Thrifting in Durham & How Slow Fashion is Fast-Tracking Sustainability

Will McGuirk

These Durham entrepreneurs understand that being thrifty isn't a trend, it's a style, and it is even catching on with folk who already can buy pretty well anything they wish to...

In business terms, thrifting would be called “sustainability,” but in some circles, “sustainability” is just a buzzword. Thrifting in Durham Region is a biz reality for many entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who understand that being thrifty isn’t a trend, it’s a style, and it is even catching on with folk who already can buy pretty well anything they wish to.

So, what do you get for the person who has everything?

Well, if, for example, you’re shopping for one of Canada’s most successful music producers, then a vintage t-shirt at Vintage 905 located in downtown Whitby may be just the thing.


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From an Instagram account to a stall at the Pickering flea market to a store at 108 Dundas Street West, owners Gavin Clark and Mike Cameron have shared their vision and fashion over the past six years with folk from all walks of life—even those who walk the walk of fame. Celebrity producers, musicians and various sports personalities, including NBA players, have browsed the racks, both online and in-store, for some nostalgic buys.

And the vision for these two fashionable entrepreneurs? Thrift!— applying the three R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) successfully to business practice. In the parlance of modern culture, it is a movement termed “slow fashion,” a consideration of consumer consequences that is slowly gaining momentum.

“Fast fashion is terrible,” said owners Gavin Clark and Mike Cameron. “The clothes are low quality and it all ends up in a landfill. The fact that we are providing people with better quality clothing options than they can get at the mall, while helping out the planet, is one of the coolest things about our job.”

Those core values also extend to the location they chose, as the building they occupy has survived changes to the downtown for over a century. Vintage 905 set up shop in what could be described as “slow architecture”: reusing and recycling a building, and therefore reducing the need to build another one.

These values also inform the proprietors of The Lemonade Stand in downtown Uxbridge. Of course, rural communities are always way ahead of most of us when it comes to making do with what’s already available. Perhaps in Durham Region, some of that conservation attitude has begun to flow down the Ridge to the southern suburbs?

Lee Hawn set up The Lemonade Stand with her husband three years ago after she fell in love with a paint colour she saw in a magazine (I’m guessing it was lemon-related.) She searched for a local supplier and then started painting and updating vintage furniture, and never stopped. From her initial inspirations, she found a shared interest with others and her business was born. In addition to her finished pieces, today she also offers Do-It-Yourself classes to set others off on their own creative entrepreneurial paths.

“We carry three lines of water-based furniture paint where we educate and teach people how to refinish their existing pieces of furniture,” says Lee. “This enables them to take a furniture item they may have otherwise gotten rid of due to it being out of style and refinish it using our furniture paint. It updates and modernizes the furniture and prevents it from being put into a landfill—  and customers love the outcome!”

The Lemonade Stand offers a mix of vintage farmhouse decor, furniture paint, dried flowers and handmade items from Canada. Still, of course, you can’t be a business in Uxbridge without being a part of a very active and vibrant creative community. Thus, The Lemonade Stand collaborates with others and sells products from local businesses such as Lavender Blu of Seagrave (field lavender and culinary lavender); Contagious Designs of Brooklin (sterling silver jewellery); and Oak Point Cottage (handmade pillows and mugs) and the Little Grey Farmhouse (unique farmhouse decor items) of Uxbridge.

So, there you have it: right across the Region, creative-minded folks are catching on to thrift and onto that old chestnut, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Thrifting as a value can feed an ecosystem of businesses, which can then serve as a template for other communities and enable us to hang on to this planet a little longer. And as an added bonus, as the world heats up, being thrifty helps you to be one of the cool ones.

NOTE: At the time of publishing, Durham Region and the Province of Ontario are in Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen; the Province’s three-step plan to safely and gradually lift public health measures, based on ongoing progress of provincewide vaccination rates and improvements of key public health and health care indicators. Residents are encouraged to follow health guidance when safely exploring their local communities, wash hands frequently, wear a mask and physically distance from others.