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Second-Hand Notions

The secondhand time is often the secret to staying fashionable and eco-conscious

FAST FASHION is like fast food. Though it’s a quick fix and wallet friendly, it has an inevitable consequence: excess.

In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a startling 9 billion tons of wearables are sent to landfills every year.

This environmental cost comes at the heels of one’s own closet malaise. For example, a once-beloved shirt falls dull and the “I have nothing to wear” fallacy begins again. Clothes are haphazardly tossed in the garbage or thrown in a bag and taken to a mass depository to spend their second life.

But every clothing purchase represents special times when one wanted to splurge a little—times when one wanted to make a change.

Clothes transform emotion into matter. At one time, the article of clothing made the wearer happy to wear, so it is quite feasible that someone else will rediscover its worth.

So instead of mindlessly discarding these items, many people are choosing to capitalize on their used garments through recycled apparel stores. Locally, Crossroads Trading Company and Moon Zooom exchange more closet space for a little extra cash.

Both stores have been trading for over a decade on the hallowed West San Carlos stretch in San Jose. Crossroads’ manager Jennifer Thomas attributes their overwhelming success to the store’s prime location. The proximity to Santana Row and Valley Fair Mall has assured them a continual flow of designer wear and name brands, she says.

“People who work in retail often sell things to us to keep up with their store’s own fashion,” says Thomas, as she sifts through a bag of their newly acquired fashion finds. “We have a good relationship with them.”

Crossroads will also happily go through one’s clothes for free. Once the articles are selected, the store will buy the clothes, paying either 35 percent of the original price in cash, or 50 percent in store credit. “We’re not like a thrift store, we’re more like an affordable boutique,” adds Crossroads employee Michael Medrano.

To maximize the value of one’s clothes when selling them secondhand, Thomas recommends keeping in mind each item’s currency (styles within the last year are worth more), condition and season, since Crossroads changes its concentration like any other store.

While places like Crossroads will take Forever 21, H&M and Marc Jacobs attire, Moon Zooom down the street is the place for attire you won’t likely find anyplace else. Crossroads’ charming antithesis, Moon Zooom (which celebrates its 25th anniversary this August) specializes in buying vintage clothing and costume-wear, sporting everything from ’50s, ’60s and ’80s paraphernalia to sky-high ’70s platform shoes and lavish fur coats.

“We’re not going to buy basic clothes,” explains store stylist Giana Scarpelli. “The uglier, the better. The crazier, the better. We have costuming people from Hollywood come in all the time and buy. We have people come in from Japan and San Francisco. San Jose, in general, is a great little corridor in the area of vintage stores.”

Scarpelli is talking about another local recycled store, Moon Zooom’s neighbor Black and Brown, a store that buys both vintage and current brands. There are definitely treasures to be found in their rare and eccentric collections. Another community favorite for recycled clothes is Park Place Vintage in Willow Glen, where shop owner Linda is not only a seasoned collector but also a professional seamstress who has been known to make something if she doesn’t carry it. If jewelry is really what one seeks, It’s a Girl Thing on Bird and Willow offers brilliant, secondhand jewelry at a fraction of the price. The owner also offers top price for those who wish to sell.

Although Goodwill and Salvation Army do not offer cash for clothes, they are perfect places to take clothes that cannot be sold. Defective clothes are sent to textile recyclers, who transform these would-be wastes into materials like cleaning rags and carpet pads. Both organizations also donate some of their wearable clothes donations to countries in Central America, where selling secondhand garments is a main income for many people.

There are plenty of places in the South Bay that are willing to breathe new life (and perhaps a little extra cash) into old clothes.

Crossroads Trading Company
1959 W. San Carlos St., San Jose