New art with an old twist

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Arts editor Gianluca Inglesi looks into Brittney Mackinnon’s city-wide art project to bring you clothing gems for under $50

When Brittney Mackinnon shops, she has a method. She hunts through racks of one-of-a-kind garments; disregarding washed-out tops, ignoring outdated dresses, and passing over ill fitting blazers. On her venture through the jungle of cotton, polyester, and wool she finds something spectacular. Something she will treasure forever. And it cost her less than $20.

Mackinnon is a first-year fashion communication student and is redefining thrift shopping. Together with a group of young artists — known as The Art of Reuse — she works to open pop-up (one day only) thrift retail stores every six months featuring the top pick of vintage clothing from across North America.

“We got together because we wanted to make a change in fashion,” Mackinnon said.

The group formed last November after an art show called Le Groupe Doué that featured their individual works including Mackinnon’s photography. After a great turn out they decided to tackle something bigger.

Mackinnon worked diligently at branding and marketing the first store called Interim, which opened last April. The hectic days and late nights paid off when the store’s inventory sold out in just 15 minutes. Once the clean up was done, the group immediately began drawing plans for the next store.

“It’s like having a collection as a designer, you have to be brainstorming the next one while your current season is on the runway.”

Following the huge reception of the first Interim, Mackinnon and the group have worked endlessly in preparation for the new store opening at The Mascot, 1267 Queen St. W this Thursday, Sept. 23rd.

As the opening approaches she realizes just how much her life has changed since the project’s inception.

After spending two years at York University studying psychology, she realized that something wasn’t right.

“I was always an artistic kid. And I wanted something practical, so I ended up [coming to Ryerson] to do something that was part of me anyway,” she said. After a year off she started at Ryerson this year and has high hopes for the program. “I’m hoping that what I’m learning will benefit the group. I want [Ryerson] to enhance what I do,” she said.

The frugal life is not something she grew up with. Mackinnon’s mother was fussy about how she dressed and didn’t welcome the idea of vintage clothing. But after experimenting with friends, Mackinnon developed an eye for spotting gems in vintage stores.

“You learn what clothing used to be like; what was right with it and what was wrong with it. I definitely understand fashion as art differently now,” Mackinnon said.

Vintage is not limited to what is found in the confines of an attic. Sean Brown, a tastemaker who works with Mackinnon, returned from a New York shopping trip with two leather military bags that had been through World War II.

“I think one of the best aspects of thrift is that some pieces are like time capsules; an item can tell you so much about history,” said Brown.

Mackinnon has big aspirations for the group, hoping to eventually establish a permanent boutique somewhere unexpected.

“Initially we wanted to be in a mall but apparently there’s a law against that,” said Mackinnon with a smile. “But laws can be broken.”

The Art of Reuse strives to eliminate the negative connotation surrounding thrift stores.

“We want it to be for everyone, not just for the little in-crowd that gets it.”

Over the next few years Mackinnon looks forward to learning from those around her in and out of school.

“I had a sewing class and I was terrible at it. But I have to learn to be okay with trying again. You learn as you go along,” she said.

Photo: Marta Iwanek


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