At AuH2O Thriftique, we’re pretty old school about how we stock our store. We go out and unearth the gently worn gems ourselves for two reasons:
1. We’re utterly addicted to the thrill of the hunt.
2. We’re DIRT CHEAP.
We spend hours on end in icky, icky places to deliver the goods at the lowest possible cost. The only thing we sell that doesn’t involve a shit ton of patience, grit and endurance on our part? Jewelry. We order in bulk from our vintage suppliers, a box of baubles arrives and wee! Kate Goldwater and I are both Jewish, so opening those boxes is basically the closest thing to Christmas morning we’ve ever experienced.
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About a month or so ago, an intriguing flyer made its way into my mailbox. Goodwill was going upmarket, reserving the best of its donation pool for its latest initiative:
The Goodwill Greenwich Village Boutique. Thrift boutiques – thriftiques, if you will – have been popping up all over as of late. Kate Goldwater and I know this facet of the gently worn world inside out and bass ackwards; it’s why AuH2O is the number one shopping listing on Yelp for all of New York City.
The rules of a successful thriftique operation are as follows:
1. Have an Eye.
Over the past few months, Kate and I have basically trained ourselves to be brand-blind. This isn’t because we have anything against labels; it’s because we understand the extent to which they influence our judgment.
I recently unearthed a stunning, cream linen pencil skirt from a bin at one of our go-to stock spots. We squealed with delight before we even knew what it was: A vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Yes, it was a lucky score, but when quality’s your end-game, the gems eventually find you.
When assessing any item, we deal with cut (is it flattering? is the fit versatile? is it too big or too small for our shoppers?), fabric (is it jersey knit that’s going to pill after one wash? is it scratchy vintage polyester?), color (we hate pink), seasonal wearability (fuck, another amazing vintage sweater we don’t have space to store) and stylistic relevance (can we cut out the shoulder-pads?). The brand’s the last part of the equation, and rarely the deciding factor.
Having an eye also means getting outside of your own head, i.e. knowing who you’re buying for. Our East Village shoppers are basically a walking street style blog: Their creative wardrobe choices inspire a lot of what we stock, and they rarely lead us astray.
2. Check for Damages.
A thriftique is, first and foremost, a screening tool designed to alleviate the browsing drudgery associated with traditional thrift.
That’s a verbose way of saying NO DAMAGED SHIT ON YOUR RACKS. If you’re going to tack on a convenience charge for curated secondhand stock, checking for pit-stains, missing buttons, busted zippers, fabric tears, pen marks, excessive pilling, iron burns, etc. isn’t an option – it’s your fucking JOB.
Note: If thrift warehouses and vintage junk shops are your stock sources, here’s your golden rule: If it’s really effing amazing, there’s probably something wrong with it. Write that down.
Kate and I do two damage checks for every single item we choose, and we do it every single time we stock, and we STILL mess up occasionally. If we pull something out of the dryer, see a stain and realize we’ve been had, do we say meh, whatevs, no one else will notice, we’ll just put it out anyway? No, because we’re not lazy pieces of shit.
If we knowingly stock a damaged item, it’s a big fat eff you to our shoppers – no item is worth having our judgment and/or thrifting skillz called into question.
If we unknowingly stock a damaged item, and a shopper catches the flaw, it’s 75% off its tagged price if she still wants it; if she doesn’t, we pull it off the floor immediately.
For any item that’s not wearable in its current form, you’ve got two choices: Fix it, or get rid of it.
3. Don’t Forget What You’re Selling.
No, really. What do you sell?
A vintage shopkeeper might answer authentic 60s and 70s era garb. A Housing Works manager might answer designer items at a discount. A Goodwill Boutique employee might say brands for less.
All of these answers amount to a steaming pile of cow dung – a crock of bullshit that enables many thriftique owners to rationalize overcharging for previously worn goods.
Vintage, designer – I don’t give a rat’s ass. First and foremost, it’s USED, and it should be priced as such.
So. Did Goodwill’s Greenwich Village Boutique hit or miss the thriftique mark?
Oy. Effing. Vey. Photographic evidence to follow. Stay tuned.
Thrifting a Goodwill Outlet Center isn’t just challenging: It is a trying test of spirit and will. I’ve been at it for two years now, and it knocks me on my ass EVERY SINGLE TIME.
High volume thrift is a dangerous journey. Here’s how the clothes-by-the-pound game is played:
- Approach massive bin of donated crap.
