Vancouver Closet Raid: Q & A with co-founder Tifanee Po

Co-Founder of one of Vancouver’s most highly- anticipated pop-up events, previews the upcoming consignment extravaganza

Rachel D’Sa // Arts and Culture Editor

On Oct. 15, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Barre Fitness Gastown will be home to the annual Vancouver Closet Raid. The free pop-up event returns to showcase the city’s most outstanding fashion articles on consignment, providing customers with a conscious-free shopping day, while staying true to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto that the organization stands by.

The event series has partnered with organizations across Canada to reduce textile waste, while also supporting local businesses. Co-founder Tifanee Po encourages Vancouver fashionistas to shop a collection of gently-worn pieces from brands including Rag + Bone, Mackage, Aritzia and many more.

Q&A:

This is the event’s third year running in Vancouver. What does the history of, and inspiration for the event look like?

Closet Raid began two years ago out of our dissatisfaction with how the clothing industry works, specifically with fast fashion. We also both came from retail backgrounds where we saw the daily encouragement to have people buy things that they don’t need. We appreciate shopping and refreshing your wardrobe, so Closet Raid was our solution to all of this – our way of giving people an alternative way to shop. Plus we obviously just love to bring the community together, have fun and shop.

How has the event evolved since its debut?

Our first Closet Raid was out of my apartment in 2015, when moving over 10 boxes of clothing every year when your lease was up, was just not smart. We wanted to host a small event just for us to clear out our closets, then all our friends got wind and wanted to get involved. When we sat in the apartment the day before our first sale, with over 2,000 units of clothing that people just no longer loved, we saw the opportunity to turn it into a recurring event and business.

A piece of clothing may be unloved by you, but cherished by another. We decided to host our second event with our friends at Rodney’s Oyster Bar in Calgary and when we saw how the community embraced the idea, we just kept going. We reached out to friends across Canada and have continued expanding since.

As the event continues to prosper every year, what turnout can be expected this fall?

Our turnout varies year to year and is very season dependant.Fallisthemain shopping season, so we’re expecting a solid amount of traf c in each city this year. Our largest turnout has been in Calgary last fall at Trolley 5 Brewery where we saw about 1500 people in a span of four hours.

What is the process of collecting donations and putting together the event, and what challenges come along with it?

We partner with a local charity in each city and encourage both customers and sellers to donate any clothing that they no longer use. We typically set up a donation section in each event where people can drop stuff off. We try to select charities that support women in each city. In Calgary, we work with Making Changes, which is a local non-profit that helps to get women who have come out of tough living situations, back into the workforce.

Choosing the right charity is actually way harder than you would think. We take our time to make sure that they support our cause and help those that are genuinely in need. [The biggest challenge is] finding the right partners that support our cause and coordinating all the people involved, for sure. But we love it. Bring it on.

What is your favorite part of organizing this particular event and what are you most excited for?

We love bringing together communities, supporting those in need and shopping. We’re most excited to get to work with all our friends in each city and to update our wardrobes with some amazing pieces.

Vancouver has a fairly substantial used-clothing scene with shops like House of Vintage, Mine & Yours, and Turnabout. How does the Closet Raid differ from other consignment shops in the city?

We do a one day, pop-up. There’s one chance to get your hands on these amazing goods, then it’s over, until the following season. We also get our friends involved who are previously from retail, currently in retail and have great style. Our clothing sellers are carefully selected so we have some of the best product available.

Holding and developing a background in closet raids over the years, what have your experiences with other closet raids been like and in which direction do you plan on taking the Closet Raid?

Always amazing. We go into each new city, not really knowing what will happen. But once you see how excited people are about what we’re doing, it makes it all worth it. We honestly never really know. We like to think that this is part of the organic side of life – take things as they come, but be smart and make it happen. After all, if we didn’t just roll with Closet Raid in the start, it wouldn’t be what it is today.

What can customers expect when they walk into Barre on the 15?

Amazing clothing, amazing people and to support an amazing cause of reducing clothing waste.

The organization’s Facebook page reminds customers to bring reusable bags for their purchased goodies. The cash or credit only event, held at Barre Fitness in Gastown (130 West Hastings St., Vancouver) will continue to accept clothing donations at the door. For event updates and further information including how to get involved, visit the Closet Raid’s website at Closetraid.ca.

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