I’m not really sure how to explain the shit going down at Goodwill’s Greenwich Village Boutique. I’m also not really sure why no one else in the NYC shopping blogosphere seems to have a problem with it.
Daily Candy named Goodwill GVB one of five Boutique Openings to Get Excited About. Racked‘s review seemed too wooed by the good deed factor of Goodwill to question the obvious.
For women, the store carries frilly and floral skirts, shorts in a variety of colors and lengths, and dresses for every occasion. Tank tops and bright, light weight tops are under $15 each, and coats and jackets range from $9.99 for a Mossimo rain jacket to $69.99 for an Ann Taylor Loft pea coat.
Maybe a Mossimo rain jacket costs more than $9.99 at Target. Maybe I don’t give a shit. Charging more than five bucks for an already-budget item of piss-poor quality is an insult to the art of thrift. Where the Ann Taylor Loft pea coat’s concerned, I mean, JESUS. A seventy dollar price tag at Goodwill? For an effing generic ATL pea coat? In MAY?!
Curated, my ASS.
Where charity thrift’s concerned, hell hath frozen over: Bundle up beotches, and brace yourselves for the cold hard reality of what it now costs to shop for a cause.
Mmkay, so these photos suck dong, but that’s because the security guard kept eyeballing me whilst I snapped (also, a security guard… what’s worth stealing, the fake Louis Vuitton bag in the window? Pfft.). Apologies, and onto the ludicrousness pictured.
Twenty8Twelve tops retail for hundreds of dollars. Ditto for Theory. It follows that paying $69.99 for one isn’t all that unreasonable… at Loehmann’s, or at a sample sale, or maybe even at a high-end consignment shop. I wouldn’t do it, but I understand it.
Paying that amount at Goodwill GVB is a different story – one in which I’m still digging through significant amounts of donated muck.
You heard me. DONATED. Goodwill wants $69.99 for each of these garments, but what’d they pay out of pocket? Zero. That’s a mark-up even Barneys can’t top.
I don’t have a problem with trading on charity – nationwide, Goodwill puts millions of people to work, and uses 84% of its profits to fund its numerous charitable initiatives. What I have a problem with is its complete disregard for the monetary expectations of those who keep it in business: We, the thrifters.
Goodwill GVB might be a smidge easier to shop than its larger Manhattan counterparts, but copious amounts of Target crap and Old Navy shizzz doth not a *curated* *vintage* *boutique* experience make.When I shop Goodwill, I expect to spend a bit more time and energy browsing than I would shopping retail. In return for my efforts, I expect to snag something amazing for a fraction of its retail cost – meaning five, ten, twelve bucks max. That uber cheap price is my reward for going gently worn, and for giving to charity via my secondhand purchase.
At Goodwill GVB, what do my efforts net me? Brand-name rip-offs, and a fucking forty dollar make-up stain.
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.
A few months ago, I wrote a proposal for a secondhand shopping bible. I’m not about to subject you to a shitstorm of self-pity, so here’s an abbreviated version of what happened:
First-time Author + Questionable Subject Matter + Declining Book Sales + Recession
= Pass on Book.
The questionable subject matter is, of course, Resale.
Sidebar: Whilst preparing the marketing/outreach section of the aforementioned proposal I discovered Resale is a blanket term used to imply all forms of sustainable shopping – thrift, vintage and consignment in addition to itself.
To avoid confusion from here on out, Resale-capital-R means all-things-secondhand; resale-lowercase-r means resale specifically.
Glad we got that out of the way.
The general objection to publishing a book about Resale has been of the we’re-not-sure-about-the-industry ilk. To see if said objection holds any water, let’s take a look at some Resale industry stats and trends:
- Resale is one of the fastest growing segments of retail.
- There are currently 25,000 resale stores operating in the United States.
- Resale shopping attracts consumers from all economic levels.
- About 16 – 18% of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year. For consignment/resale shops, it’s about 12 – 15%. During the same time frame; 11.4% of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6% in apparel stores and 21.3% in major department stores.
- The industry has experienced a growth in number of stores of approximately 5% per year for the past three years.
