Consignment series: Part 2
The rewear revolution is alive and well and we want you to be a part of it. Consignment is where style meets sustainability. Whether you have found your way to Pearl & Birch because you love saving some serious cash, you care about the ethics of garment production or you need an off the rack solution to your short timeline problem, we are happy to be a resource for all things wedding in Manitoba. Being the only used dress shop the specializes in formal has introduced me to a whole new world. Prior to becoming an ambassador of secondhand gowns I would shop at local markets, look for great deals on the buy and sell and search for unique treasures in antique stores. But I never really thought about embracing used clothing (or household items for that matter) as the first option in sourcing my wants, let alone the only place I could meet all my needs. My path to preloved was born of desperation and necessity. Here is how I fell into selling used and why on this Black Friday I am hoping you will do the same.
In March of 2016 I was managing at a highly successful restaurant chain. I had an sleepless 8 month old who had driven me to the brink of postpartum depression, a husband whose seasonal work had run out finding us in a financial lurch and a rambunctious 4 year old who deserved more attention than I was giving him. Two pregnancies had left me feeling like a stranger in my own body which made it really difficult to commit to buying clothes. And I was constantly replacing my cheap fast fashion options because, although they were budget-friendly, they were also quality deficient. Things were already stressful the day I got a knock on my door telling me Josh had fallen 11 feet off a roof, landed on his tailbone and after miraculously driving himself to the hospital he had been found passed out on the ground in the parking garage with a smashed vertebrae.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and this was a crisis. From then on out it was a merry-go-round of this or that at the grocery store, begging with credit card companies and waiting on hold to access financial assistance that for some reason you don't qualify for until you are completely destitute. Being broke is not enough, you have to be below poverty before they help you meaning there was a period of complete and total financial ruin we had to wade through before it was even an option. My mother didn't raise me to give up that easily and I watched her wait tables for dinner money my entire adolescent life so I knew this was just a dig deep moment. I cleared out our attic and laid out every party dress, gala gown, stiletto and designer handbag and I began cashing out my closet. In my twenties I had made a career out of shopping and bar hopping and my wardrobe was filled with Guess coats, Coach purses and label jeans. All of these overpriced status symbols that I used to fill my self-esteem void were now becoming my families salvation.
The idea for Pearl & Birch had been a whisper in my mind the year before and my current cash flow problem combined with a decline in the condition of my workplace had created the perfect storm. I had nothing left to lose and I wasn't going to let this break me. So I started planning. Consignment seemed like a natural fit for me. It combined everything I loved about customer service, being money conscious and planet friendly. And in January of 2017 I opened our doors. 3 years, 6500 items and 1500 consignors later we are thriving.
The way we shop matters. The rate we are producing consumer goods far exceeds our ability to use them. We are producing things that will never be enjoyed and discarding items that have so much life left in them. The way we I run my business matters. Challenging myself to look at my shoppe and ask what more can we be doing to grow consciously is just as important as the growth itself. We have to have the courage to change. To not stay in the same spot. The way I see it you have two options: you can try to deny that our planet is in crisis or you can become part of the solution. Selling your second hand formal through consignment directly impacts textile consumption. It creates opportunities for consumers to consider buying used when the options are comparable to current retail and with a lower price tag. Days like today, when the market meets the actual value of the goods by offering blow out deals, are hard to resist. Many consumers could not afford some of their purchases had the prices not been slashed. That being said, there are also a significant number of consumers who will spend the day buying things they don't need, will hardly use and come from a production chain that exploits its workers and wreaks environmental havoc. Which is why on this Black Friday we are choosing not to celebrate with a sale.
Our first annual #BirchBashfortheStaff will be shutting down the shop at 1 pm instead, to celebrate the shared success of this little business built on the idea that used dresses are beautiful, true love stories never have endings and that one person can make a difference. Knowing that many people make a movement. And we don't just want to be part of it, we want to promote it. Second hand shopping is growing rapidly. It just makes sense. If you have unworn formal going out of style that you will never wear again maybe its time you ask yourself- what's in your closet?