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Junkee owner talks Reno fashion

Junkee owner Jessica Schneider dressed Jordan Peterson in “Junkee style.”

Junkee owner Jessica Schneider dressed Jordan Peterson in “Junkee style.”

Photo/Sage Leehey

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Jessica Schneider opened Junkee Clothing Exchange in Midtown in June of 2008 and has been a part of developing Midtown ever since.

How has business been at Junkee recently?

It's been good. Junkee's been an awesome staple in Reno. It's taken a long time. It's over six years old and a lot of advertising, but we get tourists. … Some tourists are like, every time they come to Reno from Sacramento, San Francisco, they go to Junkee, which is very flattering. I'm very surprised how many people do that. It's—I don't know—it's good. It's not growing very substantially, but that's how business is. But we're definitely established finally. I remember the day I opened I rang up $120, the day I opened, with that big of a space, and I sat in the middle of the floor and bawled my head off. That's a true story. I was like, “What did I just do?”

Do you think Renoites shop at thrift or recycled clothing stores more than people do in other places?

No, I think they come for the atmosphere, and I think a lot of people who wouldn't junk or go to thrift stores go to Junkee, because I get a lot of older women. … I think that we're bringing customer service back. I think with box stores—I always use this as an example. When you go to a box store, and you wait 45 minutes for someone to mix up a gallon of paint or the little vest that says, “May I help you?” but it really doesn't mean that. The cool kids that know how to score that awesome '70s leather coat, they know to go to Savers, Goodwill, and they'll hit me up, too, but they're seasoned thrifters. I get your average person that will go to the mall and don't go to the mall because Junkee is an experience. … If you come in and look around, it's not what you think.

How do you think Junkee plays into the fashion scene in Reno?

I think Junkee makes you think outside the box. I think people will come in and maybe be inspired by how the mannequins are dressed just like if I look at an Anthropologie catalog or an Urban Outfitters catalog I get inspired. So I think that more cool stores like Junkee and the Red Chair and Plato's—they get inspired. If you're only inspired by Walmart, then you're not going to be inspired. That's why I always say it's important to shop local businesses. Neverender, every time I go in there, she's got the cutest stuff and I'm inspired. And it makes me think I might dress differently or you get exposed to that one little cute—I can't wear high-waisted stuff because I lived through the '90s, but I do think it's cute on girls. It's what you're exposed to in fashion. … I think people get inspired when they come to Junkee because it's OK to not match. It's OK to wear print on top of print. It's OK to wear three colors. I always wear three colors in an odd number, and I don't know why our moms told us you can only wear two colors. And you can wear black and brown together!

In your position, I'd imagine you get to see and hear about a lot of the changes in the fashion industry here.

Yeah. I go to Magic—the trade show that's in August and that shows the spring line, and the spring one shows the fall line. I go. I don't really buy much at Magic because I'm not a high-end boutique, but I go, along with like Paper Moon—a lot of the stores go. It's great. But I go to get inspired. That's the honest truth because I don't want to lose it because I'm 39. Prime example—I was telling the buyers about a year ago, “What are you doing?” She was taking these '90s Guess jeans that were really high-waisted, and she was cutting them up and rolling them into shorts. I'm like, “Really?” Maybe two years ago. And she was like 22, very stylish, so I'm very teachable, so I was like, “All right. You probably know something I don't know.” And then, when I went to Magic, I saw high-waisted floral like the '90s. I call it Saved by the Bell look because I was born in ’75. I wore high-waisted Guess jeans, so it’s just hard for me. And now I feel like one of those old people that are like, when I would wear grunge and corduroys in high school, and they’d be like, “I used to wear those.” And I’d roll my eyes. Now I’m like that. It’s just crazy to me that that Saved by the Bell look is back. But it always comes back differently, though. It always come back with a different edge, like an American flag T-shirt with high-waisted jeans, an American flag T-shirt that’s cut up all ratty. It always comes back different with fashion, I’ve noticed.

So working at Junkee, do you get to see a lot of the trends or try and forecast them?

Absolutely, absolutely. That's why I go to Magic. I can see it coming. And then the cool thing is with the staff—none of us are too cool, but, like, they're young girls. They're in college. They're in the midst of it. They go to the city. They'll never go to the city without going to Urban Outfitters, so they keep me on my toes. I learn from them. It's about keeping your eye and not becoming one of those old people. I mean, I'm always open to anything. I mean, I wouldn't wear butt cheek shorts at my age, but I think that if you just stop and listen, you can be inspired. … I do see some of the high schoolers with a bun on top of their head and sweats and slippers. I'm not really into that look. I think that you should make some effort when you get dressed in the morning, and if you just roll out of bed and you're dressed, then maybe you should re-think your outfit.

That's gotta be fun.

It is, and I'm pretty good about keeping my edge. I knew when steampunk was coming. I knew when the really hard core Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters look—I knew that was coming because I saw it, but really the '90s high-waisted look really threw me for a loop, but I'm still open to it. And when you're thin and have great legs, they look good. I'm not into high-waisted because it's hard for me to wear something above my belly button, but I'm glad that I'm not seeing everyone's ass crack. I'm so glad that's over. That was a long, flipping 15-year trend. Those tight hip-huggers where even if you're thin, your fat roll hung over. It looked uncomfortable, so I'm so glad that's over. So bring back the high-waisted. I didn't get it at first, but I'm open to it. And I think it's cute.

How do you think the fashion industry has changed over the last few years?

OK. This is my theory. So say you live in the Midwest, and there's a Walmart on every corner—I swear the supercenters are like five miles away from each other. But in San Francisco, there are no Walmarts, so you'll see an old man on a subway, and he'll have maybe Velcro shoes, but he'll have maybe real cool glasses because it's what he's exposed to. I think before Junkee and before Plato's and before all this blow up of Midtown—there's stores like the Nest and Red Chair and Neverender, and Black Hole has really stylish jewelry, and I think that the reason that we had a fashion movement is because we were exposed and inspired. That's the way it is. That's the way human nature is. So before we had five Walmarts, no Junkee, no Plato's Closet—we only had the mall. We only had the Gap. There's nothing wrong with that, but we didn't even have an Urban Outfitters. What were we getting inspired by? Dillards? I really think people who had a fashion mind or that go to the city and see H&M or Crossroads or all those stores on Haight Street, they come back and dress different because they're really inspired, and then you lose it because you didn't get inspired in Reno. And now you can just go in anywhere and get inspired. … That's why in downtown New York City you won't see some girl with sweats on in slippers with a bun on her head. You won't see that in San Francisco either because even that old man with Velcro shoes, who's 81 years old, he still was exposed to a cool selection when he bought his glasses. He didn't go to the Walmart eye exam and only have to deal with shitty glasses. That's my theory.