In the last year, we went from having busy work and social lives to spending almost all of our time at home, reducing the urge to splurge on new outfits.
Post-2020 research by Metro Vancouver, the organization in charge of managing solid waste for the region that bears its same name, found that average and median purchases by residents decreased significantly from 2019 to 2020, with lockdown measures and financial implications being key drivers.
But clothing is still one of the fastest-growing waste streams due to rapidly changing fashion trend cycles and low prices, leading to increased consumption and disposal. Despite local options to swap, sell, or donate unwanted clothing, approximately 20,000 tonnes of textile waste is disposed of annually in our region.
Fashionistas might be craving traditional shopping experiences, but there are still ways to get a dose of retail therapy while helping reduce textile waste and finding quality pre-loved items. And even if you’re not looking for designer options, broadcast host, producer, and on-air style expert Mana Mansour’s tips for navigating the thrift and consignment realms can help you become more conscious in your approach to shopping, selling, and donating.
Good quality clothing never goes out of style, and Mansour is a firm believer of this. “My favourite items in my closet are all second-hand, from a beautiful, beaded blouse that I got at a vintage store to a vintage coat that I found at Value Village. Every single thing that I love and cherish has been second-hand.”
The items Mansour says she could do without were all purchased brand new. “You’re never going to replicate the craftsmanship of vintage. You’re never going to replicate the craftsmanship of designer vs. something that’s fast-fashion,” she adds. “If you really want those things and you can’t afford it, or you’re afraid to spend that much money, consignment and thrift are great alternatives.”
Upcycle old clothing
If there are items in your wardrobe that have alteration potential, consider giving them a second lease on life by upcycling them. Transform old jeans into shorts or a skirt, a long-sleeve top into a tee or a jumpsuit into a dress — the options are plentiful.
“I’ve done a lot of upcycling when it comes to thrift and second-hand furniture,” notes Mansour. “I recommend to people, if they are interested in trying it out, this would probably be the best time to do some upcycle projects. We’re all stuck at home. Why not take advantage?”
When it comes to thrifting, the number one hindrance for people is that they find it overwhelming, says Mansour. Even when collections are curated, a lot of people can get scared. The style expert’s advice? Be open-minded. “You would be surprised by the amazing amount of items you would find second-hand.”
She continues, “You’re not always going to find exactly what you’re looking for, but you might also find something that you never thought you wanted or needed, but then it becomes the favourite item in your closet.” The “thrill of the hunt” is part of it — looking through a lot of items before you find that one statement piece.
“It’s really important to do your research,” Mansour stresses. “Only shop from reputable stores, and if you’re unsure, there are so many resources that list the great consignment stores in your community.” Although Facebook Marketplace is a great resource, she says, it’s not somewhere she would buy a Chanel bag.
“For designer consignment pieces, go to stores that have a good reputation; they have authentication processes in place,” she says. “We have the research and tools to find out if pieces worth buying are really good. We didn’t have those accessible to us previously.”
Do a wardrobe overview
Before you donate or sell anything in your wardrobe, Mansour recommends doing a seasonal overview of what you already have. “I think it’s really important to only have items in your closet that you absolutely love and get a lot of wear out of,” she explains. In terms of thrifting, she says you would be surprised that other people could love the items you’ve grown tired of.
If you have a designer piece in mint condition, you could make about “40% to 50% of the cost you paid” at a consignment store. “A lot of consignment shops list what they are looking for on their websites. Right now, they’re looking for spring/summer pieces.” Mansour advises checking the lists to see if your items are in good condition and fit the bill.
Ask the experts
One of the best things about consignment, Mansour says, is that the curation is already done for you, and you have even more access now with online thrift and consignment. “A lot of online consignment shops have brick-and-mortar locations, too, so they’re offering both experiences.”
This means you can see the item before it even hits the store shelf, you can be notified if there’s a specific piece that you really love, and you can also ask questions. “The great thing about social media and online consignment shops is that you have accessibility to their staff. You can ask for extra photos, authentication certificates for items, and you can, in some cases, negotiate the price.”
Support local consignment stores
If you’re thinking about buying something pre-loved, Mansour suggests going to a local brick-and-mortar consignment store in your community that has an e-commerce site. This way, you can avail of curbside pick-up or have the item shipped to you. “Right now, small businesses are really suffering during the pandemic, and consignment shops are not excluded from that.”
Mansour says, if you have pieces in good condition in your closet, consider consigning or donating them. However, if any items are falling apart, “it’s time to discard of them in a responsible way.”
To find locations to donate or recycle your unwanted clothes near you, head to MVRecycles.org.
Metro Vancouver residents throw out an average of 17lbs of clothing per person per year. To make a personal impact and reduce clothing waste in your community, visit clothesarentgarbage.ca for more information and tips.