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Spring fashion: Secondhand style stars share their top tips

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With an eye for streamlining the secondhand shopping process, we asked three Vancouver-based thrift curators to dish on their top tips.

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Secondhand styles — whether fashion, accessories or home goods — offer a way to shop sustainably, while also updating your wardrobe or living space.

It’s an element of eco-conscious consumption that a growing number of Canadians appear to be buying into. According to 2020 survey by ProdegeMR, 82.96 per cent of respondents said they had shopped in a thrift store, a number that increased from 73 per cent in 2019.

But, an interest in shopping for pre-loved pieces doesn’t mean you’ll find just what you’re looking for the first time you head to the thrift store racks.

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With an eye for streamlining the secondhand shopping process, we asked three Vancouver-based thrift curators to dish on their top tips.

Randa Salloum, a Vancouver-based creative and entrepreneur.
Randa Salloum, a Vancouver-based creative and entrepreneur. Randa Salloum

Randa Salloum, founder of Collective Will

Q. What’s your top tip for shopping secondhand?

A. Ignore the size labels! With an influx of styles in one group, you may find sizes from different eras and brand guides. When in doubt, try it on and you may be pleasantly surprised. I’m a size small/medium and I will try on all sizes from XS — XXL if it looks like it may fit.

Q. Any tips to get rid of the preloved odour?

A. Remove the items from your shopping bags and let them air out overnight. I sometimes tie a lavender sachet around the hanger. If you can, wash the item and if the smell persists, spray it with a vodka and essential oil mixture. Don’t hold it closely to the garment in the case essential oil sticks).

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Q. If there’s one pre-loved style — such as denim, outwear, etc. — that everyone can embrace, what would it be and why would it work for all?

A. I like to think that with the option of tailoring, everyone can embrace all styles. If you’re a jacket enthusiast, buy what already exists. We consume an abundance of jackets for all seasons and outfits that we can end up having more than we need. From blazers to windbreakers and coats and ski-jackets alike, there truly is one for everyone.

A look inside the Vancouver shop Collective Will.
A look inside the Vancouver shop Collective Will. Photo by Randa Salloum /PNG

An interior space decorated by Irie Space Designs.
An interior space decorated by Irie Space Designs. Photo by Veria Laemmle

Veria Laemmle, founder of Irie Space Designs

Q. What’s your top tip for choosing vintage home goods that will fit existing decor? 

A. One of the important things is being confident in the overall vision for your space and trying to visualize how the additional pieces will complement it. This helps to not end up with nice separate pieces that don’t work together but create a cohesive space that carries your signature.

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Q. In your experience, are there any items/pieces that tend to be too difficult to recondition or give a ‘second life’?

A. From my personal experience, vintage travertine marble furniture is often hard to recondition especially the ones that have an epoxy resin coat, which tends to discolour over time. My goal when refinishing such pieces is to bring out the natural texture and colour of the travertine marble. The process is labour-intensive, time-consuming and the final stage of honing requires a technique that can only be achieved by experts. The end result is always satisfying knowing the item looks better and will live beautifully for the next 50 years — that makes it all worth it.


Lauren Lee in her shop, Gather.
Lauren Lee in her shop, Gather. Photo by Nicole Carter Photography

Lauren Lee, founder of Gather

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Q. What’s your top tip for styling secondhand pieces?

A. Be true to your style and less focused on trends. I try to find pieces I can pair well with things that I already own and focus on a timeless aesthetic. Secondhand and vintage pieces tend be more unique and you can build a whole look around one good find.

Q. Is there a mindset or mantra you have when you go searching for secondhand pieces?

A. I follow the mantra of: would I wear this right now? Can I not leave without this? I generally know exactly what types of clothing and accessories I’m searching for. And I usually follow a colour palette, look for high quality materials and great tailoring.

Q. How do you avoid getting discouraged after coming up empty-handed at preloved stores?

A. I’ve gotten good at only buying pieces that I think are great, If I’m on the fence then I leave it behind. I’m actually happy when I leave with less, it means I’ve made conscious buying choices. There is a lot of great pieces out there and hunting for them is the best part.

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