Claudia McNeilly introduces the readers of the Toronto Standard to Kind Exchange.
If getting dressed conjures images of wails that drawl, “I have nothing to wear” amid a landfill of clothing, meet King Exchange. The store boasts ten locations in the greater Toronto area that all share the same goal: be kind to your wallet, environment, closet, self and community. And, for those who frequent the Kind Exchange clothing racks, the company has done just that.
Its strength can be attributed to the Ontario-born brand’s penchant to only sell used clothing. Where, unlike the high-end vintage stores and dizzying Goodwill’s of Toronto, Kind Exchanges feature well-maintained collections of gently worn, affordable clothes for men and women. However, reselling used clothing isn’t all the Toronto company holds itself accountable for. Included in its “Buy. Sell. Trade.” mantra is the option to donate: every Kind Exchange boasts the invitation to recycle and donate clothing to local charities.
This is, in part, what makes shopping at King Exchange feel like sipping a sweet cocktail of good intentions. Only instead of leaving with the guilt of an impending hangover, you leave with new clothes. But unlike other shopping experiences, where the end of a retail rush leaves you prickling with a heavy bag of clothes and an even heavier Visa bill, Kind Exchange eliminates the latter.
Most items in store range from $10 to $20, with exceptions for individual pieces depending on factors like brand name and whether or not you’re selling an original flapper dress from the 20s. Admittedly, with the haze of inviting prices in store, it can be hard to cut yourself off and remember that “no, you don’t need a hot pink leopard print mumu.” In case of emergencies such as this, a tip to the wise: bring clothes to swap for store credit on your next trip and watch yourself leave with a bag of free finds depending on how much you bring.
Of course, nothing is perfect and Kind Exchange won’t be taking the ratty 2003 leftovers in a bag at the bottom of your closet any time soon. They are, however, extremely open to contemporary everyday labels like H&M and Zara. This is nice for anyone who doesn’t have a closet full of vintage Givenchy but still wants to sell or trade his or her regular human pieces.
The idea of a consignment store balanced somewhere between high-end vintage and “fill a bag for $10” Goodwill (respect), is a foreign idea and can be confusing to understand. Despite the extremely familiar concept of vintage and secondhand, the notion of affordable boutique contemporary consignment is largely unheard of. This is why we spoke to Kind Exchange buyer Rebekah Hakkenberg to find out what the company looks for when it buys pieces to hang on its colourful racks:
“We don’t discriminate,” she says.
“We’ll take anything that we know could be an exciting find for somebody’s wardrobe. There are a lot of consignment stores out there, but not a lot of options if you want to get cash on the spot for something and not have to wait for it to sell,”
Hakkenberg goes on to add. “Plus, most people’s wardrobes are full of more mid-range gear rather than high-end things. There’s such a high turnover with the cycles of fashion now, and a lot of people want new clothes every season. But things that were from last season aren’t necessarily out of style yet; they’re not dated. So, we’re making everything more accessible.”
“We take a lot of fast fashion because a lot of it is still in great condition. What’s great is that, from the clothes we don’t buy, we offer to donate and recycle them to local charities so they don’t end up in landfills. I know people who will throw their clothes away in the garbage, which is insane. Come down and sell your clothes to us instead!”
And, with nearly a dozen Kind Exchange locations in the greater Toronto area, recycling your clothing has never been easier. Now, when you’re getting dressed in the morning, passive aggressively mumbling about how you never have anything to wear and maybe if rent wasn’t a thing you could buy some new clothes, you can think of Kind Exchange. Really, it’s like unlimited access to the trendy big sister’s closet you never had.
Claudia McNeilly is Toronto Standard’s style writer. Follow her on Twitter.