By Emily Chandler

As restrictions continue, some consumers have shifted their shopping habits. December saw a #supportlocal campaign on social media aimed at helping family-owned businesses during COVID-19. This influx of locally-spent dollars found its way towards secondhand stores, with Manitobans trying to live affordably as the pandemic presses on. 

Secondhand shopping is the consumption of all used apparel or items, including all resale, thrift, and donation sectors.

Retailer Insider suggests consignment and thrifting are becoming one of the top trends in shopping, both online and in-store. Some Winnipeg consignment businesses have been aiming to help the conscious consumer adapt.

Businesses like whatMwore and Shapes and Feelings are smoothing the transition from fast fashion where major businesses mass-produce clothing to secondhand shopping by providing a variety of vintage, luxury, and repurposed pieces to choose from at an affordable price.

Margaux Kitsch, the owner of whatMwore, is in her fourth year of consigning, consulting and styling. 

Margaux Kitsch has been consigning for the past four years and says she brings a “fasionable eye” to the thrift industry./SUPPLIED

Kitsch took on the up-and-coming trend of consignment and pop-ups stores which open quickly in temporary locations and operate for a limited time. Kitsch’s commitment to second-hand shopping ultimately had a snowball effect on how the community viewed it.

“I brought a fashionable eye to the scene that was lacking in thrifting and consignment.”

The 30-year-old emphasizes how shopping secondhand has no negative effects now or in the future, and normalizing second-hand shopping creates greater habits when purchasing.

“Consignment provides more of a luxurious experience, and thrifting is more of an adventure of its own,” she said. 

As a business, whatMwore is more than just a consignment store; it is a community. Kitsch offers shopping, wardrobe consulting, and styling separately, or as part of a subscription. 

She says she believes the word “fashion” has been detrimental to the environment, body image, and self-worth. She hopes there can be end to the stigma of secondhand shopping. 

“You can spend $500 on something new and look great, or you can spend $100 on secondhand clothes, where you can look great and feel better.”

According to Sustain Your Style, an initiative launched in 2017 to teach fashion consumers about issues in the industry, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, after oil. As well as buying secondhand, consumers can also choose to buy clothes made in countries with stricter environmental regulations or choose organic and natural fibers that don’t need chemicals. 

Ava Jerao is one of Winnipeg’s most recent additions to the consignment business. 

Jerao started Shapes and Feelings in October and has been working to slow down fast fashion and reduce textile waste, while combining her passions for personal styling and interior design.

 Shapes and Feelings provides a sustainable way to shop consigns décor and clothing.

Ava Jerao started her pop-up consignment store, Shapes and Feelings, in October./SUPPLIED.

“It would be amazing if consignment was a natural choice for everyone in Manitoba,” she said.

The 30-year-old has worked for retailers like Aritzia and Club Monaco in the past and recognizes that overconsumption has led to the over production of clothing, and the damage that has caused to the environment.

According to a ThredUp report, buying secondhand extends a garment’s life by 2.2 years, which reduces carbon, waste, and water footprints by 73 per cent.

Through Shapes and Feelings, Jerao wants to give consumers the opportunity to start their conscious consumption journey, and by shopping secondhand shoppers are helping tell the industry that this is what consumers want.

“Your dollar really holds a lot of power, and the more of us that spend it consciously, the more the world can change for the better.”

Across consignment businesses and shoppers, there is one similar goal between both: to reach fashion and lifestyle goals at an accessible price. 

Shelby Bourbonnais, a 25-year-old student at Brandon University, has been shopping secondhand for almost ten years. 

“I’m a very nostalgic person, so I love imagining where the items have been before they entered my life,” she said.

Bourbonnais said she understands the contribution she has made through thrifting and buying used items but recognizes a complete overhaul of our consumptive practices is necessary.

“I think purchasing anything out of fast fashion is always a positive,” she said. “But we still need to practice more moderation.”

Bourbonnais says thrifting and consignment shopping bring her joy and is like a never-ending treasure hunt to her.

“It’s the perfect affordable and creative outlet.”

For more, follow @whatmwore and @shapes.and.feelings on Instagram.