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Purposeful Thrifting and Sustainable Fashion

You have probably driven past the blue and white tie-dye sign on Cervantes dozens of times and thought “I need to stop in there one day.” Well, I finally did and, to my surprise, was greeted by An Hayward and learned that her volunteer work at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store goes far beyond her love for fashion.

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It’s fair to say fashion is in Hayward’s DNA. Growing up, she was surrounded by fashionable women and went on to spend 30 years in the fashion world in New York and all over the world as a model. During Covid, that all stopped.

But, Covid would also bring an opportunity. An opportunity that would not only feed her zeal for fashion, but bring purpose to her life-long passion.

“I was always on boards and in committees, but I really wanted to have that hands-on job where I could get my hands dirty, but I never had the time,” said Hayward. “During Covid, my neighbor and dear friend Debbie Kirby asked me when I was going to film another video about fashion tips and trends and I told her I wanted to tell a new story on sustainable fashion.”

Kirby insisted that An come down to the warehouse with her and the pair haven’t looked back.

“I signed a volunteer paper and two days later I was in the warehouse. I instantly fell in love,” said Hayward. “It  was instant gratification! From there, Debbie and I put together 30 looks, made a video and we have never looked backed three and half years later.”

Now, twice a week An and Debbie go to the warehouse where all the donations come in and handpick every item for the shop. Then, they come back to the store on Cervantes, price every single item and curate it all to make it look like a boutique. All of the proceeds go to Alfred Washburn Center for the homeless.

Debbie Kirby and An Hayward

“Our goal within the shop is to give everyone a great experience. We believe everyone deserves to feel good about themselves,” said Hayward. “We help dress our homeless community for a job interview and we help the hipsters looking for fun finds on the weekends.”

An showed me around their curated boutique and even helped me pick out some items for my closet. The duo have done an outstanding job with the thrifted boutique and you can feel the love and hospitality from the moment you walk through the doors.

As someone who enjoys fashion myself, I couldn’t help but ask Hayward for some fashion insight before leaving.

What does fashion mean to you? Fashion for me isn’t a superficial thing, it’s part of your daily life. Whether you’re going on a job interview or going to work — perception is everything and that initial moment when someone meets you for the first time, you are telling a story.

Favorite Fashion Era? I would say the 90’s for the glamour, but I’m all about pushing forward and using certain elements from every era in my wardrobe.

Closet staples everyone should have? A beautiful pair of black pants that you can take from day to night and always a beautiful white crisp shirt. I think those are staples you can then work around, add color to, make hip, or make sophisticated.

Fashion Faux Pas? There comes a time when you mature, so I would say mini skirts after a certain age, but that’s just a personal thing!

Flats or heels? Definitely flats! I love a good heel, but I live in flats. 

Why sustainable fashion/thrifting? Everyone deserves a good experience and luxury experience on a budget! Being able to make people feel confident no matter what their background is or how much money they have is so important.

Advice for someone thrifting for the first time? Go in with an open mind, it’s like a huge treasure hunt, you will know it when you see that special garment. Don’t be afraid of color, if you’re attracted to it, it’s probably going to be a good choice.

Make sure you go check out all the new pieces at St. Vincent DePaul on Cervantes and know that you are not only shopping for a great cause, but your garments have been handpicked and curated. Find their shop on Instagram here. 

You can also find An, Debbie and their pop-up tent, Vinnie’s Boutique, on April 5th at the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul 22nd Annual Gala at Sanders Beach. All proceeds go to Alfred Washburn Center for the homeless.