'Sustainability' is a buzzword that gets thrown around so much these days, experts predict that the term will be exhausted by 2020. Indeed, challenge yourself to remember the name of the last sustainable boutique or pop-up you walked into and we bet your mind will draw a blank, unless of course that shop was Pawnstar.
This consignment store offers a full complement of menswear, womenswear, and childrenswear, set across seven stories, accessible by a cylindric wood staircase that reaches through the levels like the trunk of an oak tree. The decor is simple, Scandinavian, and littered with interest pieces have been salvaged from the street – including a rather magnificent red velvet chaise for those shoppers feeling both fatigued and decadent.
Xiangyang Bei Lu is Pawnstar's new home since its move from the 1930s lane house on the intersection of Fengyang Lu and Fuxing Lu. Owners Jane Jia and Nels Frye have been selling second-hand designer goods through WeChat and Taobao for a few years and are hoping to replicate their success offline.
People go to second-hand stores looking for two things, bargains and big name designers. Pawnstar has both in spades. Expect Givenchy dresses, Louis Vuitton suits and statement jewellery by the likes of Chanel and Céline, all at jaw-dislocating prices. One Stella McCartney dress we spied was going for just 2,200RMB, that’s 90 percent less than the retail price when it first hit the catwalk. If that’s making your heart race, fast-fashion pieces go for prices that give us palpitations, with most items selling at 39 to 49RMB.
As a retailer who still sells predominantly online, Pawnstar’s quality control has to be stringent, 'We are an internet based retailer, so bad feedback from customers can ruin us in no time at all,' explains Jane. However nothing ends up on the scrap heap. High quality fabrics that are unsellable in their original guise are passed on to Pawnstar’s team of stylists who upcycle them into original signature pieces – from fascinators made from men's ties, to earrings made out of plastic crocodiles. What’s left is chucked in a bargain bin for customers to rifle through and take home free of charge.
In China's most trend-heavy city, where thrifting is sometimes still seen as a fashion faux-pas, it's particularly refreshing to find a showroom recycling genuine gems.