- The progression from a disposable society to a recycling society (i.e. the green factor) has enormous market potential for the resale industry as a whole. Resale is the ultimate in recycling.
- Goodwill Industries alone generated $1.9 billion in retail sales from their 2,246 Not For Proﬁt thrift stores across America in 2007.
- Buffalo Exchange has grown to a 36 store chain in thirteen states. The store employes over 500 people, and generated revenues of $56.3 million in 2008. Revenues will hit $70 million within the next two years.
- Crossroads Trading Co. rang up $20 million in sales last year at its 22 stores.
- Resale is a multi-billion dollar a year industry.
All the above stems from a National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores report, and all the above was included in the marketing section of the book proposal. You’re not sure if there’s an audience for a shopping guide to a multi-billion dollar a year industry? Beotch please. I know there is, you know there is, but none of that matters.
What matters is that Resale – in spite of proving itself as recession-proof – is still largely uncharted territory from a media standpoint.
Resale is like porn – or more accurately, like porn used to be. Everyone’s doing it, and no one’s talking about it.
This realization left me with one of two choices. I could leave Resale behind, do the dog-and-pony show, use my newfound editorial connections to write an asinine book about fashion and style a la Nina Garcia, develop a reputation as an author, and then write about what I really wanted to write about. OR…
I could change the fact that no one’s talking about it. I could give the most fiscally, socially and environmentally responsible form shopping there is the one thing it’s currently lacking.
The scope of Resale extends beyond this little blog, chickadees. It’s not enough for me to talk about it. I know what you’re thinking: Oh, but I don’t WANT to share the wealth with those who haven’t yet discovered the world of the gently worn. Why should I have to share my tips with newbies? If Resale gets popular, it’ll get more expensive! Can’t we just keep it our little secret?
Not if we don’t want to eff up our shopping karma. Yes, dishing about our fave stores, our latest finds and our best shopping strategies might lessen the odds of a material score, but those odds have always been unpredictable at best. That’s part of the game. An online Resale community won’t just inspire secondhand newbies to take the plunge: It’ll serve as a resource for Resale stores everywhere.
Scenario: You’re psyched to check out a new vintage/thrift store in your neighborhood, but your first visit proves disappointing. The organization’s shit, the quality’s so-so, and everything costs $10-$20 more than it should. You hit the Cheap JAP forums to kvetch about it, and post a topic on overpriced vintage of questionable quality or whatevs. A few weeks later, the store and source of your frustration can’t figure out why its sales are lacking. It googles its way to the forums, sees your post and reads up on a bunch of other Resale shopper likes and dislikes. It decides to test out some of the strategies endorsed and see if business improves, so it gives itself an organizational makeover, and overall price-point reduction of 20 percent. It then slaps up an announcement on the Forums; you see it, and decide to give it a second chance, and OMFG! It used to be a subpar vintage/thrift, and now it’s a kickass store! And it has YOU to thank for its improved business, because YOU’RE the one who started the conversation.
Resale is an industry in which you – the shoppers – have the power. The Cheap JAP forums are a place for you to wield it. They’re also a place for you to exchange style tips, post outfit queries, share DIY creations, debate controversial retail a la American Apparel, and treat Fashion like the bitch she is :P. I’ve posted some topics to get you started, but editorial authority falls to you from here on out. Go. Register. Respond to my topics, or start your own. Converse. Write as you are. (Sorry, had a soooo deep moment there ;)).
Sidebar 2: I’ve learned an epic amount of internet skillz these past few months but I’m still a newbie in the software world, so kindly email me if you happen upon any kinks in the system.
I’m not giving up on the book, FYI. I’ll write it someday, and self-publish it if I have to. But my voice alone can’t popularize an entire industry. My voice alone can’t inspire the stores in that industry to constantly work at improving the shopper’s experience. My voice alone can’t get those sucked in by discount outlets and sample sales to realize Resale always wins the day.
I have a fucking VISION, goddammit. And you’re all a part of it.
