Three ‘R’ words symbolize the environmental movement: reduce, reuse and recycle. ReThreads, the name of the 2009 newcomer to the State Street repertoire, arguably adds a fourth word to these popular three.
The ReThreads store, owned by Ike Isaacson, offers a fresh perspective on the idea of “buying green.” Expensive organic fabrics may deter individuals from considering Mother Earth when the mood to shop strikes. The ReThreads alternative enables students and members of the community to help reduce the impact of fashion on the environment without sacrificing affordability.
ReThreads expands the definition of recycling from paper, plastic and glass to trendy women and men’s clothes. Through ReThreads, individuals can sell their clothes, preferably high-end or commercial brands like Express, and receive store credit or money in return.
“ReThreads is a really great store for people who are looking to help the environment,” manager Natasha Poepping said. “It’s recycling your clothing, but yet it’s still affordable.”
College students play an integral part in the success of ReThreads.
“It seems like a lot of the college students and even the grad students and the older crowd have a lot of designer clothes to sell,” Poepping said.
The upper-echelon brands of the time frequent the ReThreads inventory. With a selection including the brands 7 for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Lucky Brand, Free People and Anthropologie, ReThreads differentiates itself from the common perception of a thrift store.
ReThreads situates itself between the pricy elegance and teen-driven atmospheres of other consignment stores in Madison, respectively the Pink Poodle and Plato’s Closet. The store maintains a balanced selection that celebrates the fashion of the past while allowing consumers to remain in vogue with the season’s latest looks.
“Vintage [selection] is probably 20 to 25 percent, designer is probably 10 to 15, and 50 to 60 is just regular, you know Gap,” Poepping estimated.
“I think we’re really the only one appealing to the college crowd,” said Poepping, explaining how ReThreads embraces its strength: proximity to UW-Madison. “We have competition, but it’s not hard competition. We have our own little niche.”
The college and graduate age clientele perfectly match the mature but hip ReThreads aesthetic.
“Our target age market is from early twenties to mid thirties to even early forties,” Poepping said.
ReThreads evolved as a concept to best fit the burgeoning college market.
“At first we thought it was going to be more vintage stuff, then we realized the modern clothes are what sells a little bit better, and the designer stuff sells really well,” Poepping said.
Prints channeling the vibrancy of Andy Warhol decorate the walls of the space and contrast the gilded sophistication of the ceiling. Though it is situated on State Street, the eco-boutique appears more like an extension of Paris Fashion week with labels like Marc Jacobs hanging on the racks.
“We have a Chlo? dress, which is exciting,” Poepping smiled.
ReThreads opened its doors five and a half months ago and has since found a welcoming reception on State Street where intense foot traffic provides the exposure essential to any new business.
“It’s almost like just being on State Street is the best place to be,” Poepping remarked.
ReThreads seamlessly suited the Madison community since its doors opened.
“During the first week, we knew it was going to do really well,” Poepping said. “We get really good feedback all the time. People seem to be really thankful that the store is here and seem to really enjoy it.”
ReThreads saw its concept and exchange procedures adapt in their early months of business.
“When we first started, we weren’t that picky about what we were taking, then in November, early December we ran into some problems. We took way too many items with really small condition issues,” Poepping said.
The employees of ReThreads quickly learned the benefits of selective practices.
“We don’t take anything with any kind of condition issues like stains, or holes, or rips, or anything like that, and we try to only take things that have been out of the retail stores in the last two years for modern clothing,” Poepping detailed. “For our vintage clothing, we only take things from the 1930s to the 1970s, and it has to be a good cut. It has to be flattering.”
ReThreads seeks to create a high fashion atmosphere with reasonably priced clothes that have a place either in class or the latest oxygen bar in New York City.
“We want [the store] to be hip and cool, but we don’t want it to be too trendy where people may feel uncomfortable or that they’re not trendy enough,” Poepping surmised.
ReThreads has reinvented its marketing strategy to draw new customers into the space. Poepping attributes much of the recent interest in the store to advertisements placed in the Isthmus, Brava, Daily Cardinal, Madison Magazine, Badger Herald and Badger Radio WSUM.
ReThreads embodies the concept of renewal that defines the environmental movement and creates a connection between those that sell, buy and trade at the store. One particular story demonstrates the intimacy of the Madison area and the cyclical property of fashion.
“A girl came into sell her clothes.,” Poepping recounted. She was probably in her early twenties. A dress we were holding behind the counter for repairs ended up being one she wore in junior high that her grandma made for her. Her grandma got the material from Mexico. They donated it to Saint Vincent de Paul, and someone must have picked it up there and then brought it here.”
In its short time as a local business, ReThreads has successfully united patrons and impacted the global green movement.
“Even though it’s just a small business, every little thing helps when it comes to helping the environment,” Poepping said.” So, this is just one little step in the big perspective.”
Stop by ReThreads at 410 State St. and let the spirit of the environmental movement add a little flair to your closet.