Dispatches: 'Gently Used' Fashion is the New New at Relove Clothing

High-end fashions in excellent condition are the trademarks of this new store on the Santa Cruz/Capitola border.

The Santa Cruz vibe and sunshine is what attracted two native Hawaiians to move from their Silicon Valley home after just nine months and open a clothes boutique with an environmental twist at 885 41st Avenue, just past Taqueria Vallarta.

But saving the environment was also a big part of the decision.

Relove Clothing, which opens Saturday with a big party, will offer "gently used" women’s clothing from name-brand designers such as Banana Republic, Anne Taylor, 7 for all Mankind, J. Crew, and more, at 50-75 percent off retail prices. They also have an online store at www.reloveonline.com.

Owners Jody Buna, 27, a former teacher, and her husband Jarod, 35, have always been fans of second-hand clothing. But now, in a tough economy and an environmentally choking earth, there is more to used clothing than just cheap fashion.

“We want to supply the same product as high-end department stores but at a fraction of the cost with personalized service,” says Jarod, who also works as an attorney at Apple Computer over the hill.

Both say that in this time of green awareness, reused clothing is especially important, with some 700,000 tons of fabric ending up in landfills every year.

Fashion recycling and "upcycling," making new designs from high-end used fashions, are becoming more popular because of the sour economy, according to Adam Brown, of Etsy.com, the online marketplace for artisans.

Los Angeles fashion designer Jessica Louise, who started her career in Santa Cruz and who has lines in Nordstrom's and Hot Topic, said she doesn't think recycling will cut into sales of new items.

"I fully support any type of upcycling or anyone being creative in any way," she said. "Fashion is an always evolving thing."

The Bunas have re- or upcycled things all over the new store.

“For example, this desk is made from materials found in our garage and the clothing racks are made from galvanized pipe and the price tags are made from paper bags that display the words, ‘Recycle, Reuse, Relove,’” says Jody.

She says the store offers high-end items not only because people like them, but because they last longer and stay out of landfills.

“This stuff is just as good as brand new stuff but priced so much better,” Jody says.

The store will offer some specialty items like Gwen Stefani and Free People. Prices generally won't go over $24 for items that cost $150 new.

"We do have pieces that cross all ages," says Jody. There could be 15-year-old girls who come in shopping and also more mature women who will find great deals and be happy.

Customers can friend the store on Facebook and shop without leaving home.

“It also fits into our concept of a low-carbon footprint because it’s operating all over the world,” says Jarod of 'Relove Clothing.' “The ability to socially recommend things cuts down on advertising costs and also is a more reliable mechanism to reach people.”

They chose 41st Avenue toward Pleasure Point because it is going through a Renaissance, they say, with quality coffee shops, restaurants and boutique clothing stores.

Jody grew up in Europe before moving to Hawaii and was influenced by a very stylish group of friends who didn’t have a lot of money she says, but knew how to buy. Her mom was also thrifty but classic, and they spent a lot of time shopping together.

“I know what’s out there, I know what women want, I know what they are willing to pay,” says Jody. “I think being classic but bringing your own twist is the key.”

To have something like ‘Relove Clothing’ in Hawaii would be nearly impossible and being successful would be very difficult so this is just the place for us, says Jody. "We are really happy over here.”

The grand opening will feature hors d'oeuvre and musical entertainment by DJ Don-ette G from 11 a.m to 5 p.m along with prizes and specials until 7p.m. There will also be local handmade jewelry made from reused beads, metal and hardware by Jody’s mom, a longtime artist.

Normal business hours are Wednesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

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