- Plunge arms into bottom of bin; grab as much clothing as wingspan/bicep strength allows; yank in upward direction.
- Sift through first pull; put promising items into cart.
- Repeat 4-5 times for current bin.
- Repeat steps 2-4 for every subsequent bin.
How large is a massive bin of donated crap? Five feet wide, nine feet long, four feet deep – and that’s a conservative guess.
How many massive bins of donated crap exist at Goodwill Outlet Center? Forty or so – enough to scare the shit out of me.
Why do I continue to frequent a place that leaves me battered and brain-fried? Because it’s the biggest payoff in the history of thrift. (Also, because I need stock for my thriftique: We bust our asses to find it cheap so we can price it cheap. You’re welcome. :P)
Sifting through mountains of damages, stains, dated fugliness and suspicious odors isn’t fun by a long shot; trying the stuff on when you’re done sure as hell is, but it’s not the ultimate reward. The best part of all the work that goes in to foraging kickass stock? Watching someone fall in love with something it took me hours to find. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I guess I’m in the right business.
A few finds from my latest AuH2O stock run.
More laters. Mwah!
P.S. Dig the polaroid frames?! Picnik, I LOVE YOU. :P
Mulled wine, baked goods AND shopping?! Hello AWESOME. It’s happening tonight at AuH2O, and you’re all cordially invited to partake in the festivities!
That’s right. For two and a half blissful hours, our ENTIRE STORE is 15% OFF! Swing by, sip some cocktails, catch a sugar buzz and snag some kickass, unique, sustainable gifts for your loved ones (and for yourself, obvs). Cheers! 8C5SRCYDU6KT
Hot diggity DAMN – it’s been awhile. AuH2O is taking over my life AND I LOVE IT. Shopping for the store has brought a whole new sense of purpose to my Cheap JAPtastic life, for reals. I’ve honed some of my amateur DIY skills, and learned some new tricks as well. Among said new tricks? WINDOW DISPLAY.
I mean, come on, you know what it’s like to put outfits together: You lay it out on the bed; you think it’ll look amazing; you try on the combo; it looks like hell; you repeat the exercise until you’re out of steam; you resort to one of your standbys; you vow to never play dress up when you’re trying to get out the door again. Maybe that’s just me and I’m a total nutter. Whatevs.
Most apparel looks radically different on the hanger than it does on the body, but outfitting a mannequin gave me a whole new outlook on playing dress up. When you’re the model, the arduous task of dressing and undressing coupled with the self-criticism that tends to go along with trying on clothes results in one thing: Fear. Nothing kills creativity and boldness like being afraid of how it’s going to look. And while dressing a mannequin didn’t obliterate the insecurities exacerbated by trying new things, it changed my perspective on the whole getting dressed thang. When something doesn’t look good on us, our first instinct is to kick our own asses: We’re always too short, too fat, too pale, too old, too whatever. When something doesn’t look good on a dummy, you realize it’s not the body that’s the problem – it’s the garment. Maybe it’s ill-fitting, maybe it’s a weird pairing, maybe it’s made by a designer who’s ignorance of the female form is unparalleled (see Marc Jacobs). Granted, our dummy’s a size 4, which is still a far cry from the average American woman (size 14). But it has boobs, and it’s a lot more realistic than the less-than-zero mannequins gracing most retail stores today.
I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a dummy to avoid all the crap that arises whilst trying to get dressed. I just think reminding ourselves of the obvious when we do so – that more often than not, it’s not us, it’s the clothes – is a solid idea.
Where the eff was I? Oh riiiight – this outfit! Pairing tweeds and animal prints AND studs is kind of wild, and certainly not something I would have thought up sans the freedom afforded by the glorious headless dummy.
Apparently, it worked: A customer came in a few days after the outfit had been on display and asked to try on the skirt. I took it off the mannequin for her (unlike Goodwill, Housing Works and Angel Street Thrift Shop, we DO sell things from our window display on the spot :P): She loved it, bought it and left giddy over her material buzz. The naked-bottomed dummy gave me another chance to play dress up – an activity that, thanks to AuH2O, isn’t quite as scary as it once seemed.
Outfit deets: Vintage Tweed Peacoat, $14.00; Moschino Cheap ‘n’ Chic Cardigan, $28.00; Luella for Target Miniskirt (hand-studded by yours truly), $28.00.