New year, new you! For those looking for a new hobby to pick up, a study from DIYS.com found the most popular new in 2022 in Canada is thrifting. Looking at Google Trends data, the platform found searches for thrifting increased 102.6 per cent from December in 2021 to January 2022.
If we can thank TikTok for anything, we can give it a great round of applause for galvanizing Gen-Z to make thrifting a trend. Thrifting, which started as a climate-conscious trend to avoid over-consumption, has taken on a more permanent place in the fashion world and inspired a style ethos of its own.
The will to thrift may be there, but like anything new, it may be daunting to actually undertake without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. We brought in a local expert, Jo Kolakowska of Clutter Porch, to give us a glimpse into her wealth of thrift hunting knowledge in Toronto.
Figure out the difference between good and bad quality
“The number one thing is to look at the wear of the item. Check the seams, check the zippers,” Kolakowska says. The thicker material of t-shirts, for example, may indicate durability rather than a thin cotton weave that can easily be torn or will fade after a couple washes. “Older things that are vintage are just made better. They just by nature were made to last.” Fast fashion is innately made to be discarded soon after a trend fades. Consequently, to keep up with demand, the speed of production is aided by using low-grade materials and poor practises.
“Sometimes something really worn in, though, can be good,” Kolakowska notes. From a purely style perspective, you may be looking for a shirt with holes or tears to achieve a grungier look. Instead of buying a pre-distressed Rolling Stones tee from Brandy Melville, it’s far better to thrift one.
Come prepared with a list and a budget
“My biggest advice to anybody who’s going is [to] write a list and narrow down what you’re looking for. A lot of the times when you do go into thrift stores, it’s overwhelming,” Kolakowska says. “Write a list down of stuff that you’re actually looking for so it kind of takes away your brain from going to stuff that you might not necessarily really need.”
The key to thrifting isn’t just to emulate our fast fashion habits. The goal here is to be selective with the clothing we buy, not filling our wardrobes with clothes we’ll never wear, that we’ll discard a few years down the line when we find it crumpled at the back of a drawer. “Even in terms of thrifting and secondhand culture, things can also become negative in the way that over-consuming and even thrift hauls are kind of bad,” Kolakowska adds.
Along the same lines, Kolakowska recommends allocating a budget. She notes that the price of vintage clothing has increased over the past 15 years. However, it doesn’t mean that vintage clothing should be considered overpriced. “People have been programmed to think that clothing should just be cheap. Clothing should not just be cheap,” she says,.
“I frankly think it’s quite disrespectful when people do try to haggle. It delegitimizes somebody’s business, somebody’s hard work.” The same rules that apply at Aritzia also apply at your local vintage stores and pop-ups. People work tirelessly to bring quality items to the second-hand market and deserve the same courtesy you would give big box stores. This is an absolute don’t.
Go early or go late (or ask your local store)
One of the thrilling parts of thrifting is finding unique pieces that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. There’s a rush you get when you casually happen upon a piece that really speaks to you. If you’re serious about finding something specific, many people will suggest arriving early to beat the crowds, especially if you’re shopping on the weekend. Kolakowska agrees, and adds a caveat. “My advice is to ask a local thrift shop what day they get all their shipments in and when they’re doing a total floor restock.” She also adds that she prefers going in the evening, avoiding the rush of other shoppers.
Buy what you like
Trends come and go, but personal taste is forever. Kolakowska urges not to pay mind to fashion trends, not only because they’re fleeting but because they potentially betray your own sense of unique style. “The biggest thing is just knowing what you want, and steering away from super trendy things. I think it’s about looking for stuff that is meant to last that is a timeless classic.”
If you’re looking for…
If you’re looking for fun pieces, try Clutter Porch. Jo Kolakowska’s pop-up and Instagram store is the place to get unique prints, bright jackets, and anything with a cool, laid back vibe.
If you’re looking for decade-specific vintage finds, try Mama Loves You Vintage. This Queen West institution labels their pieces by decade and features true vintage items, from ’60s mod dresses to ’30s full-length gowns.
If you’re looking for designer clothes and high-end brands, try VSP Consignment. VSP not only has Pucci ski suits and a Bottega Veneta crossbodies, but also brand-new Levi’s jeans. Their diverse set of wares are accessible from both their website as well as through Instagram-exclusive sales.
If you’re looking for variety, try Hippie Market. Toronto’s roving market is perfect for finding pieces from different vendors. Hosting shops that bring a great mix of flavours and styles, Hippie Market caters to all your fashion needs from leather jackets to sick graphic tees.
If you’re looking to buy AND sell, try Plato’s Closet. Aimed at people in their teens and 20’s, Plato’s Closet is great if you want to purge your closet before looking for replacements.
If you’re looking for basics, try Value Village. This classic thrift store can fulfil all your needs if you want simple and classic pieces. An oldie but a goodie!