Why take the dive?
Apart from just saving money, buying secondhand clothes has tremendous economic and ecological benefits. Fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world, just behind oil. The era of fast fashion thrives on the consumerist desire for inexpensive styles and affordability over quality and, unfortunately, clothing production uses copious amounts of water, creates physical and chemical pollution, and generates an abundance of waste. But another option lies in the world of secondhand shopping. On a greater scale, purchasing secondhand alleviates the need to produce new, cheap clothes at the risk of our environment and resources. Not only that, but an individual will gain the benefit of accumulating quality pieces for that desired bargain price. The first step is knowing where to go and how to look.
Here in Marin
Revente is an almost consignment shop with a twist. The little boutique located in Bon Air shopping center focuses on contemporary and vintage fashion as well as strong community support. The owner Marian McNaughton focuses on local sellers who incorporate sustainability, organic sources, and giving back to the community in their products. She frequently hosts events to donate to charities or organizations that assist local members and movements in Marin and the Bay Area. Unlike the typical consignment shop, the boutique has a clean, organized, and spacious atmosphere allowing customers to easily locate items without feeling overwhelmed. Marian’s focus on quality ensures great finds and brands for a competitive price with support for local and sustainable products.
Encore is a family owned, designer focused consignment store located in San Rafael. The mother and daughter team receive clothes not only from Marin, but from suppliers all over the US and even some in Europe. They duo focuses on quality and uniqueness of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Upon entry we were awestruck by name brand pieces with prices hundreds of dollars less than their originals. While premium designer brands like Gucci, Chanel, and Prada will never be cheap, what you’ll pay for what you’ll get ends up being a fantastic deal.
The international non-profit thrift giant, Goodwill, opened its first ever boutique consignment shop in San Anselmo in 2012. Like its mother, the boutique is a non-profit store. The merchandise is hand-picked from Goodwill stores in the Bay Area and targets the bohemian-chic Marin customer (as we’d like to think of ourselves). The boutique has a wide range of head-to-toe accessories and a particularly strong selection of handbags. While the prices are generally higher than at your average Goodwill store, the selection and quality of the pieces determine a fair price that is still on the lower end of upper-end consignment.
Knimble is a hip and aesthetically pleasing store located on 4th Street in San Rafael. Organized by clothing type, size, and color, it is easy to maneuver and scan through their large selection to find what you are looking for. In addition to clothes, the store has secondhand shoes, bags, and other accessories. Some of the jewelry and home accessories, while not secondhand, are made by local artists and designers who use eco-friendly materials and sustainable means of production.
Sax is a high-end women’s consignment boutique located in San Anselmo across from the beloved Marin Coffee Roasters. The shop is small, charming, and well organized. Along the left wall you will find a collection of shoes from Prada to Jimmy Choo followed by a large selection of premium denim. The shop also carries accessories such as belts, bags and jewelry, but the bulk of the treasure is within the collection of quality and designer dresses along the right wall. While a long way from ‘Macklemore’s ideal thrift shop’, somewhat higher prices are reflective of the quality and genuinity of each individual piece.
- Look for reliable brands (those of quality and those that you know)
- Retailers generally get merchandise from surrounding communities, so it is often best to target locations close to affluent neighborhoods for high-end products
- To get the first pick on fresh pieces, look for the racks/bins of new clothes that have not yet been displayed or sorted through by the public
Other Big Names in the Bay
2585 Telegraph Ave 1210 Valencia St 1555 Haight St
Berkeley, CA 94704 San Francisco, CA 94110 San Francisco, CA 94117
2123 Market St 1901 Fillmore St 630 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94114 San Francisco, CA 94115 San Francisco, CA 94122
1519 Haight St 2330-38 Shattuck Ave 5901 College Ave
San Francisco, CA 94117 Berkeley, CA 94704 Berkeley, CA 94705
936 7th St 649 San Anselmo Ave 1669 Fillmore St
Novato, CA 94945 San Anselmo, CA 94960 San Francisco, CA 94115
1700 Haight St 2400 Irving St 61 W Portal Ave
San Francisco, CA 94117 San Francisco, CA 94122 San Francisco, CA 94127
1660 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Swap can be compared to the Goodwill of online thrift stores. There is a wide variety and a plethora of product. The large qanutity of items can be a bit intimidating, but filter options can help to narrow down the search in terms of item, brand, sizing, color, etc. As in a physical Goodwill store, time and effort are required to find the right item. Nonetheless, Swap’s prices are generally lower than other consignment stores’. In addition to already lower prices, they seemingly offer continuous sales to ensure that your shopping cart total will be very gentle on your wallet.
