Thoughtful threads

Downtown Chico sees a revival of used-clothing boutiques

FASHION RENAISSANCE <br> Three Sixty Ecotique owners Lorna Hillman (left) and Crystena Hemingway focus on vintage pieces at their downtown Chico shop.

Three Sixty Ecotique owners Lorna Hillman (left) and Crystena Hemingway focus on vintage pieces at their downtown Chico shop.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Second-hand clothing has long constituted sartorial bliss for the local hippie contingent, but with the recession bearing down hard on pocketbooks, these stores have sprung up around downtown Chico like toadstools on a lawn.

Now people of all fashion persuasions seek out used apparel, and not only because of finances—helping save the planet by reducing consumerism is en vogue. While these shops share the commonalty of recycling, reusing and making Chico more eco-friendly, they also bear notable differences.

Recycle with Style, a consignment store offering men’s and women’s apparel, took up residence early this year on East Third Street across from Mountain Sports.

Owner Tammy Austin and her teenage daughter Raquel sell mostly mall brands—what teens prefer—offering parents and other clients the opportunity to purchase such items affordably, and at the same time educating them on the importance of reusing and recycling.

No one can argue, Tammy said, that a pair of Lucky jeans for less than $40 is a great deal. Similar name-brand items sell alongside local designer Alex Eaves’ used T-shirts screen-printed with eco slogans.

“We’re a place for teens and college kids who want to clean out their closets, recycle old stuff, and get some new ‘used’ stuff for great prices,” she said.

Raquel, a sophomore at Pleasant Valley High School, came up with the idea to open the store for a senior project, a plan she conceived while in a home-schooling program. The shop also serves to accomplish goals with local youth, such as providing positive first work experiences through volunteer positions.

Tammy, who has a background in graphics and marketing, pointed out that the owners of downtown used-clothing shops communicate with one another and view each business as providing options or choices for the community. In fact, she is putting together a walking-tour map of the downtown second-hand stores.

The women find some of their merchandise during outings to metro cities, including San Francisco, picking up clothes, jewelry and other accessories.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Vintage lovers will want to check out Three Sixty Ecotique, which opened in March in a space just a couple of doors down from Has Beans on Main Street.

Owners Crystena Hemingway and Lorna Hillman make frequent buying trips to San Francisco and other big cities to bring back distinctive, good-quality second-hand pieces, including jewelry, shoes and whimsical accessories. Their merchandise includes many gently used designer and upper-end brands, and they take clothing for cash or credit on Tuesdays.

“We offer a lot of contemporary fashions, too,” said Hemingway, noting that the shop offers both men’s and women’s clothing, including creations by local designers. “We operate on the principle that it’s important to be conscious about where you put your money, as well as dress in your own style,” she said.

Hemingway said there’s no need to drop $70 at the mall or overpriced stores for a nice-quality shirt that can be bought for $20 or less second-hand.

Naming the business is the product of wordplay on Hillman’s part—Three Sixty is a circle, a turnaround, while Ecotique combines ecology and boutique. The women envision expanding their shop to display more merchandise, including a larger men’s section to meet a growing demand.

One of the most inventive second-hand shops downtown is GreenDot Designer’s Lounge located on the 500 block of Broadway. The shop, which opened three years ago, offers a recycled-clothing boutique as well as a studio where sisters Kris Nunes and Julie DeMaggio teach increasingly popular sewing classes, including a summer sewing camp for kids. Patrons pay for the use of sewing machines and receive help with their projects. Beginning sewers are welcome.

GreenDot is a different type of second-hand clothing shop, since it offers re-constructed clothing—garments made by area designers who create them from used materials—as well as fashions the sisters make from recycled resources. The shop takes hand-made consignments, too.

“It’s all about reusing and re-purposing,” said DeMaggio, a Butte College fashion instructor. “Most of the designers we work with are ‘re-fashioning’ in various ways.”

FAMILY AFFAIR <br /> Third Street’s Recycle with Style is run by the mother-daughter duo of Tammy and Raquel Austin.

Photo courtesy of recycle with style

Almost New and Fun Stuff 2!, which is scheduled to open this week, is the newest kid on the block, located a few doors down from GreenDot. The downtown shop sports bright, freshly painted walls and well-organized racks of clothing, jewelry and accessories for men, women and children, along with household items and fun knick-knacks.

Mother-daughter team Linda Silk and Geri Fisher said all of their merchandise is in good condition and clean, with nothing priced more than $20.

“We want to be reasonable so people can purchase decent items that are affordable,” Silk said.

She and her daughter have always done second-hand shopping, she said, and they like reusing and recycling. The new shop offers a good perk for moms: an area with clean toys where kids can play.

BOHO, on West Second Street next to Naked Lounge, offers an eclectic array of men’s and women’s fashions, focusing on consignment.

Owned and operated by Monica “Mona” Prather, who has a sharp eye for contemporary couture and trends, the shop includes affordable second-hand clothing as well as pieces by a wide array of local clothing and jewelry designers, including Molly McNally, Erin Lizardo and Amber Bass.

Prather called BOHO a work in progress, adding that it may take another year to refine what merchandise she offers. Shoppers can take clothes to the store for cash or credit. Well-received by college-aged clients as well as older patrons, the shop offers the widest variety of consigned goods in the downtown second-hand scene.

Prather, who attended college for a number of years and worked for a local bar while raising her now-preteen son, said owning a used-clothing store had long been her dream.

“I would always rather buy something used than something new,” she said.