by Sadie Barker
VANCOUVER – In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, stores featuring vintage frocks and trendy décor are often duly associated with the neighbourhood’s rapidly gentrifying landscape. Community Thrift & Vintage, however, is a great exception. Having recently opened a new sister-store at Carrall and Hastings, Community is expanding its vision of operating as a non-profit in “sustainable-fashion” — the recycled, slower alternative to a fast, disposable industry — and actively engaging its surrounding socio-economic space in the DTES.
Working in partnership with PHS Community Services Society, Community trains and employs women from the Rainier Hotel, a supportive housing unit in the DTES for women in recovery. Through the integrated peer program, women are trained in retail and production, piece-work sewing, and steaming, acquiring both work experience and an employable skill-set. When discussing Community’s model, manager Liz Krebs stresses the significance of this program, describing it as the integral foundation of the business. Indeed, around the corner in the backroom, numerous women work busily sorting second-hand clothes — clothes, Krebs explains, scavenged from the city’s outlying warehouse donation bins — steaming, folding, and resuscitating the pieces to life.
The location and ambitions of Community are fully immersed in Vancouver’s amplified discussion of gentrification, or, as Krebs describes, Vancouver’s burgeoning “exclusiveness.” The steady rise of expensive establishments in Canada’s notoriously dense concentration of poverty has spurred a discussion of not only the East Hastings locale, but culture, reconciliation, and urban politics. “This store is so much more than what it initially appears,” Krebs says, emphasizing not only the relationship the project has fulfilled with the DTES, but the reciprocity that takes place in Community. “The women in the program contribute, and I learn, and am excited by it. We all gain something,” she says, adding, “We hope the name somehow conveys that.”
With all profits going back to key programs of the PHS Community Services Society, the initiative exhibits a strong sense of cyclical reciprocity: a community expanding, learning from, and giving back to its origin. Indeed, Community lives up to its name.
Community Thrift & Vintage is located at 11 West Hastings Street and 311 Carrall Street.community thrift and vintage, DTES, thrift store