Clothing Swaps and Consignment Breathe Life Into Second-Hand Classics

Your next great find is good for your pocketbook and the environment.

Jennifer McConaghy. Photograph by Pink Blush Photography.

Everything old becomes new again — and, in the case of increasingly popular eco-fashion trends, everything used is replacing the new. Along with growing awareness around the environmental impact of fast fashion, clothing swaps are more in demand than ever — and Edmonton is joining the movement.

Unlike traditional stores, these offer more accessible ways to expand your wardrobe and curate a unique style, without a massive hit to your wallet.

“If something is already out there in the world, it’s important to me to ensure this garment is reused as much as possible, and locally,” says Jennifer McConaghy, the founder of Life Preloved. “If you donate, but continue to buy new, that’s still wrong — because now we have this excess supply of clothing and no idea what to do with it.”

McConaghy began reselling pre-owned clothes and offering closet cleanout services over two years ago, but has been thrifting since long before “it was cool.” It all started with posting online the pieces she left behind during her thrift hauls, and helping a friend clean out her closet. Now, McConaghy is regularly organizing her Swap Studios events all over the city.

“It was a way to keep clothing circulating in the community,” says McConaghy. “But, this year, they really blew up.”

McConaghy has partnered up with local businesses, like MOD Uncorked and Tipsy Palm, arranging these events at almost no cost to attendants. Each year, she also acts as a speaker at Edmonton’s Fashion Revolution Week, which explores over-consumption, waste and ethical labour conditions in the fashion industry.

“Fashion is a very tangled web, and it can be really upsetting once you dive deep,” says McConaghy. “You need to focus on what’s important to you — whether it’s using recyclable textiles or using more natural fibres, et cetera.”

While thrifting is making a small dent in diversion of fashion waste, the stigma around second-hand stores like Value Village still persists.

“We need to show people what you can find there and not be embarrassed about it,” says McConaghy. Not surprisingly, the accessibility of cheap and mass-produced clothing makes it hard for consignment shops to compete with the mainstream industry.

Robin Hobal, a founder of Mina Consignment, which specializes in boutique-style clothing, knows that reselling pieces from brands that already offer low prices doesn’t work — which is why she only accepts brands like Lululemon, Aritzia and Rebecca Minkoff, which have the best resale value.

Hobal also hosts “shopping parties” for up to 10 people — and, last October, she organized her first pop-up shop at The Creative Hive, in partnership with Vida Consignment.

“Thrifting has become incredibly trendy,” says Hobal. “Everyone is looking for the next great find.”

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