As you know, I’m now working once per month as a guest stylist at Arc’s Value Village thrift stores, but I wanted to introduce you to the woman behind this groundbreaking program, Michelle Dustin. Let’s hear from Michelle!
This program was your brainchild! What inspired you to create and launch the Arc’s Value Village Personal Shopper program?
One of my first jobs as a teen was as a cashier at the Arc’s Value Village in New Hope; there I developed a love for the eclectic, unpredictable and adventurous world of thrifting.
Over the years, I built a wardrobe full of thrifted finds. What really jazzed me was the ability to create a look that reflected current trends, but wasn’t a cookie-cutter replication of the mannequins at the mall. And what jazzed me even more was the ability to create this unique look for so much less!
When people took notice of my personal style or complimented me on something I wore, I reveled in the opportunity to say, “Thanks, I got it at the thrift store!”
The familiar response I got to that declaration is what inspired me to create the personal shopping service, which is now offered exclusively at Arc’s Value Village. The response was always the same, “I wish I could find things like that at the thrift store; I just don’t have the eye for it,” or “I get so overwhelmed at the thrift store; I just don’t have the patience to sift through all those racks.”
I created this service for that very reason. I wanted to create a service that bridged the thrifting gap, allowing those who have felt overwhelmed, intimidated or uninspired by the thrift experience, another way to engage. I wanted to give those folks a reason to give secondhand a second chance.
How have social media influenced the program’s progress?
Style is so personal. The service I offer is so personal. When I’m working with a client, we develop an intimate working relationship. Social media preserves and builds on that personal connection with my clients. I believe that connection keeps clients coming back.
What’s a typical session like?
When a client arrives for their personal shopping appointment, I’ll greet them at the front of the store and escort them to their reserved fitting room. Excited “oohs” and “ahhs” are often heard as clients open the door to their private fitting room to find an attractive display of shoes and handbags picked just for them.
They are then presented with a rack full of clothing items I’ve hand-selected for them, based on the information they’ve provided on their Client Image Profile Form.
Not only is there a wide selection of separate pieces to try on, there are also 5-10 complete, outfits for them to try. The completed outfits are a significant value to customers. Most any thrifter will tell you, it’s relatively easy to compile a collection of great thrifted pieces, but the real challenge is creating outfits around those great pieces. By coordinating full looks for clients, I’ve eliminated that challenge.
The client has an hour and fifteen minutes to try on the items. I’m there at the fitting rooms throughout, offering a second opinion and suggesting creative ways to wear and pair each piece. Throughout the appointment, I’ll gladly grab items in a different size or style if need be. I’m also on hand to re-hang any rejected items.
As the appointment wraps up, clients will have the opportunity to weed through their (often heaping) pile of treasured finds. They’ll consider their budget and their existing wardrobe, deciding what to keep and what to cut. There’s no pressure to buy – I always say, “Only leave with what you really love!”
In that short 75-minute timeframe, my clients are able to reinvigorate their look for pennies on the dollar and have a lot of fun doing it!
Any recurring questions or concerns that arise on a regular basis?
It stinks that folks have to wait a month or longer for their appointment. But I think those that have used the service will tell you, it’s worth the wait!
We’ve recently launched a Guest Stylist program which will help alleviate some of that congestion during peak times. Our featured guest stylists will offer appointments to Arc’s Value Village customers on a limited, as-needed basis. Connect with the Arc’s Value Village Personal Shopper Facebook page to learn about Guest Stylists’ openings and other appointment opportunities.
Which classic pieces do most of your clients take home from their sessions?
Clients will of course purchase some classic pieces – a pair of great jeans, a flatteringly fitted blazer, a nice pair of boots, an LBD, etc. But what I find more often than not is clients opting to go for a little risk over the safety of a staple piece. At such low prices, clients are more willing to try a new trend or explore new aspects of their personal style.
What would you say are the advantages of shopping thrift?
It’s an eco-friendly approach to fashion; thrift epitomizes the green mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
Choosing your thrift stores selectively is also important. I opt for non-profit stores that support a worthy cause. Knowing your dollars have a positive impact on others is another great benefit to shopping secondhand.
Of course, secondhand shopping is easier on your wallet. We can all appreciate that.
And lastly, shopping secondhand allows you to infuse your look with greater creativity, originality and personal expression.
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If you’re interested in booking a session with Michelle or one of the guest stylists, drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org