By: Rita Zekas
Kind Exchange, 1940 Queen St. E.
There are 10 other locations in the GTA.
Intimidation factor: Minimal. The space is bright and airy with pop music blaring; all they need is an open bar.
Number of salespeople on floor: One, who is dealing with a steady trickle of people bringing in clothing.
Response time: Immediate.
The staffer greets me from the back under a pile of merchandise. (See above.)
Vibe: Value Village meets early Kensington Market.
Price range: From $3 for a bracelet to $199 for a Lucky Brand tan suede bomber with intact original tag of $499.
Rating: Three Michael Kors tunics out of four.
I kept seeing women with bags urging “Be Kind.” They were from Kind Exchange, which offers cash or trade on the spot for clothing, shoes and accessories. If you donate them, a portion of the sale proceeds goes to charity.
My friend Claire checked out the Kind location on Yonge St., south of Wellesley (there are 11 in Toronto) and pronounced it “better than Winners.” She spent two hours and dropped $100, which is challenging considering the median prices are in the $20 range.
I do a drive-by there and it’s DIY, you need to hunt and peck. The sizing is random; small mixed in with large, although tending to the smallish. Claire must have picked up all the adult sizing.
I troll through the racks – there is everything from rompers and jumpsuits to fake-fur purses – and find the “Staff Picks” rack most promising. I pick out a ’40s style tweed jacket with a Holt Renfrew label priced at $33 but it’s too snug.
Next day, I cruise by my local in the Beach, open for four months. Right at the get-go, I fall hard for a pair of Converse leopard slip-on sneakers going for $25. Rats! They are a half size too small. Ditto a pair of brand new neon yellow suede booties at $19.
Now they’re really killing me with Kindness: a pair of fabulous Isabel Marant tribal-print jeans are $34 but they would only fit a hand puppet.
There are some higher-end labels like Ralph Lauren, BCBG, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein but mostly middle-of-the-roadies from Banana Republic and Jones New York to H&M and Forever 21.
A charming $35 yellow-print cocktail dress by Sandra Angelozzi screams instant party. Ditto a $45 white brocade vintage-looking frock by Marc Jacobs.
What’s this? A graphic print skirt by Max Mara, made in Italy for a mere $15. Seriously? Off to the dressing room to try it on. It’s waaaay too small. That’s what I get for wearing reading glasses while pawing through the racks. Things are not as big as they appear.
The air-conditioning is not working and the dressing room is a sweat box. I emerge dripping like a rain forest and scour the store seeking a mirror. Too bad I didn’t look on the outside of the dressing-room door. They need more accessible mirrors.
A woman is checking out pants. I suggest she try on the Isabel Marants because I want them to go to a good home.
Footnote: I give the Annex location (Bloor and Bathurst) a shot. It purportedly has the best men’s selection and the Beach store doesn’t carry menswear.
The menswear is cool, especially a pair of kick-butt cowboy boots. But for me, the standout is a D&G khaki sleeveless vest that’s a pinch too tight at the armholes. It has no price tag.
“It’s 50 bucks, already pretty cheap,” says the staffer.
Not if you can’t move your arms.
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