It isn’t easy to dress as if you’ve just stepped off a runway. It’s even harder to do that on a budget. Throw being a philanthropist into the mix of hats you wear and it’s enough to make your head spin right off. So how do some of Chicago’s finest women manage to be fashion-forward and budget-conscientious all while contributing to charitable causes in and around Chicago? They know the secret of Selections.
This week I headed to Selections, a consignment shop with an aptitude for giving back. This was my first experience with consignment and I was in for a treat. The prices are unbeatable especially considering what the items originally retailed for. Rifling through the well-organized racks, I came across Diane von Furstenberg, BCBG and Michael Kors pieces that I normally wouldn’t even tease myself with.
With the help of Kona, Selections’ well-dressed store manager, I decided on a black Rebecca Minkoff dress for just $32 (retail: $200-500). Kona also assisted in tracking down a fabulous necklace (pictured, $18) to complete the look.
I was truly impressed with the selection at Selections. It’s worth any fashionista’s time to visit regularly to see what fabulous finds they’re carrying. To add to it’s appeal, Selections is doing good things for the Chicago community. They’ve partnered with Bottomless Closet and The Glass Slipper Project to give back in the way they know best: through fashion.
The Glass Slipper Project is a Chicago non-profit that benefits teens who, for financial reasons, would otherwise have had to forgo their junior or senior prom. The charity recognizes the importance of this coming-of-age milestone event and outfits girls with prom formal wear free of charge.
Bottomless Closet is a charity started by five Chicago women. They endeavor to help ladies who have fallen on difficult times reclaim their womanly confidence. They aim “to elevate the employment potential and marketability of women welfare recipients who want to work.” Bottomless Closet collects and gives out suitable clothes for job interviews and a return to the workplace.
After my visit to Selections, I got to chat with the store’s owners, Bela Barner and his wife, Rachel. We discussed the store’s history and it’s philanthropic partnerships. Check out my interview with Bela below.
Q: How did you, as a couple, come to own a consignment shop in Chicago?
A: Rachel and I came to own Selections when her Aunt Alexa, Selections’ founder, passed suddenly due to cancer in 2007.
Alexa was a pioneer–one of the first women to open a designer consignment business in Chicago. Her clients loved her for her low-key, honest approach to fashion (I have heard many stories about how she would refuse to sell an item to a customer if it did not flatter her) and her respectful nature.
Q: What was the inspiration behind Selections when Alexa opened it?
A: I think Alexa created an environment where all women felt welcome and valued. After Alexa’s passing, I encountered many long-time customers who described how Alexa inspired them and gave them more confidence through fashion.
Q: Selections is involved with a number of charities. How did you start your philanthropic mission?
A: I don’t believe Alexa did a lot of charitable work through Selections, but upon her passing and our assuming responsibility for the business, I concluded that an important part of preserving Alexa’s legacy was using the business as a vehicle to help as many women as possible, and not just our clients. Clothing donations were an obvious opportunity. Selections sells roughly 85% of what it accepts on consignment, but most of our unsold items are donated by our consignors. It is beautiful clothing that can help transform how a women feels about herself.
Q: The Glass Slipper Project is a “non-profit organization that gives away free prom dresses and accessories to high school Juniors and Seniors in the Chicagoland and surrounding areas.” How did Selections become involved with them?
A: One of our longtime shoppers is a retired CPS teacher and works with The Glass Slipper Project. They receive many of our evening gowns and shoes, as well as jewelry, which in turn helps CPS students prepare a wardrobe for their senior prom.
Q: Another one of your partners is Bottomless Closet. Can you talk a little about your work with them?
A: We also have worked with Bottomless Closet and Dress For Success to help them with styling and some aspects of retail operations. These organizations help women who have some bad luck get back on their feet with wardrobe and styling services, job search assistance and interview preparation, and other life skills.
I had originally approached Bottomless Closet to see if they would accept our donations. We became a consignment partner for them, and at point sold over 300 pairs of shoes for them that had been donated by a local retailer. This partnership has provided valuable financial support at a time when many smaller non-profit organizations are really struggling in the wake of the financial and economic crisis.
Q: How do you see Selection’s charity work evolving in the future?
A: We very recently started a donation partnership with Mercy Beaucoup, a designer resale store in Old Town that benefits The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. We will look for ways to expand our assistance to them as our partnership grows.
Q: Is there anything you would change about your experience with Selections or do differently if you could?
A: My only regret is that there just does not seem to be enough time in the day to pursue more opportunities to help women. The need is substantial, and public support is declining. We are always looking for creative ways to leverage Selections’ capabilities to help women and further Alexa’s legacy.
2152 N. Clybourn
Chicago, Illinois 60614
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday: 12-5 p.m.