This weekend, I had the privilege of attending Edmonton’s second annual Change of Clothes event!
Change of Clothes is all about promoting ethical, sustainable, and responsible fashion – about changing the way we think about clothes and making ethical, sustainable, and responsible fashion the norm instead the destructive fast fashion culture. Change of Clothes was bustling with all kinds of activities including a repair-a-thon, an upcycling station…
And a clothing swap organized by Life Preloved and Vesica and Flow…
There was also a nice opportunity to chat about secondhand shopping during a “Conversation Cafe” with yours truly!
It was wonderful to chat with people like Helen from the Repair-a-thon, Elsbeth who lent a hard-to-fit tall-woman perspective to the discussion on secondhand shopping, Funmi from FO Photography who captured some great shots of the event, Stephanie the Program Coordinator from the Bissel Centre who had a lovely Irish accent and made me long to go to Dublin to thrift, I mean visit relatives, and Nadine Riopel…
Really though, the star of the show was little Penelope, the sweet daughter of organizer Claire Theaker-Brown.
I can already tell Penelope will be a force to be reckoned, just like her mom! Claire is the genius behind Flatter:Me Belts and co-creator of Change of Clothes. I think it’s rare to have someone so genuinely kind be so gently powerful in encouraging positive change, but that’s what Claire does.
We had a great conversation but didn’t get to all the questions, so I thought I would tackle some of them here!
Thrifting changed my life. It is one of the best examples of how a blessing came out of difficult circumstances, and is something I think of all the time to remind me to have hope, always.
Who benefits most from thrifting?
Thrifting is the win-win-win of the fashion industry. The consumer gets great prices on great pieces in any style or size, the store – profit and non-profit alike – supports the community, and the industry sees reuse and recycling in action.
What are your favourite places to thrift?
There are lots of online secondhand sellers nowadays, but I am fulfilled by thrift shops in my community or my travels. I couldn’t name a favourite – I like all my babies equally! I will however recommend that you shop big thrift and little thrift rather than sticking only to the big chain stores. The little community shops have much to offer and often have a bigger community impact.
What is the best treasure you have found while thrifting?
I have so many, it’s hard to choose. I brought a few Hall of Fame pieces to share – my Cole Haan bag, my Salvator Ferragamo shoes and my vintage Christian Dior suit. We chatted a bit about labels and I should clarify that labels themselves are not the most important thing in thrifting. You should not thrift only for the “amazing score.” However, knowing your brands informs your shopping decisions, just as it would in regular retail.
Do you shop consignment?
Yep and yep! Consignment tends to be more expensive but it still counts as secondhand!
Do you buy fast fashion?
I buy pieces from fast fashion brands but only secondhand. I recently had a good chat with Nadine about this very topic.
How often do you buy jeans? How often do you wash them?
Pants are the worst, period. #afraidofpants However, sometimes you need pants and you should definitely thrift them! In my experience, whether shopping regular retail or secondhand, I have to try on 763 pairs of pants in order to find 2 that work for me. So take a coffee and purse-cookies and be prepared to focus on pants alone for one thrift-trip.
We had a good convo about washing garments. Helen assured us that most people use way too much soap and Claire had us all running out to buy soap nuts which are apparently very effective and better for the environment than traditional laundry detergent. We also discussed washing garments LESS often and drying them outdoors when possible. All these little steps amount to big change if enough people do them!
Do you know how to mend your own clothes? Have you ever repaired your own clothes? Have you ever made your own clothes?
No, no and no BUT I have a wonderful husband and mother-in-law who are good at mending and make clothes for my children. I do love thrifting handmade pieces!
Do you think Albertans are becoming more conscious about where their clothes are made?
I think people are becoming more locally minded and interested in supporting small businesses but many people purport to shop “frugally”, then include secondhand sources and the sale racks or discount stores in that. If it’s not secondhand, homemade, made in North America or from a reliable ethical/sustainable label, chances are it’s fast fashion. Some clothing may in fact be more expensive in a thrift store than a factory outlet. We must think beyond the bottom line and ask, #whomademyclothes!
And for the last question…
What is the first small step that you’re going to take after today to be more conscious about the clothes that you’re going to buy?
Edmonton blogger Bitchin Housewife said recently: “It’s just a day without noticing any changes, until a year has past and everything has changed.” Every little change towards sustainability matters! I am not perfect, baby-whispering-thrift-enthusiast though I may be… but perfection is not the goal. One step at a time is the goal.
What step can YOU take today to change how you think and what you do about YOUR clothes?
Great recap of the conversation! We missed each other because I was there earlier with my crabby 12-year-old — we were just leaving as SuperSu arrived. My not-afraid-of-thrifted-jeans advice: knowing what styles fit you at retail stores makes this way easier (I have a go-to style and size from The Gap, and I look exclusively for it when thrifting for pants in order to save time). I do have concerns about how clothes from Big Thrift end up having knock-on effects on local clothing manufacture when they’re sold on in third world countries.
This made! My! Day! Thanks for trailblazing towards a sustainable wardrobe in the most fun, accessible, and affordable way – I’m so lucky to share a community with you. (I am also lucky to hear from moms like you that it gets easier. Babies are no joke, y’all.)
Can’t wait to have you back at the next Change of Clothes. In wine and solidarity –
DebMerriam Ha well I’m sorry to have missed you but hope to catch you another time soon! And great game plan for thrifting pants! I am concerned too about the end of the line for clothes that big thrift passes along but am not very knowledgeable about it so I do the small steps I can – buying secondhand, donating or recycling or swapping or handing down clothing… I’m not great at the consuming less part (!) but a girl’s gotta have something to blog! Great change starts here, in conversations and community like this!
ClaireTheakerBrown Aw thanks Claire! It is my pleasure to know you and collaborate with you! Tawanda!! (i.e., we will change the world and Penelope and Selah (and her bros) will follow in our footsteps!)