Thredup is the largest online consignment and thrift store geared towards women and children. The very user friendly platform allows you to personalize your shopping experience by size, brand, and preferred styles. The average price point is a bit more than Swap, but is fair for the quality of merchandise and website experience. ThredUP offer a range of Designer- wear to basic staples. In addition, they offer users 50% off the first purchase, and encourage customers to return with the option of interest free payment on purchases more than $50, free shipping on orders $79 or higher, and continuous sales. I personally find that thredUP is the most consistent and reliable online thrift option I have come across.
Poshmark is less of a consignment or thrift website but rather an online platform that encourages its users to buy and sell second hand. They label themselves as the “#1 way to buy and sell fashion,” and create a community among online shoppers. The website is well organized and one can easily search for specific brands, sizes, types of clothing or specific items. With the ability to ‘like’ and follow other pages, users can create a more personalized explore page based on whose style they like and who shops similar items. I found it to be a great way to find designer brands for cheap, and direct buyer and seller communication for each item purchased makes it seem a bit more personal.
If you’re someone who wants to sport designer brands like Gucci, Prada, Yeezy, and more, but your wallet doesn’t quite agree with your style, The RealReal is the site to visit. They offer almost strictly designer and luxury brands for a fraction of the price. The quality of the clothing, shoes, and accessoires are consistently good. As a result, pricing that may be high compared elsewhere, the nature of the designer products still reflects a killer deal. The site offers promotions a sale section where a little searching and filtering can result in impressive discounts. One unique and cool part of the website, is that it includes a description for each item of the sustainability of purchasing the product in liters of water saved and miles of driving that did not have to occur.
Depop is an app and website where users buy and sell unique, vintage, and original clothing, shoes, and accessories. The site has created a community where items can be liked and shared, profiles personalized, and explore pages tailored to individual interests. There is a wide variety of items and prices and the search engine is user friendly. Because contact is direct between buyer and seller, there is less regulation than other consignment and thrift websites.
As a child my life was spent outdoors consistently covered in dirt, sand, and in company of whatever creature I had decided to adopt that day. In Marin my love for the environment and its health was established and it followed me to college where I am currently majoring in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara and pursuing a focus in sustainable design. My interest in sustainable fashion began a few years ago when researching the environmental impact of the fashion industry. I love clothes and style, but the detriment fast fashion has on the environment led me to completely revise my approach to shopping. Now I find the majority of my clothing in thrift and consignment shops and support brands with an environmental focus in their products.
Being the youngest of five older girl cousins, I was constantly receiving hand-me-downs. I remember the excitement I’d get going through the trash bag of my cousins’ old clothes and what treasures I might find hidden in amongst the CYO Basketball T-shirts. It was the same excitement in the treasure hunt that got me in to consignment and thrift shopping. I loved the fact that I could find unique pieces for a cheap. Being someone who sews and makes many of my own clothes thrifting also gave me the opportunity to experiment with revamping, redoing, and altering the clothes without feeling too much guilt if I screwed up. As I grew older and more environmentally aware, I became conscious of the global benefits of purchasing secondhand. Now, (apart from the pieces I’ve made), somewhere around 80% of my closet was purchased secondhand. For me, I look not with the intent of finding the perfect item, but the item that has the potential to be perfect.