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Clothes by curator

At her Makenew boutique, Anna Gilkerson finds new owners for recycled styles

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Photo: Lindsay Duncan

Photo: Lindsay Duncan

Anna Gilkerson loves fashion. She studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and later Polimoda Fashion School in Florence, Italy where she learned about eco-fashion and sustainable methods and practices. When she returned to Canada, she worked as an assistant fashion designer for a few companies in Montreal. But she always loved Halifax. (She grew up in Mahone Bay.)

“I think Halifax is eco-conscious,” says Gilkerson. “There is a huge thrifting culture here in Nova Scotia.”

Photo: Lindsay Duncan

Photo: Lindsay Duncan

To share that love of curated clothing, she started out selling second-hand styles online primarily to customers in the U.S. and Australia. That line, she says, wasn’t vintage. It was “modern, regular second-hand clothing that had a different vibe to it.”

But she wanted her own shop in Halifax. So, she opened a small boutique on Queen Street just above consignment store Put Me On. Eventually, she expanded by adding another room. Still, it wasn’t enough for customer demand. She moved to Agricola Street, close to the neighbourhood where she lives, opening Makenew Curated Thrift Shop.

“Our customer is getting modern current fashion curated by an individual,” Gilkerson says of her boutique’s philosophy.

The Agricola Street boutique is clean, bright and airy. The clothes are organized by colour and style, looking like they are all part of original collections. That appeals to clients who love thrift shopping but are less enthusiastic about the digging needed to find the best pieces.

She buys most of her stock at “every single thrift store that exists” around Nova Scotia. “What’s great about the model is we keep things really fresh in here,” she says. “Things don’t sit for too long.”

She frequently offers sales on her stock, discounting the items by 50 or 75 per cent. Collections are seasonal. “That works well for me because I can see what the weather is doing,” she says.

While she launders, fixes buttons or hems, she looks for high-quality pieces that don’t need work before they are put on display at her shop. “I look for things that are perfect already,” she says. “We don’t do a lot of alterations. That’s not what the store is about.”

But customers, she says, come to the store because the store represents her very strong fashion sense. “People who like my style come back again and again,” she says. “They know what to find and it’s very consistent in the look, so people know they can get a get pair of jeans here, a sweatshirt, a trench coat or a t-shirt.”

Jillian Demmons first became a client of Gilkerson’s when she had her boutique on Queen Street. She had been a fan of curated fashion for years, loving the second-hand finds, but disliking the digging that comes with finding them on her own. “I don’t always have the time or energy to do that,” Demmons says.

She says she loves Makenew because Gilkerson’s style is much like her own, and the boutique carries a wide selection of contemporary and classic finds.

CTV Morning Live Atlantic host Heidi Petracek is a fan of Gilkerson’s style and boutique. A long-time fan of consignment and second-hand shopping, but like Demmons not a fan of the digging, Petracek first discovered Gilkerson’s boutique on Queen. She now shops at Makenew, five years after finding Gilkerson’s first store.

“She’s really good at laying them all out so it makes sense to you,” Petracek says of Gilkerson’s efforts. “She’s one of these people who knows what to pick for you.”

Gilkerson helps Petracek pick classic styles she can wears on the air. Petracek calls her personal off-hours style “classic with a twist” and she can get that at Makenew, too. But it’s the originality of the pieces that keeps her coming back. “You can get things no one else has,” she says.

Gilkerson relies on social media. A model who also works in sales at the store poses wearing many of the new items Gilkerson gets in store. Other photos are artfully arranged with clothing and matching accessories. Social media, she says, is her main form of promotion. “Instagram… has been really big for us,” Gilkerson says. “It’s a great free platform for us to show off what we’re doing in the store and people have really responded to that.”

But Gilkerson’s store is about more than the clothes. She says her customers are eco-conscious, live in the neighbourhood and are concerned about the environment and still want style in their wardrobe. “Clothing makes up a huge part of waste in our world,” she says. “I am not against anyone going out and buying something new, but I always suggest buying something of quality. Customers come in and appreciate this. They don’t always want to go to the mall.”

She recently expanded her to stock to include Canadian-made jewellery from small, independent designers. “People responded really well,” she says. “It was great to have the accessories to match the clothing.” She also now carries other accessories and even pottery, paper products and housewares. She is also designing a new line that will be crafted from found fabrics, making it still affordable and accessible to her clientele.

“My goal in the store is to carry good quality products that are handmade or found in a curated format,” she says. “My goal isn’t to move or go anywhere. I really want to stay in Halifax and keep improving on what I already do.”

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