One of the many great joys in my life is saving big on designer purchases. How do I do it? I shop consignment, of course. While it might not be the most glamorous way to add to my high-end shoe and handbag collection, it certainly gets the job done for a fraction of the retail price. Plus, you’re basically saving the planet because it keeps other people’s hand-offs out of landfills. You can thank me later, Mother Nature. Toronto is filled with some of the best designer consignment shops, but the newest one on the block, you ask? It’s CLOC.
CLOC, which stands for Closed Loop, Open Closet, has just opened its brand new pop-up at Toronto’s stackt market and yes, you need to check it out. The store’s retail concept is to make shopping designer and contemporary consignment much more accessible; so many other high-end stores can be too stiff and you’re scared to even touch the merchandise. You can expect to shop everything — from handbags, apparel, outerwear, accessories, footwear — and more from brands, like Givenchy, Frame, Marc Jacobs, Allsaints, and Oscar de la Renta to name a few. Trust me — this is the place to go for some of those hard-to-find designer goodies.
I had a chance to explore and shop at CLOC, as well as sit down with owners Jenny Aaron and Lori Grossman about not only what it’s been like opening a pop-up during a pandemic but also tips on how to shop a consignment store like a pro!
Blair Stutz: Huge congrats on all the success and opening the pop-up — what is it that sets CLOC apart from other designer consignment stores out there?
Lori Grossman & Jenny Aaron: Thank you, it’s been incredibly rewarding finally having a space to meet and interact with our customers. We are definitely the new kids on the consignment block in Toronto, and there’s no question we’re in really great company.
When we were conceptualizing CLOC, we were looking at the way the resale market has been maturing over the last few years. And within the Toronto-based shops, we felt there was room for a shop focused on a younger market with a more accessible offering. While we feature mostly contemporary and bridge brands, we have pieces that run the gamut from Zara to Oscar de la Renta, as we want to provide a shopping experience that makes everyone feel that there’s something for them. And while we take fashion as a serious business, we truly believe that shopping should be fun. Our goal has always been to have a space that feels inclusive, relaxed, and just enjoyable to be in. There’s always a reason to visit the CLOC Closet no matter what your style, budget, or mood.
BS: CLOC was launched in December 2020 in the midst of all this COVID craziness, and now you’ve just opened the stackt pop-up. What’s it been like navigating the intricacies of operating a business during this crazy time?
LG & JA: It’s a lot, but exciting! The unknowns and shifting landscape have probably been the hardest part. COVID has definitely been a consideration, not only with regard to opening a physical space given the extended retail shutdown and capacity limits but also on how this massive thing we’ve all been through has affected how and what people are purchasing. The world has significantly shifted from when we originally started conceptualizing CLOC before the pandemic. So, like everyone, we’ve had to pivot and adapt more than once.
BS: What are the main differences between operating an online store versus a brick-and-mortar store?
LG & JA: The biggest difference between being in a [physical] space versus online is being able to interact with people. It’s been great to be able to welcome people into CLOC. We really believe that there is someone for every piece in the CLOC Closet, and it’s been such fun to see which items people connect with.
It might sound a bit corny, but it feels as though all these clothes have a story; they came from someone and had a life before CLOC. Now that we’re in a space and interacting directly with who’s buying them, we get to see how the journey continues. And as our goal is to participate and help others participate in the second-hand economy, it’s really satisfying to see that come to fruition.
While shopcloc.com remains an important and integral part of our business, fulfilling online orders isn’t quite the same.
BS: I feel like even 10 years ago, shopping at a consignment store was almost “looked down” on. Why do you think shopping designer consignment is growing so much in popularity?
LG & JA: We think two factors really converged over the last few years that have driven the popularity of consignment and resale. One is our collective understanding of the human and environmental costs of the fashion industry. There’s no question that this has led us to re-examine the choices we make when it comes to what we purchase. Consumers are starting to realize that the actual cost of an item can be much higher than the price on the tag.
It goes without saying that technology has also been a super important player in the growth of resale and its relevance to the everyday shopper. The different platforms have enabled anyone to easily sell their own items either directly to other consumers or to a reseller. And that has resulted in a massive increase in available stock. In fact, a 2020 McKinsey & Company industry report included this comment by Max Bittner, CEO of Vestiaire Collection: “There is somewhere between half a trillion and a trillion dollars’ worth of luxury goods in people’s closets, and probably half of it is unworn.” Isn’t It unbelievable to think that all those goods already exist?
We think the growth in popularity comes from the ease with which one can participate in the second-hand economy and the understanding that even buying one item secondhand a year can have an impact. There has been a real attitudinal shift. Buying something secondhand is no longer second best; it’s now a real consideration and often even a badge of honour. This has an impact on what consumers are drawn to in the retail environment.
BS: Do you have any favourite pieces in-store?
JA: Well, my absolute favourite piece walked out the door last week; it was a fur vest by Line the Label (one of my favourite Canadian brands). I’ll be honest, I was a little sad to see it go. And now I’d say I’ve got my eye on this amazing white Equipment dress that would be perfect for a casual wedding.
LG: Without a doubt, it’s this stunning Gucci cardigan that’s a real show-stopper. The craftsmanship is unreal. It’s made of metalized thread (and I’m a magpie, so drawn to anything shiny), has a pink lace peter-pan collar, and is finished with Gucci’s signature ribbed knit trim in red and blue. It’s a true wow piece and since it’s a few seasons old now, you definitely would be hard-pressed to find this anywhere.
BS: What advice would you give someone looking to enter the consignment space?
LG & JA: There are definitely a few things that have really helped us in this journey. The first is being clear on who we were from the beginning; we knew we wanted to focus on contemporary and bridge brands and to provide pieces that were in impeccable condition. There are so many different segments to the resale clothing market — vintage, luxury, contemporary, mass-market brands, thrifting — it’s helpful to have a consistent lens through which to view product acquisition decisions.
It’s also super important to have a robust data management program that tracks inventory, transactions, and payouts to individual accounts and has the proper front-end integrations. Even if you start out with just a few consignors and items, spreadsheets won’t cut it as you scale. It’s really best to do your homework and set things up properly from the beginning.
And then not even directly tied to consignment but any new business, it’s important to really define one’s brand; to ensure clarity not only on what business you’re in but why you’re in it. Going through a proper branding exercise provides a north star that’s integral to creating and growing a business.
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BS: Do you have any consignment shopping tips?
LG & JA: Our best advice is to be open to what you come across. One of our favourite aspects about consignment is the notion of discovery and the level of experimentation the price point often delivers. You never know what you might find, so always be ready [for] shopping fate to take hold. And most importantly, don’t wait on it. There’s only one of anything, and it may not be there tomorrow.
BS: What are some of the things you look at when adding new items to the store? What should folks keep in mind if they’re considering consigning an item?
LG & JA: Condition is first and foremost for us. If an item isn’t in good enough condition that a consignor wouldn’t consider buying it themselves, there’s no way we’ll add it to the CLOC Closet. We also acquire seasonally, just before and during the beginning of a season.
We want to stay true to our remit of having something for everyone. Therefore, [we] are conscious of creating an enticing portfolio of brands that have a breadth of appeal for our targeted demographic. We love the element of discovery when it comes to consignment shopping, so we source items with that in mind. Even if a brand is not so well known but an item is on-trend, we will definitely consider taking it. We also dabble in taking the odd brand that doesn’t exist anymore (i.e. Marc by Marc Jacobs) because there is a cache in owning a little piece of the past.
CLOC is open at stackt market every day from 12 p.m. until 7 p.m. until October 31.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Blair Stutz)