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by Archives April 5, 2006

The quest for the perfect piece of vintage clothing can be grueling. Hours of sifting through old, musty, odd-fitting garments can break even the keenest shopper’s spirit. The folks at Preloved have set out to eliminate the struggle for cool vintage finds. They aim to provide their clients with clean, comfortable and re-designed vintage pieces.

The idea behind Preloved is to recycle old clothing, and sometimes mix it with new fabrics, to create one-of-a-kind styles with a new, retro feel. The Preloved store in Montreal has been around for a little over three years. The original store is in Toronto, and the newest outlet can be found in Vancouver.

Erin Mahoney, a manager at the downtown store, explained that Preloved offers three different labels to its clientele. The original label, “Preloved,” is also the store’s namesake. Articles in this line are made with a blend of recycled material and new fabrics. Original styles and colour matches make this line truly unique. The use of newer fabrics gives the designer, Peter Friesen, the freedom to create a variety of fits and cuts while incorporating the older styles and patterns of the pre-worn clothes.

“Handcut” is the second label offered at the Preloved store. These garments are made using 100 per cent vintage clothing. Each piece is cut and designed by hand, and no new material is used to finish off the piece. Mahoney said the “Handcut” line takes a lot of work compared to the others.

“There’s a lot of energy and money put into something that is 100 per cent vintage. It’s a little bit more labour-intensive, but it’s a very beautiful product,” she said. The vintage clothes are carefully picked out from a huge warehouse in Toronto. Two hired “pickers” climb mountains of old jeans and sweaters in search for the best materials to use. Mahoney said Preloved clothes are only made with 100 per cent cotton, cashmere, or wool. No synthetic fibres are used because, as Mahoney said, the store still wants to create a “high-end product” for their customers.

The third label at Preloved is called “B loved.” Articles in this line are made from all-new material that is a soy and cotton blend. Mahoney said the material is ideal because it is “so soft, and it breathes a lot.”

The original creator of the Preloved store is former-model, Julia Grieve, who now lives in Toronto. Grieve decided to use her experience in the fashion world to create her own line of original clothing for men and women. Mahoney explained that Grieve has created a fictitious character who personifies the typical Preloved female client. Grieve keeps this made-up woman in mind throughout every step of the Pre-loved creative process.

When asked who this woman is, Mahoney said she is “somebody who’s 25 to 35 [years old], works in an office, but likes to get a little crazy at night.”

She said the Preloved styles are meant to be very adaptable to a woman’s every need. “Stuff that you can dress up and dress down just as easily.”

Mahoney used her own outfit as an example of the versatility of Preloved styles. “What I’m wearing [are] Goucho shorts that you can roll down and put high heels on with and it can be really classy, and feminine. Or you can wear big rubber boots, because it was supposed to rain today, and look like a farmer – which is what I’m going for today!”

The Preloved styles are meant to be both practical and stylish, as well as 100 per cent original. Because no two items in the store are exactly alike, Mahoney will often advise her customers to try on all of the mediums in a particular style they like. The clothes are not mass-produced the way they are in bigger chains, and the fit can be slightly different with each article a client tries on. Once the client has found the perfect fit though, they can leave the store knowing that no one else will be wearing exactly the same sweater, skirt, or blouse that they have just purchased.

These days, originality in fashion can be hard to come by. The one-of-a-kind element of the Preloved garments seems to appeal to the store’s loyal clientele. Mahoney said there are two seasons of Preloved styles per year, and when the new shipment comes in she has a long list of avid shoppers to call with the news.

“We have people that are like, ‘If you don’t call me when the new stuff comes in, I will die!'” Mahoney said.

Some clients even drive in from Vermont twice a year to check out the new Preloved styles. Mahoney said maintaining a close connection with their customer base is a big part of what Preloved is all about. She said they hold 5 a 7 events for their loyal customers, as well as parties and fashion show events that anyone can attend.

The staff at Preloved is relatively small, and Mahoney said the thinks the clients appreciate the friendly atmosphere within the store.

“It’s nice for the customer to recognize somebody and to trust us when they come in, because it’s somebody that they’ve bought stuff from previously,” she said.

Keeping an intimate feel is important, and is part of the Preloved philosophy. “We still want to be a small boutique, even though we just opened our Vancouver store – and we’re planning on world-domination,” Mahoney said, laughing. “We still want to be really people oriented.”

Mahoney said there are definitely plans in the works for more stores to be opened, but that it’s too soon to say just where the new locations will be. Luckily, Montrealers don’t have to travel far to see what Preloved has to offer. Although Preloved does absolutely zero advertising, word seems to be traveling fast about this hidden gem on the busy Main.

Preloved is at :
4832 St. Laurent Blvd
(514) 499-9898

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