Bloom is stocked with pre-owned clothing from just about any era. Items range from plain blank pieces to fantastically decorated sweaters and dresses. Chance Viles / American Journal

WESTBROOK — Bloom Consignment opened up at 863 Main St. late last month, specializing in secondhand clothing in an effort to promote sustainable fashion.

Lilly Van Der Steenhoven and Croix Galipault pose in their store, Bloom Consignment. Chance Viles / American Journal

About 12,000 tons of clothing and footwear were produced in the U.S. in 2015, an increase from about 1,300 tons produced in the ’60s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of the total, less than 2,000 tons is recycled, creating a serious textile waste problem.

It’s that amount of waste that inspired Lilly Van Der Steenhoven and Croix Galipault to open up their consignment shop.

“From a sustainability perspective, the fashion industry is very wasteful,” Van Der Steenhoven said. “You hear about companies like Burberry burning clothes to maintain the integrity of the brand, or how many clothes just go to waste as trends change – it’s big. Even reusing a piece of clothing just once reduces its carbon footprint by 82 percent.”

Van Der Steenhoven also said when consumers buy new clothes other factors play into the carbon footprint they leave behind, such as the gas or manpower it took to ship a shirt from across the world, or the amount of plastic and paper used in shipping.

“Some people don’t donate their clothes, but just throw them away when they are done. Even just donating clothes expands its life,” Van Der Steenhoven said.

With sustainability coming to the fashion world’s forefront, it is no surprise that mending clothing is on the rise and shops like Van Der Steenhoven’s are “blooming.”

“We love seeing businesses of this nature that are promoting the concepts of reuse and recycle, and certainly we encourage that and would love to see more business of that nature throughout the community,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said.

Since opening up shop, Van Der Steenhoven and Galipault, who is also her husband, have come to know how wasteful trends can be.

“We are told that one thing is in style, and then not long later it is on to the next thing,” Van Der Steenhoven said.

Van Der Steenhoven showcasing a pair of JNCO jeans, a ’90s fashion staple. Courtesy photo

Still, owning a secondhand shop has illustrated the sustainable side of trends in that they come back around, like a pair of JNCO jeans the shop is selling. A major fashion staple in the ’90s, the oversized jeans are coming back to hip crowds.

Instead of a company making a whole new line of giant jeans or other vintage pieces that come back into style, Bloom can supply a genuine vintage piece for a fraction of the cost and with none of the waste.

“It is interesting. I was a kid in the ’90s, and people who come in and buy things like those jeans are almost reinventing them or wearing them in a way we wouldn’t back then,” Galipault said. “People of all generations come in looking for certain things, and we often have things that speak to just about anyone. The secondhand industry can bridge trends from generation to generation.”

The sustainability train doesn’t stop with the clothes either. Most of Bloom’s shelves, light fixtures and hangers are from other secondhand stores, while the front desk and other pieces of furniture are made from repurposed pallets and wood.

“Our sign is handpainted due to vinyl’s carbon footprint,” Van Der Steenhoven said. “We aren’t perfect, but we are doing what we can.”

Sustainability aside, buying secondhand is a good option for those on a budget, Van Der Steenhoven pointed out.

“There are brands I love like Patagonia that are so high quality, buying them secondhand has that quality but is way more affordable for me,” she said. “Sometimes, older pieces are of higher quality, too. We get some items from the Gap in the ’90s that will probably outlast Gap shirts bought today. Some older pieces are built so well and that is another beauty of secondhand.”

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