Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood once said, “Buy less, choose well, make it last.” That saying certainly applies to the mission of Rue des Archives, a month-long Bakery Square pop-up shop featuring resold pieces from high-end labels.
Today marks the opening of Rue des Archives, the latest venture from Nathan McCarthy and Thomas Cabral of the Strip District-based floral shop Hens and Chicks.
Located next to TechShop, the temporary Bakery Square store carries quality secondhand clothing, shoes and accessories from brands such as Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana and Balenciaga. The inventory caters mostly to women, with a small selection geared towards men.
The pop-up coincides with the launch of an e-commerce site where online shoppers can browse and buy from a curated assortment of designer goods.
Cabral and McCarthy decided to open the shop as a response to a growing interest in designer fashion around Pittsburgh, especially after Nordstrom Rack came to The Block Northway. The emergence of young professionals in the city—including those near Rue des Archives at Bakery Square’s Google office—has created a demand for quality goods more suited for the business world.
“There’s a standard of how you’re expected to look,” says McCarthy.
He adds that while most people might not consider consignment chic, it offers a chance to invest in designer pieces without breaking the bank. At Rue des Archives, customers can buy a cashmere Valentino sweater for around $70, or pay $140 for a coat that originally sold for $3,000. They can also choose from an array of deeply discounted handbags, shoes and pre-worn denim.
McCarthy understands that high fashion newbies world may find the shop intimidating. To ease any sartorial anxiety, knowledgeable salespeople are on hand to help customers coordinate outfits and find what style works best for them.
“We want the experience to be like you’re in your friend’s closet,” says McCarthy. “It’s not stuffy. It should be something that’s fun and relaxed. You should feel good.”
Customers can also feel assured that their purchase will contribute to good causes. From each sale, 10 percent will go towards a charity of the consigner’s choice. The remaining profit is split evenly between Rue des Archives and the consigner.
The shop also intends to spotlight how resale luxury items offer a more eco-friendly, socially-conscious alternative to most retail. McCarthy became more aware of fashion’s impact on the environment during his time working as an assistant to Julie Gilhart, former fashion director and senior vice president of Barneys New York.
“She was really getting into more sustainable fashion practices,” says McCarthy.
The focus comes at a time when so-called “fast fashion” brands like Zara, H&M and Old Navy have collectively garnered a bad reputation for overproducing poor quality merchandise, much of which only last a few wears. McCarthy believes it makes more sense to maintain high quality used goods as opposed to buying cheaper options that quickly fall apart and end up in landfills.
Fast fashion companies have also come under fire for how they manufacture their clothes, including using child labor and turning a blind eye to dangerous working conditions. Just recently, a US Department of Labor investigation found that Southern California factories supplying clothing to Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less and T.J. Maxx paid workers $4 an hour, far below that of the state minimum wage.
“A lot of higher end designers do things more ethically and they employ a lot more artisanal workers,” says McCarthy.
Rue des Archives (6425 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206) runs now through December 28, 2016. Hours are daily from noon to 7:30 p.m.
The pop-up will feature a constant stream of new, handpicked pieces. But supplies are limited.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” says McCarthy, adding that they may close the shop early if a day’s inventory sells out.
He says that if everything works out, they would consider opening a permanent brick-and-mortar store somewhere in the city.