How Secondhand Shopping Became Cool Again

As consignment stores rise in popularity, even those with dollars to drop are no longer embarrassed to shop used or secondhand.
How Secondhand Shopping Became Cool Again

In addition to scoring some amazing affordable finds, shopping secondhand used to come with an accompanying stigma. While vintage has had fashion-loving fans for a long time, buying things second-hand – especially newer seasons or in the nineties and noughties – was as somewhat shameful instead of smart and strategic.

Times have changed. As consignment stores rise in popularity, even those with dollars to drop are no longer embarrassed to shop secondhand.

Why? It makes sense, frankly (especially if you pay the brutally high living costs to live in Toronto). The city’s consignment stores are full of fabulous gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories that you may never be able to afford new. Some items – like timeless designer purses or leather jackets – may actually age like a fine wine.

Resale’s come-up can be attributed to a number of things, including sustainability, minimalism, and the care consignment stores now put into selection in their offerings.

Instagram/ @therealreal

Secondhand stores are not what they used to be, offering quality like never before, carefully curated collections, and an elevated experience.

In our era of perpetual social media documentation, most people don’t want to be photographed in the same outfit repeatedly (though there’s nothing wrong with re-wearing clothes — Kate Middleton obviously does it all the time), but are increasingly conscious of the negative environmental effects of fast fashion. Sustainable fashion is definitely a trend that won’t fade into a distant memory, because recycling clothing keeps it out of landfills.

As opposed to a wardrobe full of fast fashion finds that will either go out of style, the savvy shopper now seeks better curated, and smaller wardrobes.

Instagram/ @vspconsignment

“Our clients are much more aware of the life-cycle of clothing and love the thrill of finding a coveted piece that they are able to work into their current wardrobe,” says Britt Rawlinson, owner of VSP Consignment, a contemporary consignment boutique in the city’s Dundas West neighbourhood.

“As much as there are fun pieces in the lower-end stores, they are called ‘disposable’ clothing; meaning style and quality does not necessarily last, but are fun for a temporary trend,” says Kary Dick, owner of North Toronto’s Second Nature Boutique. “With today’s smaller living spaces and lifestyle budgets, focusing on buying less but quality pieces that will last makes the most sense; why wouldn’t you shop this way? Over time, our society has many avenues to keep clothing out of our landfills and make it acceptable to recycle. We donate approximately three to four bags per week to charity, weighing five pounds each. Over the past 44 years of business, we have kept approx. 34,408 pounds out of our landfills.”

Helping the environmental cause, we also live in a culture that has come to value minimalism in recent years.


Not only do consignment stores benefit from the fact that the city’s stylish set are clearing out their closets like never before, a return to quality over quantity in the eyes of the shopper means visits to secondhand stores for quality designer goods that will last (i.e. not end up in a landfill) and not break the bank.

Let’s not forget that shopping at consignment stores helps to ensure you won’t show up to an event in the same outfit as someone else who spent the afternoon at the mall.

Instagram/ @therealreal

As resale becomes even more mainstream, we can expect the world’s consignment stores to dust themselves off and offer an experience never before associated with secondhand shopping. For example, resale spot RealReal opened a shiny new 12,000-square-foot space on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles last summer that is sleek in design and features an in-store café.

Helping to remove the stigma, new resale boutiques south of the border are merchandised like high-end boutiques; you can barely tell the difference in the shopping experience.

Even big brands are now – granted, very recently – jumping on the resale bandwagon like never before.

In a bold move in late 2017, Stella McCartney became a vocal supporter of reselling in a luxury space in an attempt to keep clothing from piling up in landfills.

The legendary designer partnered with RealReal to encourage her customers to resell her clothing when they were through with them in exchange for a $100 credit to her stores. Hopefully offering inspiration to other brands, the initiative was hugely successful.

From making extra cash, to saving the environment, resale sounds like an all-around win to us.

Featured image:Instagram/ @therealreal

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