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Renewable fashion: Back-to-school shoppers turn to recycle store

By Kathy Cook HunterJosie Christensen, left, and Pam Altree, co-owners of The Clothes Garden, say budget-conscious shoppers are coming into recycle stores to find treasures at lower cost.

Reasonable prices, designer labels and creative and unusual clothing are a few of the factors causing The Clothes Garden in Silverton to see booming business, especially for back-to-school shopping.

Girls and boys from small to large are finding what they need at resale stores and so are their moms, said The Clothes Garden’s co-owner Josie Christensen.

“In the past, there have been some savvy college students in here from Seattle and California,” Christensen said.

Her business partner, Pam Altree, agrees.

“They think our prices are so much lower than other resale places,” she said.

Resale shopping is something like looking for a pirate’s treasure chest.

“It’s a new dimension,” Christensen said. “Part of the fun is the ‘score’ of finding something for a fraction of the retail price and it’s not just fun, it’s invigorating.”

The Clothes Garden
301 E. Main St., Silverton
Monday – Saturday,
11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Women who know their designer labels can find them at consignment and resale shops, Altree said, adding the secret to finding designer labels is to systematically go through every rack and shelf.

“We work with people to bring in their high-end clothes that are gently used but with a good label because they’ll make more money off it,” Altree said. “We are very particular about what we take so it will be worth the consignor’s effort to bring it in. It works out that the customer has a bargain and everyone is happy.”

The current owners celebrated four years in business in August, years with a lot of fun, Christensen said. “We even name our mannequins,” she laughed.

For the high-school students, there’s a rack called Trendy Juniors. Moms often come in with their teens, guiding them where to look.

As wise shoppers, they end up buying more clothing and getting more for their money.

Young girls like the jeans, shirts and sweaters, swimsuits and cover-ups and shoes. “Shoes are something a lot of women don’t wear very long because they didn’t take the time when they were buying and they don’t work out for them,” Christensen said. “We’re very particular,” Altree said, “and the bottom must have no imprint and not show wear.”

Businesswomen Molly Ainsley and Suzie Couraud are regulars at The Clothes Garden.

“I love it,” said Ainsley. “I don’t come in often enough.”

Couraud said her 14-year-old daughter, Alexandra, “likes to do the resale thing. She likes to be original and not wear the same thing everyone else is wearing down the school halls. It’s also important that she gets a certain amount of money to spend, and at a resale store she can get three or four times what she would spend at a mall. I think it’s a good lesson for kids.”

Prom dresses and costumes bring in shoppers, the two owners say. Formal dresses range in price from $18 to $25, depending on quality and construction. “I do feel for a lot of people it’s the first stop for prom dresses and the last stop after they’ve looked elsewhere,” Christensen said.

This is a way to lessen parents’ clothing costs, since youths no longer can work in the fields to raise the money for school clothes or formalwear, she said.

Customer Kathy Barnes of Silverton, her two grandchildren in tow, left with bag in hand. “I look for something that is a bargain,” Barnes said.

“They grow so fast. You can get a lot for your money when you come and buy used clothing.”

Creating a unique fashion statement
Pam Altree’s side business at The Clothes Garden is taking resale finds, cutting them up and sewing them into new designs called Rethreadz.

“They’re things that are a little different, one-of-a-kind, recycled clothes,” Altree said. Using men’s ties, Altree designs women’s skirts or cropped pants with a tie insert down the side.

Her unfitted sundresses are made of two coordinating fabrics, the top section in a pink dot, perhaps, while the skirt section is a pink paisley.

“Rethreadz have been really popular for all ages,” co-owner Josie Christensen said, and Altree added, “From young girls to older women.”

In June, the store put on a Rethreadz fashion show directed at high-school girls, and they plan another soon showcasing Altree’s fall line.

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