We’re all in this together. Kumbaya, beotches. ;P
Today’s shopping lesson starts with a zen-tastic mantra, courtesy of the gurus at Om Yoga Center. What the eff do sun salutations have to do with thrift? So glad you asked.
Yoga increases one’s capacity for patience. Patience tips the secondhand shopping scales in or out of your favor. Yoga is, heretofore, an excellent tool for developing your secondhand shopping prowess.
Onto the mantra:
If it’s comfortable, you’re probably not doing it right.
If you’re ego-centric and stubborn a la moi, instructional nuggets of this ilk tend not to prompt any revelations upon first hearing: I was in triangle pose, and I still managed to roll my eyes. It was only when the instructor glided over and re-tweaked my body into the proper position that I realized I’d been doing it wrong all along. I’d been too consumed by how it looked to make it work.
Triangle is a deceptively simple posture, as it turns out – the side-bending, twisting and stretching involved don’t amount to a pleasant experience. It’s not physically painful, but it’s uncomfortable and unsettling, particularly when you don’t have the flexibility to mimic the statuesque curve of more devoted yogis.
Then you move out of the pose, feel the rewarding rush prompted by your efforts – by your ability to embrace what it is in lieu of what it’s supposed to be – and you stop rolling your eyes at the mantra.
Comfortable doesn’t prompt growth or achievement. Uncomfortable does.
On that note, let’s talk about the uncomfortable experience of thrifting the Hell’s Kitchen Salvation Army.
My last visit to this particular SA location was four months ago, i.e. enough time for me to forget how disgusting it is. Time and time again, I block out the grime on the floor, the stains on the clothes, the screaming babies accompanying the shoppers, the musty, mothball-esque odor of the place. It’s an unconscious survival tactic – insurance against my being too icked out to shop.
It takes about fifteen minutes to re-acquaint myself with my surroundings. I calm myself with the knowledge that I’ve come prepared (plastic bag, Purell, hands-free bag), and meditate on scores of the past bestowed on me by the HK SA (Rich and Skinny jeans, $7.99). I embrace the ick. I summon the patience. I do an internal spin, Tazmanian Devil style. Then I tear through the place like a possessed flying rodent, brand-focused radar leading the way.
Velvet tops, as we know, retail for around $80 – $100 a pop. I found this versatile tunic approximately eighteen minutes into my browse. And it’s striped! I effing love stripes.
I don’t usually buy pants months in advance of when I can wear them: Rock & Republic jeans priced at $4.99 are obvs grounds for an exception.
I didn’t leave the Hell’s Kitchen Salvation Army scarred by fugly wares and subpar sanitation standards. I left buoyed by a mantra as true of thrift as it is of yoga.
Sifting through the donated muck isn’t comfortable.
It’s the uncomfortable that makes the price of whatever you find so effing right.
Those of us broke and/or idiotic enough to spend July in NYC are all too familiar with the cons of summering in the city. A ubiquitous aroma of sun-baked sewage. The inevitable appearance of sticky black grime on the bottom of one’s sandal-clad feet after a measly two block walk. Sporadic power outages. Con Ed’s continual ineptitude re: addressing/remedying said power outages (“Turn off your air conditioner” isn’t what I want to hear, assbags. It’s not like I’m abusing my customer privileges; I keep the temp at 75 – 78 degrees, as per your recommendation. If I’m paying astronomical monthly bills, I expect to be able to keep the air on. GET IT TOGETHER. But I digress).
All the above is par for the NYC summer course. What’s not? 103 degrees. That’s another way of saying it’s HOT AS BALLS. This year’s record-breaking heat and humidity obvs begs one crucial question: How the eff are we supposed to get dressed?
Walking the streets in a wet bathing suit might be an option, if we weren’t talking about a city with a highly concentrated male creep factor. I’m in no mood to fend off cat calls and leers from sweaty onlookers, particularly when I’m already pissed at the weather – I might do something rash, like preemptively pull the trigger on my pepper spray.
So, if we want to dress for ludicrous heat without looking like we’ve stepped out of an American Apparel ad, what do we wear? eHow’s How to Dress for a Heat Wave has some decent suggestions, one of which we’ve all heard before: Wear light colors.
