NEW YORK — Always asking herself how to conserve natural resources and raw materials to spare the environment, Jussara Lee will unveil a “Hand Me Up” pop-up thrift store next month.
After reading that the average American doesn’t wear 75 percent of what’s in his or her closet, Lee decided unused clothing would be the resource for the April 22 shop at her Bedford Street boutique. An assortment of gently used designer labels and brands including some of her own that she has repurposed will be sold. To keep things manageable, two of Lee’s clients each donated about 50 items to resell. “I’m trying to keep things at bay because we have a small operation and a small studio,” she said. “I have a lineup of clients and as soon as I start talking about it, they say, ‘Oh my God, please come to my closet.’”
Trying to attract younger shoppers, Lee said everything will be sold for under $250 and most of the items will have double-digit price tags. Making the point that even a $250 item would “have to be some amazing item like Comme des Garçons” to deserve such a price, Lee said, “The idea is really to give an option to people who can only shop at fast fashion. This is meant to make people feel better and these clothes are actually much better than what they sell at the Zaras of the world.”
Committed to slow fashion and designing wardrobe staples that need no replacing from one season to the next, Lee also offers a closet-winnowing service to her clients. “We hear from people all the time that it’s a little hard in the beginning. But once you’re through it, you decide you also want to do that with your paperwork, your kitchen and everything else in your life. It is so much better for your psyche and your well-being. Energy flows better — you don’t have so much to manage,” Lee said.
She aims to have a similar pop-up reselling her clients’ tweaked clothes once a month in order to make it an integral part of her company’s business model. “Then we’ll see — maybe that will be all we will do, because it has been so much fun. It really has been so enjoyable to see that you are saving a little piece of the world in the process. It’s creative and not contrived,” she said. “If there is acceptance and people like what we’re doing, we will continue. I think they will. I’m pretty difficult and I don’t like anything.”
Her staff’s eagerness to buy many of the retooled items has made her confident about the concept’s soundness. “We actually have to not allow them to buy anything before it goes into the pop-up,” she said. “You really just put a bit of hand stitching and the thing just comes to life.”