By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

With a river of consumer goods streaming into the world every day, it’s comforting to know that people are diverting some stuff to recycling and reclamation centers, and in the case of clothing, to resale shops.

Give + Take, upscale swap shop in LA

The trouble is, those resale or consignment shops typically don’t pay much for your outgoing duds, even if they’re not duds.

Dora Copperthite, a Los Angeles entrepreneur and fashionista, believes she has found a solution to that problem. Her swap boutique, called Give + Take, allows women to get more value for those wonderful couture purchases that just didn’t work out. Got a wrap you bought at Neiman’s but never got out of the wrapping? No problem. You can turn it in at Give + Take and shop for something more likely to flatter your figure.

At Give + Take women can unload their gently used or still-tagged togs and get a pretty good deal in return. For each item turned in, they get points that capture the value of that item. Members can use these points to select something else of comparable value from the shop’s racks.

The idea, says Copperthite, is to gather together enough club members to create an ongoing, upscale swap party where everyone will have something to “give” – a floral frock, a pair of shiny boots, a chocolate dress suit too sweet to toss away – and also be able to find something to “take” that fits and delights them.

The concept rests on the fact that women everywhere have “fabulous finds” squirreled away in their closets. They aren’t giving these things away to charity because they’ve simply spent too much, or fallen too deeply in like with them. But they’re not working out as planned either.

We’re talking here about the strapless dress that you bought for your cousin’s wedding only to discover that gravity was not its friend or the designer heels that knocked you out on your way to the symphony, an excruciating discovery. These gems won’t work for you; but they might for someone else.

That’s where Give + Take comes in, soothingly offering a new option that might be more lucrative than selling these treasures on eBay or at an all-purpose consignment shop, where the depreciation could be depressing.

Diane Von Furstenberg top, Tibi floral skirt at Give + Take

“On consignment (at a traditional shop), you maybe get half of what it’s going to be sold for. That never made sense,’’ said Copperthite, whose background is in nonprofits. “Economically there’s no incentive to get rid of it. This is completely breaking that barrier away, because ladies get 100 percent of that value, and they just have to pay a low monthly fee.”

There is that monthly fee. For the privilege of being able to carefully dispose of and replace your fine unusables with more suitable, usable  clothing, you’ll pay $25 a month to maintain a membership.

So Give + Take is not for the casual or infrequent shopper, more for the working person on the go who’s busy but wants to ameliorate occasional, but recurring, fashion fumbles.

So far the shop, which opened in November in Playa Del Ray, is working for about 200 members. Many are just, plain and simple, shopaholics, says Copperthite. They tell her that they’ve never seen anything like Give + Take, where the clothing is a cut above and often still has the tags on. They’re hooked, and they’re saving money, long run, she says.

Give + Take owner Dora Copperthite

When clothing comes in, Copperthite rates it based on quality and previous sales price. She gives the most upscale items more points than more common wear. A $200 dress in great condition will earn the giver $200 in worth of points (if it’s deemed “desirable”). So a Marc Jacobs pump is never confused with a Hushpuppy, say, and spiffed out Luckys afford a member more points than everyday Levis. Clothing is thus divided into couture, designer and daily wear and its even displayed in separate rooms. And nothing that’s damaged, pilled or stained is accepted for trade. Give + Take is aiming for a quality experience.

The entire operation is green from top to bottom, says Copperthite. It encourages recycling, but on another level, it helps women save money and shop a little less overall by making use of things they already have. It makes swapping more effective, she explains, by offering more clothing in more sizes with an ever-changing inventory, which right now includes about 1,500 items.

And since you’re wondering, yes, Copperthite counts herself among the fashion-conscious whose closets are bursting with, er, potential.

As she says on her website: “I decided there must be millions of you LA ladies out there with the same problem—so, I decided we should swap. Yes, my $100 sweater, for your $100 pair of jeans. I figure since I swap clothes with my girlfriends, I should just expand that circle of friends to include all of you!”

Sometimes Copperthite herself  just can’t resist something that comes in, when its in her size (which you don’t want to know. OK, it’s a 2).

“I am a member,” she says. “I will confess that I have been good. I don’t take everything (that comes in) in size 2.”

  • Give + Take can be found at 200 Culver Blvd, Playa Del Rey CA 90293 in the upstairs space above Tanner’s Coffee. It is open during select hours on Thursdays and Saturdays and by appointment. Check the website or store for details.

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