Light-colored clothing reflects the sun, which keeps heat away from the body, while dark colors absorb the heat and make you feel even hotter.
Related anecdote: My parents just got back from a trip to Israel – a trip that included daily desert treks. Dad wore light colored shirts on said treks, which did nada to minimize body heat. Sick of schvitzing his face off, Dad did something bonkers: On the final trek, he took a cue from the locals, and wore black instead. He found that he wasn’t just comfortable; he barely broke a sweat.
RIDDLE ME THIS: Why does a heat-absorbing color (black) cool the body more effectively than a heat-reflective color (white)?
Answering the above required a bit of geekery, and by that I mean I browsed an array of Physics Forums to figure it out. You’re welcome. After sifting through much scientific mumbo jumbo, I happened upon a question similar to my own: Why do Bedouins wear black robes? (Bedouins are a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab group, FYI, and yes, I had to google that too.)
Black clothing absorbs sunlight and the heat radiating from your body, but if it is loose-fitting, and there is wind, the wind convects the heat away faster than it is absorbed. White clothing reflects sunlight, but also reflects internal heat back towards your body, so the net effect under identical conditions is less cooling than if you wore black. Desert-dwelling nomadic people such as the Tuaregs wear loose-fitting black clothing, and have been doing so for a very, very long time. If there were an advantage to wearing white clothes, you’d certainly expect they’d have figured that out by now.
A quirky conversational exchange accompanied and further explained the above answer.
If you are packing for a trip to the desert would it be better to pack light or dark clothes? The answer is not a simple as you might think, as Don and Yael discuss.
D: Hey, Yael, check out my new white linen suit. It’s going to keep me cool on my vacation to the Mojave desert.
Y: That is one snazzy suit, Don.
D: Oh, I’m stylin’. Plus, everyone knows that white reflects heat and black absorbs it. Yes, if you’re out in the sun, you’re better off wearing white.
Y: Not always, Don. After all, Bedouins, the nomadic people who spend their entire lives in the desert, wear black robes.
D: But that doesn’t make sense. Dark surfaces get warmer in the sun than light surfaces. You’d think the Bedouins would have figured that out by now.
Y: Don, Don, Don. Things are never that simple. You’re right that the air underneath black fabric warms up faster than the air underneath white fabric. At the same time, though, black fabric provides more shade than white fabric, and this decreases the amount of light that directly reaches the skin. Plus, a lot depends on the type of clothing you’re wearing. You see, warm air rises. And when it does, it’s replaced by cool air. And if you happen to be wearing a robe, all that movement of the warm air creates a breeze that sucks up cooler air from the bottom of the robe and pushes it out the top.
D: So wearing a black robe is like having a suit with a built in fan.
Y: Exactly. But again, the key is that the robe is loose-fitting. Otherwise, there isn’t enough room for the air to circulate.
Hilarious, adorable AND educational – if I’d had a text book like this, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten a C- in Physics. Bygones. Now, NYC doesn’t exactly have desert-esque winds, so I can’t honestly speak to whether or not loose-fitting black clothing trumps loose-fitting white clothing in this climate. But it seems as though white – what with its tendency to reflect heat back onto your body and all – is not the only answer. A loose-fitting black garment coupled with an occasional breeze might be a preferable alternative, methinks.
To test the aforementioned theory, I’m heading to Goodwill in search of a black linen maternity dress or derivation thereof. Function trumps Fashion in temps like these.
Smoking update: Eleven days, NO CIGGIES. The first three days were a bitch and a half, what with my body withdrawing from chemicals and all. On the fourth day, I started feeling like myself again. And on the sixth day, I did something I hadn’t done in two solid years: I went for a run. Two and a half miles later, I was fully sold on quitting for good.
To those of you who’ve written in cheerleading my efforts: I can’t thank you enough. To those of you who still smoke: I get it, and I won’t bullshit you on how hard it is to stop. I will tell you it’s worth it. Gear yourself up to quit, and email me for moral support.
Kumbaya, beotches. :P