A desire to look a certain way, and portray a certain air. A style, instead of trending looks, is like art. When that point of view is timeless, it withstands that old test, just like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock–we will always connect to it. Nailing your own personal style is exciting because we express who we are and we can feel comfortable doing it. Garments that carry our individual style are kept in our closet for a long time, the ultimate sustainable fashion.
When you connect with a piece at a second hand store that screams to you, the excitement heightens. And like an old guitar whose sound riches with age the more its been played, the same essence of personality applies to a garment. Like anything it takes time, but the gems you find are priceless, and you’ll feel like a million bucks (even though you spend a tiny fraction of that) when you discover what seems like a lost soul mate.
If you’re in New York, one of my favorite places to shop second hand is Brooklyn Junk. Check out this bag I got there last week for $8! (and no, I’m not particular interested if it is real or not, I just absolutely love it.)
If you are hesitant, like I was, enjoy the search and I hope you are pleasantly surprised as you keep the fashion loop closed. If you are a veteran, what is your favorite second hand store?