Love the idea of secondhand shopping but dread the prospect of sifting through racks of used clothes? Now you can leave it to the experts to find the hidden gems for you.
Resale, one of the latest trends in fashion retail, makes secondhand shopping easy by offering a more curated collection of garments and accessories than the traditional thrift store. Each item has been selected by people with an eye for great fashion and great bargains — people, who, unlike many of us, enjoy a sometimes time- and energy-consuming treasure hunt. Among those gifted secondhand shoppers is mother-and-daughter team Mary Delaney and Lily Luong, the owners of Santa Rosa’s new fashion resale store, Areteway.
Delaney and Luong started buying and selling vintage clothes a few years ago, as a way of financing Luong’s education at the San Francisco Academy of Art. It quickly became apparent that they had a knack for it: They made profitable sales to hip and highly selective Bay Area consignment stores like Wasteland and Buffalo Exchange and to online marketplace Poshmark, as well as through eBay, the great grandaddy of resale.
The key to their success? Luong’s curatorial eye and natural sense for style.
“Since I was really little I liked to draw clothing and color outfits in coloring books,” said Luong, who was homeschooled from second grade and onward because of being bullied at school. Her passion for style grew as her mother brought her to thrift stores where she learned about the history of fashion. She recalls appreciating the beauty of old pieces, like a 50’s prom dress, and learning about how styles morphed over the years.
After a prestigious position on Seventeen Magazine’s 2011 style council and a series of classes at the Academy of Art, Luong can now be found dressing mannequins in her own Santa Rosa shop.
“We do sell off the mannequin,” said Luong, who sometimes has outfits requested within minutes of putting them on display.
Luong has “always loved mixing clothes in different ways” and enjoys creating trendy looks using old clothing. Before having her own store, she would monitor and save looks she liked via Pinterest.
Creating looks is not a deliberate process for Luong. Instead, it’s more about being open to inspiration and having that natural sense for what works and what doesn’t: Her styling process is “not always clear and definable,” but it’s more of a “that would be cute with this” kind of approach.
In addition to having an eye for fashion, Luong and Delaney also have an eye for interior design and how to best display the items sold in their store.
Their downtown Santa Rosa boutique has an airy and calm aesthetic with atomic-style brass chandeliers, velvety rose curtains and unfinished-wood shelves, which the duo designed and built themselves. Clothing offerings are organized by size and stylishly displayed in a way that is not overwhelming. New items like candles, soaps, “evil-free” lipstick and jewelry—all small batch-made—can be found on shelves throughout the store, offering the shopper more inspiration.
While Luong’s and Delaney’s design chops and entrepreneurial spirit are apparent (Delaney studied business at Sonoma State and law at Empire Law School), the pair’s mission extends beyond beauty and business. The eco-conscious aspects of resale is something that appeals to both of them.
According to The New York Times, fashion accounts for eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and a majority of new clothing gets incinerated or tossed in the trash within a year. Resale can offer a more sustainable alternative to buying completely new things — even retail giants like Nordstrom are taking note and implementing the new trend.
Through Areteway’s buy/sell/trade model, customers can buy used clothes and accessories and also sell their own “good condition, current within two years” clothing, shoes and handbags for 25 percent of their selling price in cash or 40 percent in store credit.
“We want to encourage people to think of their clothes as an investment,” said Delaney and noted that, while they have some “fast fashion” in their store, if people take good care of their clothes, they will last longer and can even be resold. That way, shoppers can get their money’s worth out of very purchase.
Delaney adds that mending and alterations are key skills in keeping clothing fresh and current — for example, she creatively covered a stain on a butter yellow suit with some darning. A customer loved the suit and bought it, despite the “imperfection.” “Visible mending” with high contrast threads, Delaney explained, is trending in Europe and Australia.
When used clothes are curated and merchandised by skilled boutique owners, like Luong and Delaney, they can become attractive solutions to a dilemma many grapple with today: how can I enjoy shopping and keep my closet current and stylish while still being conscious about the impact of shopping on the environment?
One peek inside Areteway, and we’re already sold on the resale trend.
Areteway Shop, 707A 4th St., Santa Rosa, aretewayshop.com