Invent

Spring 2014


This used clothing store is taking over Toronto

Natalia Manzocco of blogTo‘s Fashion & Style page tells it like it is at Kind Exchange. We wholeheartedly agree!

 

FASHION & STYLE

This used clothing store is taking over Toronto

Posted by Natalia Manzocco / JUNE 8, 2014

 

kind exchange toronto

Here’s a riddle: What has opened 10 stores in Toronto within the last three years, has two locations within just a few blocks of each other on Queen St. West, and isn’t Starbucks?

It’s the Kind Exchange, a Toronto-grown chain of used clothing stores that’s rapidly taking root in neighbourhoods across the city. What began with a single store on Queen West has expanded from Roncesvalles to Yonge and Eglinton to the Beaches, with four new locations opening this spring alone. The next one – the chain’s 10th – will open its doors at 1185 Bloor St., near Dufferin, in two weeks.

For those who have never trawled through KX’s many, many racks: The chain is stocked entirely with used items chosen by the store’s staff from hauls brought in by customers. Items are generally priced to move. (If your items are chosen, you can opt for an on-the-spot cash payout – generally 20% of the selling price – or store credit, for 30%.) This differs from most consignment stores, which wait until your used items sell before giving you your share of the sale.

In terms of hunting intensity levels, it’s a far easier shopping experience than the thrift store, but requires considerably more digging than your artfully “curated” high-falutin’ new-and-vintage boutique. Some visits, you’ll go home empty-handed; other days, you’ll find your new favourite wardrobe item. Not everything will work for you, but all of the items the buyers select – which, though sometimes well-loved, are free of stains, rips and holes – are brought in with the knowledge someone, somewhere, will look absolutely smashing in it.

There’s also a charitable element to the store – a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. One of the store’s latest locations – Kind Exchange Cares, near Danforth and Woodbine – donates the profit from everything sold in the store.

kind exchange toronto

Founder Jeff Wexler, an Ontario native, spent over a decade working for U.S. consignment chainSecond Time Around (no relation to the store of the same name in Toronto). He struck out on his own in 2011, moving back to Toronto with his wife, Courtney, in tow, and set up shop at 611 Queen St. West. (He still lives above that first store.)

In the store’s early days, the buy-sell-trade business model was a tough sell. “You’re coming up with kind of a different retail concept,” Wexler said. “Like, ‘people have to bring their bags of clothes to you, and you’re going to go through them and then give me money for it?’

“That first year was really tough. Was really, really tough. But we really fought for it.”

The tide soon turned – thanks in large part, Wexler says, to the wonders of social media. The store poured time and resources into their online presence – after all, with new items flowing into the store every day, there’s no shortage of eye candy to Instagram. The chain’s staff remains engaged, styling mini-photo shoots and fielding questions about an item’s size, price and availability. (A common sight in the comments: “omg can you hold this for me????”)

kind exchange toronto

The store’s following (online and in real life) grew, and buyers – and sellers – began flocking in, with folks dragging their bags of closet castoffs to Queen West from all over town. Eventually, the lightbulb went off.

Now, Wexler says, “We are opening stores because our customers would tell us, ‘You gotta have a store on the Danforth. You gotta have a store on Bloor Street. You gotta come to the Annex. Oh, The Beaches — this is perfect for the Beaches.’ It’s the best way to grow.”

Most clothing boutiques, naturally, are content to let people come to them – their stock would be the same anywhere in town, and one location is often enough for a small business to manage. But if you’re cleaning out your closet, the convenience factor of having a consignment store just down the street where you can drop off your old threads is a powerful draw.

“Let’s not pretend Toronto is an easy city to drive around, OK? So if I have people coming from the Beaches down to Queen West to sell their clothing and be part of it, then I’m going to go to the Beaches.”

There’s another built-in bonus to rapid expansion that comes with the business model. “What it does allow me to do, is I can buy at my current stores for new stores,” Wexler says. “I might be able to buy 100 items at Bloor St. in the Annex for a new store in the Beaches. … They can sort of feed off each other, which is great.”

Kind Exchange Toronto

The Kind Exchange’s popularity isn’t the only indicator of Toronto’s current appetite for cheaper clothing (or, perhaps, a desire to spin closet items into cash during lean times in an already-expensive city). On the same stretch of Queen St. West as the original Kind Exchange, there’s Fashionably Yours,Consign Toronto, and the soon-to-open Garb – though the bulk of the city’s other consignment stores focus on name-brand and designer items (Common Sort is a notable exception to the rule).

“The high-end market is great – that’s its own world,” Wexler says. “I came from high-end designer consignment, and I think there’s a world for that, too, but I really want to be applicable to everybody.”

In the wake of its rapid expansion, the chain’s next moves include a revamped website that’ll include clearer directions to prospective sellers, so they know what each store is and isn’t accepting at the moment (thereby avoiding disappointment when you cart a bag of black pants to a store already brimming with extra pairs).

But even after all this growth, Wexler says, the company is far from done – in fact, he’s still looking for location suggestions. “Where would you want to have a Kind Exchange — from Vancouver to PEI?

“Send us an email. Tweet at us. Come say hi.”

Store photos by Erin Jones. Outfit photos via The Kind Exchange on Instagram.

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Fashion Trends for Spring 2014

Time to put the parka and winter boots away, spring is finally here! We’re so excited for the warmer weather that we thought we’d celebrate with a list of trends we’re looking forward to this spring. 

Our Favorite Fashion Trends for Spring 2014

We’re looking forward to bright prints, crop tops, chunky heels and high-waisted everything. It’s time for the ’90s to shine again…

Trend #1 – Crop Tops

KindExchangeCropTopSpring

(Image Created via Polyvore)

Crop tops are back – and they’re bigger than ever. We have a feeling the streets of Toronto will be seeing the most midriffs since ’99. Not sure if crop tops are your thing? Try finding one that falls about an inch higher than your favorite high-waisted skirt or jeans.

 

Trend #2 – Grunge

 

KindExchangeGrungeSpring

(Image Created via Polyvore)

On the topic of the ’90s – grunge is still going strong. Whether it’s plaid shirts, bleached denim or chunky boots – the look is here to stay. Want a quick way to achieve this look? Pair a distressed or graphic tee with some vintage denim and chunky heels or combat boots.

 

Trend #3 – Kimonos

KindExchangeKimonosSpring

(Image Created via Polyvore)

A huge theme we’ve been noticing among summer festival outfits is the kimono type shirt. Not exactly the traditional Japanese garment, but more of a homage to its loose fit and exquisite patterning. A kimono works great as a layering piece and comes in all patterns, shapes and sizes.

Trend #4 – Prints

KindExchangePrintsSpring2014

(Image Created via Polyvore)

If it’s bold and it’s bright you can bank on it being hot this spring. Anything from crazy florals to galaxy prints to full blown leopard. Rawr. Not too crazy about crazy prints? Tone them down with a white jacket and simple bottoms.

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What spring trends are you looking forward to? Don’t forget – we’re still accepting trendy spring items for cash or trade! Also, three new Kind Exchange locations are popping up this spring! We’re now open in The Beaches at 1940 Queen Street East. And coming soon to 339 Roncevalles Avenue and 439 Danforth Avenue.

Kelly Kapowski might have some competition…

kk-crop-top   (source)

 

– The Kind Exchange

 

 

 

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