How to score serious sustainable style for less — west of the 405.
Rachel Sarnoff, aka “Mommy Greenest” will be writing LA Green(est) each month, bringing you useful tips on living sustainably here in Los Angeles
I first started thrifting in high school because it was the most affordable way to shop on a minimum-wage budget. My favorite store was Aardvark in Venice, where the racks were full of vintage items — floral dresses from the fifties and cashmere crewnecks with just the tiniest moth holes that could be fixed with a needle and thread. We weren’t thinking about it then, but thrifting is seriously sustainable.
And if you hope to save money, think about this: Preloved items can sell for ninety percent less than retail. I’ve been exclusively secondhand for more than a decade, upgrading my closet for a fraction of what I would pay in a boutique.
Before shopping, I scour my closet for things I haven’t worn in a few months and bring those in to sell, which offsets the cost of what I buy. I make sure to check online to see what the store is taking in and store the pieces in a drawer if they’re not suitable — for example, with spring right around the corner, nobody is buying wool.
However, there is one drawback: It’s difficult for salespeople to determine wear and tear on a preworn item, so most stores don’t take returns. If you’re not one hundred percent in love with a piece, ask about the return policy before you buy it. Also, you absolutely positively must wash everything before you put it in your closet or on your body. No exceptions — even if it still has original tags. Thrift stores don’t wash clothes before they put them on the racks, and they have no way of knowing if an item is clean except for a quick visual inspection. When it comes to textiles, bedbugs are always a possibility, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ready to try? Some of my favorite thrift shops are west of the 405. Take a tour!
Crossroads Trading Company in Culver City, $$
Crossroads is a national chain, but each store has a unique character, and the Culver City location is the newest in Los Angeles. If you’ve never thrifted before, this is a great place to start! It’s a large space with beautiful natural light and great music from old school hip hop to Americana; you’ll find a lot of upscale mall brands here mixed with designer pieces.
If you’re selling, make sure to peruse their website first so you know what’s on trend and in season; they pay thirty percent in cash or fifty percent in trade. You can download their Waitlist App to get notified when it’s time to sell — if you’re dropping in, avoid peak times like weekends and early evening because the wait can be an hour.
There’s a round rack at the front where clothing is organized by trend, as well as a designer rack at the back where you can find labels like Missoni and Chanel. Don’t forget to check out the accessories — I once found a suede Clare V. tote tucked into a corner! The dressing rooms are spotless and the staff is friendly and patient, even if you roll up with twenty hangers on your arm.
Crossroads has several other local stores, so they move inventory around so it never gets stale. There’s also a giant parking lot in the front, and Lodge Bread is just across the street, if you need sustenance.
The Closet Trading Company in Santa Monica, $$$$
Now franchised across the country, one of the original Closets is on Main Street — and this one is still owned by Johanna Zlenko, the brand’s visionary founder. These stores work on a consignment model and the offerings skew more designer and slightly more expensive than a thrift shop like Crossroads, but still significantly less than you’d pay in a retail boutique.
On the well-organized and highly curated racks, you’ll find Free People to Frye, Jimmy Choo to Isabel Marant. You can also shop accessories and shoes online: At press time, an iconic Tiffany silver bean necklace was priced at $198 — versus $350 at the retail store — and yes, it comes with the little blue bag.
If you want to sell at the Closet, you’ll need to do some prep work. First, check out the Designer Index section of their website, which tells you the brands they love — as well as those they won’t take. Then, fill out their Consignor Agreement. From there, it’s super easy: You drop off your bag of clothes (or schedule a pickup), their buyers go through and pick what they like, and they price it to sell in the store. If your item sells, the percentage you receive — as trade or cash — is tiered: forty percent for up to $199, and eighty percent if the item is $5,000 or more.
St. Matthews Thrift Shop in Santa Monica, $
This is an old-school thrift shop full of donated items, including housewares and furniture, where you can find some excellent sartorial selections at rock-bottom prices. Labels run the gamut from fast fashion to designer to authentically vintage. Shirts are priced as low as $10 and dresses can be less than $20. At these prices, this is the place to indulge a fashion fantasy.
One shopper snapped up an oversized cherry-red, vintage Western shirt with pearl buttons and embroidered damask shoulder roses to wear as a jacket. I spotted black and white spiked Roger Vivier jacquard cloth heels with giant wooden buckles on the toes and a workout-worthy sweatshirt with BE NICE written across the chest.
Run entirely by volunteers, St. Matthew’s is the nonprofit thrift shop arm of the Episcopal Church in Pacific Palisades. All proceeds are donated to local charities including the Venice Family Clinic, and a Safe Place for Youth.
Happy sustainable shopping!