University of Calgary

My No Impact strategy: Learning to love other people’s stuff and their stories

UToday HomeJuly 29, 2013

By Hope Bruce

Jennifer Jensen, owner of Clasce Quality Consignment and University of Calgary graduate, says shoppers find buying consignment clothes to be a more fulfilling experience. Photos by Hope Bruce Jennifer Jensen, owner of Clasce Quality Consignment and University of Calgary graduate, says shoppers find buying consignment clothes to be a more fulfilling experience. Photos by Hope Bruce
Jennifer Jensen holds up one of her favourite consignment pieces.Jennifer Jensen holds up one of her favourite consignment pieces.
A stylish, barely-used pair of shoes is nestled among items on the shelf at Clasce Quality Consignment.A stylish, barely-used pair of shoes is nestled among items on the shelf at Clasce Quality Consignment.
Stalking through a row of summer florals, I am a hunter seeking the perfect fit at a great price, an explorer unearthing treasures that once hung in someone else’s closet. This is my Saturday afternoon at one of Calgary’s local consignment boutiques, and for me it sure beats going to the mall.

I love buying secondhand. I love looking through aisles of unique, colourful garments until I find the one that speaks to me and asks me to try it on. I love store staff that know me. I feel good donating or consigning clothes so someone else can appreciate them. I love hearing stories about the different garments I buy — like the vintage sailboat T-shirt that once belonged to Kerry, the owner of my favourite consignment store in Red Deer, who bought the T-shirt at a garage sale from an old lady in San Francisco.

I did not always feel this way about other people’s stuff. As a kid who grew up on unfashionable hand-me-downs, I was ashamed of having to wear plain sweatpants when Nike Tearaways reigned supreme. I longed for that white checkmark of approval — not because of what it was, but because of what it meant.

As an adult, I still look for meaning in clothes, but my meanings have evolved. At some point in my teens, I realized secondhand clothes can be fashionable. In fact, with so many different makes and styles in one store, it is easier to express myself. I can concentrate on what looks and feels right rather than size or brand.

You do not have to be an avid tree hugger or starving student to buy secondhand. With Calgary’s many high-end consignment and vintage stores, and swap meets like the one the University of Calgary’s Sustainability Office had last November, helping out old Mother Earth has never been so easy.

“Consignment shopping can be a more fulfilling shopping experience if you are looking for a friendly atmosphere and staff who will actually help you pick out great items for your style and body shape,” explains Jennifer Jensen, owner of Clasce Quality Consignment and University of Calgary graduate.

Not only is buying used a more economical alternative to buying new, consignment stores also benefit the local economy.

“Consignment stores help the community by taking items from local people and selling them to local shoppers. It's a brilliant concept really,” adds Jensen.

This system of buying goods creates connections between people — something Colin Beavan discovers during his No Impact lifestyle experiment. A social dimension emerges through the stories clothes carry with them, and the relationships built through the shared experience of buying, consigning or swapping clothes locally.

While the practical benefits of buying other people’s stuff are endless, I continue to do so because of the warm feeling I get every time I take a hunting expedition to a consignment boutique or thrift shop.

 

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