From closets to cash

Re-Fashion plans to reuse high-end fashion with a unique recycling event
Victoria Ronko, a partner in Re-Fashion, will stage the first event April 21 at the Yaletown Roundhouse

Thousands of Vancouver women have expensive, high-fashion clothing abandoned in their closets, according to Victoria Ronko, and she wants to liberate these pieces for a first-time-ever Re-Fashion sale this spring.

“You know how sometimes you buy clothes that you think are awesome, but then take them home and realize that you hate them?” Ronko asked, claiming it is a dilemma many women face.

“I have tons of clothes and shoes I’ve bought online that cost too much to return, or that I haven’t found an occasion to wear them.”

Ronko’s solution: set up a giant fashion sale in Yaletown and let women sell their unwanted fashions directly to other women.

“Think of it as spring cleaning for your closet – you grab all the brand-new or nearly new clothes that you’ve never worn and are taking up space. Rent a table and sell them,” she explained.

According to Ronko, who began Re-Fashion with partner David Kelly, the liberating sales will also deflect a lot of clothing from landfills because many women toss clothing in the trash rather than deal with the hassle of reselling it.

“Many people living in condominiums don’t have the option of having a garage sale,” she said. She adds that fashion consignment stores often want 50% or more of any sale price.

Ronko’s first Re-Fashion event, to be held April 21 at the Yaletown Roundhouse Exhibition Hall, is aimed exclusively at those selling quality, high-end fashion (read expensive brand name) clothing, shoes and accessories.

“Our guideline is that if you’ve worn it more than three times, you can’t sell it at Re-Fashion,” she said.

Ronco and Kelly are local designers who, while working full-time jobs, also run Divina Denuevo, a leather accessories line that focuses on reusing antique and vintage hardware as adornments. When they debuted their line at Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week last October, they took the Excellence in Design award, along with a U.S. distribution deal.

Ronko concedes they started Re-Fashion on a shoestring. Funding the event out of their own pockets, the pair is hoping to attract sponsors who might loan clothing racks, mirrors and change rooms.

They also plan to invite a salon to offer mini-hair makeovers, turning the event into something “more akin to a shopping party,” Ronko explained.

Re-Fashion will charge clothing sellers $60 to rent table space at the event. “If it works I can see it becoming an annual event in Vancouver, perhaps even setting up in other cities,” Ronko said.

But retail consultant David Ian Gray notes Re-Fashion may prove a tough sell.

“The idea of repurpose is interesting, but this concept is not,” Gray said, noting that women could sell their unwanted fashion items on line, through Craigslist for example, or from their home.

Audrey Hubbart, who owns Dragon & Phoenix, a consignment store that has sold designer clothing for 30 years from her Kerrisdale location, however, said the Re-Fashion idea could be a winner.

“It is a great concept there is no question about it,” she said. “That is what women do now.”

Dragon & Phoenix specializes in high-end fashions, marking clothing down about one-third from the retail price and paying the seller 40% of the final sale price. “The consignment fashion market has survived very well, despite economic conditions,” Hubbart said.

The deadline for submitting re-sale fashions is March 21 and Ronko is marketing the first Re-Fashion using “crowd marketing” by promoting the event through social media.

“So far, the response has been tremendous,” she said. •

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