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Stores Selling Recycled Fashions Proliferate

Resale clothing stores were recycling long before the term “green” became popular. No matter whether it’s a hip pre-used clothing store, thrift shop, or one that re-sells movie industry wardrobes, these businesses keep a lot of waste out of local landfills. “We’re giving people a place to recycle clothes rather than throwing them into the landfill,” says Monika DeClay, store manager of Buffalo Exchange in Sherman Oaks. “It’s important for customers to understand that they’re doing a service by re-selling.” Valley stores such as Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Co. in Studio City, and Reel Clothes & Props in Sunland, say business is good in the down economy. And the fact that “green” is in, adds to their appeal. Nationally, 78 percent of the members of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops reported sales increased at an average rate of 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to Q4 2007. The association says 82.3 percent of stores experienced an increase in new customers during the same period. Buffalo Exchange buys, sells and trades new and used clothes directly from consumers and has 35 stores in the U.S. The Sherman Oaks branch, located on a trendy stretch of Ventura Blvd., purchases clothes from hundreds of people per day. It also donates non-sellable clothes to local charities seven days a week, says DeClay. “Especially in the down economy you have people coming in who would have never come in before,” says DeClay, adding the demographic runs the gamut from fashion savvy teens to men and parents shopping for themselves and their kids. The common thread is people wanting quality clothes at a good price. “New clothes are too expensive and new clothes are ugly,” says 20-year-old Claudia Varoujan as she shops at Buffalo Exchange. “I don’t want to spend more than $15 on one item even though sometimes I have to cull through the racks to find the good buys.” Resale stores are also more likely to carry her 00 size, she adds. Crossroads Trading Co. on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City also buys, sells and trades directly from consumers. Customers have a choice of getting cash back or store credit for items they bring in. Clothing is typically re-sold for about a third of its new retail price. The company has 24 locations in the U.S. and prides itself on being up on the latest fashion trends, says Lia Finkelstein of Crossroads Trading Co. “People come here for the brand names, and we offer a place where they can sell those same labels,” says Finkelstein. “I think it’s shifting people’s shopping paradigm to one where it’s OK to buy second-hand. People are learning how to shop smart and recycle by recycling their own wardrobe.” She says buying directly from consumers keeps the store’s inventory fresh. “You have a new store daily,” says Finkelstein. And overall sales for the company are up about 10 percent. Film and television productions cycle through a lot of clothes. And in the old days, once a production halted, a lot of the clothes and props were tossed into the landfill, says Lennard Billin, owner of Reel Clothes & Props in Sunland. These days, production companies are much savvier about re-selling clothes, and the popularity of “green” has helped, he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of clothes getting recycled,” says Billin. “But the green at issue is primarily money, because companies see they can reap some ancillary benefit by selling stuff versus tossing it in the landfill.” Billin used to operate retail stores in the L.A. area, but scaled his business back to just the Internet and selling items on eBay. Regardless, he says his merchandise appeals to movie aficionados looking for collectibles, fashionistas looking for a good deal, and others who just want high-quality clothing. “Sometimes people see something that’s the right size and it’s less expensive than the original (retail price),” says Billin. “But if it’s Gucci, it’s Gucci.”

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