By Charlotte Harrison
Haligonians can’t seem to get enough of vintage clothing. Halifax’s second-hand and consignment clothing market is thriving, and continues to grow with two new businesses: Penelope’s Boutique on Cunard Street, which opened on Saturday, and Vagabond Vintage, a traveling clothing sale.
David Figueroa, founder of Vagabond Vintage, started his business in Toronto, but says he has had greater success since moving to Halifax.
“The fashion scenes in larger cities like Toronto are pretty cut-throat,” he says. “I feel there’s something very particular to Halifax that allows businesses like mine to exist. There’s a nicer scene here—you can stand out in the community.”
Figueroa’s business began with summertime street sales in the North End, and became a full-time job in September. He says Halifax residents have been very friendly, and he has built a regular client-base though sales at universities, music festivals and at his home.
“There’s a tight-knit community here … people are always asking me when I’m coming back. It’s very positive, and it’s really helped my business succeed,” he says.
Selling vintage clothing is different from regular retail, says Figueroa, because “it’s all about the find, and the hunting.” Figueroa visits thrift stores and garage sales across the province to find his wares. Being in a smaller city means the clothes are less “picked through,” leaving lots of selection.
“I was saying to my friend, ‘I have my BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) but I’m not really using it for anything,’ and she said, ‘Well, you’re doing vintage clothing collecting, that’s pretty creative.’ But it’s also a natural thing for me,” says Figueroa.
Penny MacAuley, owner of the newly-opened Penelope’s Boutique in the former Pretty Things location (5685 Cunard Street), was also attracted to the creative aspect of consignment clothing.
“What I love about consignment is it’s one of a kind…that’s the only one, everything is unique,” she says.
As part of market research before opening her store, MacAuley examined her competition in the second-hand clothing market. She was surprised to find that there are at least 15 second-hand stores in the HRM, ranging from Frenchy’s and other thrift stores to boutiques such as Put Me On (1532 Queen Street).
“I think there’s definitely a market for it,” she says. “Vintage is pretty hot.”
Fashion blogger Jessica Bradford has noticed the trend as well. “I believe we’re seeing a slow, but sure, shift in the fashion industry. Vintage is in,” she writes on her Halifax fashion blog, Haute Halifax.
MacAuley says consignment also appeals to environmentally-conscious shoppers. “The clothes belonged to somebody else, so they’re getting recycled, which is great.” she says.
Figueroa says selling vintage is also more personal than mass-produced retail, which suits the Halifax community. He knows his regular customers’ tastes and he keeps an eye out for pieces they might like.
“There’s one girl who wears a lot of blouses and silky stuff in neutral colours, or other people who wear very bright stuff…If I find something that reminds me of them, I can let them know,” he says.
As for spring styles, Figueroa’s picks are high-quality fabrics such as linens and silks. He says ’90s-style jumpers, overalls, high-waisted jeans and bat-winged sweaters are also making a comeback.
Click below to watch a video of Penny MacAuley’s spring fashion picks from consignment items at her store, Penelope’s Boutique.