We’re excited to announce a new feature for Thrift Store Runway: interviews with some of our frequent entrants and familiar faces. This month, we’ll start things off with our two judges. Here, Pat Crummer talks about her passion for thrifting and style! She’s shared some of her thrifting secrets and her favorite stores, so read on to see how she found designer garments worth thousands for only a few bucks!
Thrift Store Runway: What do you do?
Pat Crummer: I am a manager at a high-end department store in Beverly Hills.
TSR: How did you get involved with thrifting?
PC: I met my “thrifty best friend” when I bought some things from him off of craigslist, and he thought that I would be the perfect thrifter. He took me to this horrible thrift store, it was the worst one he could find, just to see if I was up to it, and I was up to it! After that, I’ve never looked back.
TSR: You seem to be very dedicated to thrifting, would you say that your job has influenced your passion at all?
PC: I dedicate myself because I know that I cannot afford to spend what I would like to spend, and I have a very high taste level just from being around beautiful things all the time, which helps me because I don’t have to spend hours in a thrift store. I call it ‘speedy thrifting,’ which is what I do really well. I can walk by a pile of things, and I’ll see the stitching or the fabric or the lines on the garments and I will know its something fabulous.
TSR: Would you say that you’ve always had an eye for design and quality, or is it something that you’ve developed and has grown with you, and if so how?
PC: Actually, when I was young, my mom didn’t really have a lot of money, and her second job was cleaning for wealthy people in Beverly Hills. I would get a lot of hand-me-downs, and the hand-me-downs were amazing and I could tell there was a difference between those and the clothes that my mom bought for me. I knew, at 8 or 9 years old, the difference between something that was of quality, and something that wasn’t. Since then, it’s just progressed to where I ended up working where I work, and I’m just around beautiful things all the time, I just can’t afford them!
TSR: Could you explain to me the ‘method’ that you use to find the beautiful things that you have found?
PC: Each store is different, and they’re laid out different, so I work them differently. The first thing I do is I go to the case line in the front, and I look through there really quick. I then go through the shoes, the handbags, and the clothing. Again, I don’t go through everything. I found runway Marni boots for $19 brand new, never worn. They were in a pile, and I just happened to see a Marni logo on the bottom of the sole. You have to get familiar with different kinds of logos and things that identify a brand or an item, so that when I walk through a store, I don’t have to go through everything. Either a button, or the fabric, or something, will tip me off. When I go to a new store, I do take longer because I don’t know what’s already there, but if you go everyday, the things that are brand new will pop out at you. Goodwill is great, because they have racks with new items that come out and usually you want to get to those racks before everyone else!
TSR: So essentially, if you have, or can acquire an eye for higher quality garments, it really helps when trying to find higher end clothing in a thrift shop?
PC: Yes! There might be a ten-foot row of black jackets, and nobody has the time to go through them all. I just run my hands along the jackets as I walk by, touching the fabric. If something jumps out at me, like a good, quality fabric, then that’s the item that I look at. 9 times out of 10 it is something fabulous! I tell all of my friends, who are interested in getting into thrifting, but don’t know how, to spend a day walking around and feeling the garments at a high-end department store, and just look at the details of a garment!
TSR: The photographs of your closet (above) are incredible! Could you tell me a bit about how you went about building it, and acquiring the materials for it?
PC: It was a two-car garage filled with junk! It was time to clean it out. I was already into thrifting, and I didn’t have any room in my house. I started thinking about ways to use the space. I plotted out what I wanted to do, and how much it would cost. I have a great handyman, and I was thinking about how I could get most of the materials pretty much free or whatever, and he gave me a really good estimate. I started hunting on craigslist, and I found sliding glass doors there. I found a store that was going out of business, and I was able to get all of their fixtures. I got the stained glass window, the big chandelier, the big round table and glass, the insulation, all of the wood, and most of the furniture all for free. Most of the stuff I got for free, or for $5-$10. The most I spent was on the chaise lounge. I got it from an actress, and I didn’t even have to re-upholster it. I found most of the stuff on craigslist from people who were moving, or didn’t want this stuff anymore. It took me about a year to get everything I wanted. There was no master plan, I knew I had to be flexible when it came to what I was getting, but that just made it more fun! I think the whole thing cost me, with materials and labor about $2000.
TSR: So it would be fair to say that, when it comes to thrifting, its necessary to be flexible with what you want, and one shouldn’t go into a shop, or come up with an idea with a strict idea of what they want?
PC: Right, oftentimes I’ve had my heart set on something, but I’ve found something totally different, and more often than not it is completely unique and works better.
TSR: I know you have an incredible collection of clothing, handbags, and accessories that you’ve purchased from a thrift store. What item or items are you most proud of?
PC: The very first thing that I found that I thought was a holy grail of fashion was an Hermés scarf. I picked it up for, I don’t know, $3.99 or something? It was in a pile; the best way to put it is a pile of garbage or things where they couldn’t find a place for. I happened to walk by, and what caught my attention was the hand-sown edge on the little corner that was visible. I pulled it out and I just about died. I did a quick Google search and I found that scarf and I saw that it was in a museum! I just about ran to the cashier to pay for it. It’s a $3.99 scarf that is priceless to me.
Another time, I found an Hermés purse that was hanging in a thrift store. I just happened to be going by the purses and the ‘H’ caught me eye. I said to myself that it couldn’t be real, so I opened it up, and my god, it was! Again, I could tell by the quality of the stitching and everything. I paid $14.99 for it, but it is worth thousands. When I took it to the register, the guy who usually marks the stuff said “You did not find this on the floor!” and I said “yes I did, there’s a price tag right there!”
I found a Roberto Cavalli coat that retails for $4500 for about $40, a Louis Vuitton denim purse that I got for $50. I have a friend who used to work at Louis Vuitton, who saw it and asked me where I got it, and when he noticed the price tag, which was still on it, he said “you paid $50 for this?! I don’t know how you do it!” I’ve found some Chanel purses as well. There is a lot! I could go on and on!
See below for more photos of Pat’s thrifty designer finds!
TSR: Would you mind sharing your favorite thrift stores?
PC: I love Goodwill! The four that I frequent the most are:
Goodwill Los Feliz
4757 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Goodwill Beverly Boulevard
7917 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
1535 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Goodwill on Vine
1200 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Goodwill Beverly Boulevard gets all their goods from the Beverly center. Little boutiques don’t have a clearance center so they donate them for the tax write-off. Goodwill Los Feliz is great for vintage. People are always cleaning their closets out so you can find a lot of good stuff from the 70s and 80s, and they have great furniture too! I hit other stores, for instance, if I’m on the freeway and there is a lot of traffic, I’ll pull off, but those are my big ones.
TSR: How many hours a week do you spend shopping in thrift stores?
PC: Everyday that I’m working; I spend 2 hours after work shopping, like clockwork! If its my vacation time or on days off, I’ll hit four or five stores in the morning, which is another 2 hours, and then I’ll go back around 5 o’clock, so in total about 4 or 5 hours on days when I’m not working. It’s a significant amount of time, but I come home with some pretty significant finds. I have friends who want to buy the Nine West and Bebe stuff, but I like the higher end, or one of a kind vintage piece that really are unique. Why would I spend $600 on a pair of shoes that give me 15 minutes of happiness, when I could spend $600 on six months of thrifting, where I can find amazing things that I’m going to love and then recycle at some point?