Store Profile – Penny Lane Clothing Exchange

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Last year, whilst I was searching for a wedding dress on Sydney road, I came across Penny Lane Clothing Exchange.

With spring cleaning on my mind, I couldn’t think of a better time to do a post on this Brunswick gem which prides itself on providing customers with an opportunity to sell, swap and shop!

The store stocks a great selection of designer, contemporary, vintage and retro items, and it is evident that owner Peta Stephenson picks each piece with great care.  Clothing and accessories are in tip-top condition and either fashionably on trend or classically stylish. If you’re in the market for some original fashion finds Penny Lane Clothing Exchange definitely has something for everyone.

But the other reason this store is so great is that you can also swap or sell your goods, making spring cleaning your wardrobe a breeze. When you visit the store you are able to bring items which are clean and in good condition for consideration. If you’re happy to swap, you can receive store credit at 50% value of your item for sale, or if you prefer to sell for cash, the store will pay 25% of what they price your items to sell for in the store.

It’s such a great way to pass on all those unwanted items sitting in your wardrobe, reduce your fashion footprint, earn some money and pick up great pieces at a fraction of their original price. Win win for all!

You can visit Penny Lane Clothing Exchange at 145 Sydney Road Brunswick and check out my interview with owner and stylist Peta Stephenson below.


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Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Penny Lane Clothing Exchange came about

I’ve always loved clothes and have op-shopped since I was a kid. I was re-fashioning garments before I knew it was a thing! I’d often sold clothes at markets and swapped among friends, but I don’t have a background in fashion retail, or retail at all, for that matter. I spent much of my working life as an academic. After completing my PhD and writing two books I was ready for a change. I knew clothing exchanges were popular in the US and after a bit of research decided to take the plunge and import the concept.

Can you explain how Penny Lane Clothing Exchange works?

At Penny Lane Clothing Exchange you can sell, swap or shop gently loved women’s clothes and accessories. Sellers bring in one bag of clean, gently used garments at a time and we assess them for their condition, how on trend they are, and whether or not we think they will appeal to our shopper. Sellers can choose to take cash on the spot or store credit for later. The cash rate is a quarter of our resell price, and the credit is half of the Penny Lane price. Store credit can be used anytime on anything.

But you don’t have to sell or swap. You can simply shop! We stock designer, contemporary, vintage and retro fashion, shoes, bags, belts, scarves and jewellery. While we don’t accept fast fashion labels (Zara, Topshop, H+M etc), we’re not super high-end either. But it’s always fun when a Prada or other designer label does come in. We love it that people who might not be able to afford such luxe labels brand new can take them home at a fraction of the price.

What are some of your top tips for purchasing second-hand and vintage goods?

I guess I’d have the same advice whether you’re buying brand new or new to you. Does the garment fit you well (or can it be easily altered with minor changes)? Does it make you feel great? Is it in a colour and/or style that suits you? Is it going to get along with all your other fabric friends and easily mix and match with what you have at home? Does it suit your current lifestyle and daily wardrobe needs?

Of course pre-loved fashion is just that. When buying second-hand you need to be on the lookout for stains, holes and other signs of wear (don’t forget to check for smells or deodorant stains). Sifting the wheat from the chaff can be time consuming but at Penny Lane we do all that hard work for our shoppers. By only taking items that are in great shape, all they have to do is spy, try and buy!

What is the best vintage or second-hand item you have ever purchased?

I have to admit that not every item that comes into Penny Lane makes it onto the floor. Sometimes pieces that are too good to pass up come home with me! In fact, my staff and I find we don’t shop anywhere else now. My favourite item is a cropped, butter-soft leather jacket that’s perfect with dresses.

How would you describe your personal style?

I guess I’m a product of my late 70s childhood. I really love the boho, hippy, cowgirl look and am drawn to denim, suede, knee-high boots, flares and long floral skirts and dresses. But most of all I enjoy the creativity and playfulness of clothes and love putting together a different look each day to suit the occasion, my mood and what’s clean! Like most women I have a few pieces on high rotation, but I try to challenge myself to try new outfit combinations so that more of my wardrobe is being worn.

What are 5 essentials in your wardrobe?

Only five? OK, here goes: Jeans (all kinds – skinny, flared, boyfriend), blazers, ankle boots, frocks and onesies (I have about six of them). Can I also add accessories? They’re the spice that make any outfit nice (I particularly love felt hats, hair bands and jewellery, jewellery, jewellery)!

Tell us about some of the people who inspire you and why

Being, as I said, a fan of the 70s bohemian look I like a lot of the fringing, velvet, capes, waistcoats and flared jeans Stevie Nicks wore in the early days of her career. But it’s not all draping, flowing pieces. I also like what the cast of Charlie’s Angels (the series, not the more recent films) were wearing in the 80s. They wore a lot of tailored garments including knee-length pencil skirts with tucked in silk blouses, pant suits and onesies. Did I mention I love onesies?? I thought Debbie Harry when she was still known as Blondie had a great look and while I’m not brave enough to wear them myself, I love the drama of singer Grace Jones’ outfits.

What are the top 3 resources you turn to for inspiration?

For someone who runs a clothing store, I am not very fashion minded. I couldn’t tell you what colour is trending at the moment. I almost never read fashion magazines. But I’m not anti-fashion. I’m pro style. It’s highly possible to look super stylish without wearing any of the season’s ‘must-have’ looks. In fact, it’s probably more interesting because you don’t look like everyone else. Well-dressed women I see on the streets inspire me. I might not want to wear the same clothes as them, but I admire the way they’ve put their outfit together and thought about how to create an interesting look. I think Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist) captures some great street style on his blog and, of course, who could forget Iris Apfel? I don’t think she let’s fashion get in the way of how she expresses her style.

 What is the best place to shop in Melbourne?

Clearly I’m biased, but I obviously have to say Penny Lane Clothing Exchange! I have tried to create the kind of shop I always wanted to go to. One where the hard work of pre-selecting high quality stock has already been done for me, where items cost on average about $50 (including designer pieces) and where the sales staff know what they’re talking about.

I am a qualified style and image consultant and when I’m not at Penny Lane I’m giving clients one-on-one consultations (see dresscode.com.au for more details). I have trained my staff about body shapes and which cuts and colours are the most flattering for particular individuals. If an item is not right, we offer alternative suggestions that will suit that person.

I know I dislike heavy-handed sales staff who pressure you to buy. At Penny Lane, if a customer is not sure about an item, we encourage them to go home and see if it stays in their mind. It’s no good buying something you’re not going to wear. We want the pieces to be re-worn and enjoyed anew. We also want our customers to enjoy the experience of shopping with us!