Styling Party at the Kind Exchange

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About a year and a half ago, I remember walking down Bloor St in the Annex and seeing a new second-hand store: Kind Exchange. I fell in love. I’ve tried hunting for second-hand gems at Value Village, Salvation Army, or Goodwill and I usually come up empty-handed (my BFF Natalie has some sort of divine gift bestowed upon her from the thrift-store gods because that girl always wins. But apparently only one mortal human in your life gets that skill and it’s non-transferrable).

Artwork by Moses Frank

Artwork by KX employee and killer artist, Moses Frank.

When Kind Exchange basically exploded all over Toronto (beginning with 2 stores on Queen St, the KX now has 14 locations with stores in Hamilton, Burlington, and Port Credit), I was pretty happy. Here’s why:

  • Well, the first reason was that they had really cute clothes – some vintage and some not – at affordable prices. The stores are small enough to not be overwhelming but large enough that you can usually find some good items. Plus they’re really well curated.
  • The second reason was because of the resale aspect: you can bring in a bag of your clothes and trade them in for cash or store credit. Over the past year my style has been changing! growing! transforming! But sadly my wallet remains as it always has been: a sad story. Despite my sad wallet, I have A LOT of clothes. At one point my dress collection had reached a total of 60! (In my defense, I wasn’t really wearing anything other than dresses for 2-3 years of my life.) So now when I want something new, I bring some items in to trade. I walk away with a new item in my possession and more space in my closet. As a result, I feel like I’ve really curated a wardrobe that I love and that serves all of my clothing needs and whimsies.
  • Also, they work with different charities, including the Canadian Cancer Society (a cause near and dear to my heart). So when they don’t take all of your items and ask if you want to donate the rest, here’s what happens: they’ll sell those items in store (look for “charity” written on the tag) and donate 10% of the sale to charity. 10% might not seem like a lot, but it’s actually one of the highest donation offerings out there.

Three babes about to talk about fashion

Because of all of the trading I’ve done at various KX locations, I’ve gotten to know the managers and they’ve gotten to know me. We chat spend time chatting about things like feminism, travel, and our own mutual love of denim dresses. The trade aspect has made me feel like I’m a part of a little clothing community whenever I go into my three favourite locations: the Annex (533 Bloor St.), Bloordale (1185 Bloor St.) and Roncesvalles (339 Roncesvalles Ave). When Denise Kerek, the manager at the Annex location, saw that I had started my own blog, she told me that she wanted to be in one of my posts. Denise is a super-wicked stylist, and a whole bundle of fun packed into a 5 ft. frame, so she suggested that I come in one day, bring a friend, and she’d style us! So I took her up on her offer, asked my NSLP (non-sexual life partner) Kash to join me, and the photos below were the result.

Denise Kerek, styling guru extraordinaire!

Denise Kerek, styling guru extraordinaire with all of the cute things for us to try on.

Outift #1: Work Casual



Steve Madden shoes

Denise: This is probably one of my favourite looks. I paired a nice distressed boyfriend jean with a beautiful dress from J-Crew. You don’t need to get a dress from J-Crew in order to do this, you just need some kind of shift dress and a blazer. It’s stunning. It’s appropriate for any work situation. But can be worn causally so easily. This is the look of 2015 because it has that character and that depth; it’s flattering; it’s just trending on all levels. Distressed jeans are in. Shift dresses are in. Adding those rustic colours and classic shapes is what is going to get you into Fall 2015.

Outfit #2: Denim on Denim


Love these colour-blocked shoes! If only I could walk in them...

Love these colour-blocked shoes! If only I could walk in them…

Denise: So denim on denim is really in right now. I don’t know why people thought it wasn’t before. I’m glad it’s back in full force. Denim on denim can be found in any store and it’s easy to throw on. You throw it on in the morning, pop a colourful necklace on and a pop of colour with the shoe and you’re good to go. The accessories really break up the whole “Canadian tuxedo” look. You don’t want to have a full denim suit in the same colour. Add some dimension with some different denim. Adding that fun element. Adding that character.

Outfit #3: Print on Print


Definitely left with this denim jacket and top

Denise: Don’t be afraid of print on print. We should embrace all prints and they should be able to coincide with one another. What I did with this one was a more neutral bottom, so we could have more fun with what was going on on top. And then to ground everything so it wasn’t overwhelming, we put on a denim jacket.

Outfit #4: Black and White



Denise: Black and white is amazing! There’s not much you can do that will make your outfit look ridiculous if you wear a simple black and white. It’s super chic. Never goes out of style. Like I said with the denim, you can buy it any store – any store will have black and white in your size. And what we did was add a little pop of colour with the necklace. We kept it simple because that’s what black and white represents. And then awesome, trending footwear and you’re good to go to keep your outfit trending.

Outfit #5: Street Style


Oh how I dream of this skirt and wish that it had fit me.

Denise: This is a great weekend look or a chore look because you can be fashionable, still be fun, but by wearing pajamas. That was the inspiration. I find a lot of time I’m drawing from contrast when I’m styling customers and when I’m styling myself. I find contrast in an outfit adds a whole bunch of interest. It’s going to keep people guessing. It’s going to add something dynamic. And it’s super fun and it’s trending for Fall 2015!

Outfit #6: The Midi


This “Minnie Mouse Chic” dress definitely came home with Kash


Denise: This look was based around the absolute essential. Every young lady should have a midi. Whether it be a midi skirt, a midi dress. It’s super flattering on every body type, every height. And it takes you into fall because of the length. Honestly I think that the maxi is gone and I’m glad for it. It was just not a thing for me. It did not work for short ladies. It worked against proportions. Midis forever!

I also got to ask Denise some questions about fashion, working in retail, and how to throw together the perfect outfit in less than 5 minutes.

Me: So tell me the story of your love of fashion. Did it start young? Do remember an item of clothing that you had when you were younger that you just loved and looking back, you think, that was the piece that caused my love affair with clothing to blossom?

Denise: *laughs* I remember at a very young age, like six or something, I was in my room trying on every single thing that I had with regards to clothing and I was getting super neurotic and I couldn’t stop until I felt that my outfit was perfect. And I feel like that is how I got here today.

Me: The feeling of frustration?

Denise: Well, the feeling of frustration and then how amazing you feel once you’ve got that look that you love.

Me: Do you remember what the outfit was?

Denise: Yes *laughs* They were little child’s leggings and some kind of simple t-shirt. And I actually remember saying to myself, “Oh my god, I look like a grandpa right now.”

Me: I love that leggings and a t-shirt equaled grandpa to you.

Denise: That’s what started my hunger.

Me: Did you go to school for fashion?

Denise: I went to OCAD university and studied fine arts; colour theory and lines and shapes and voids in shapes. And I feel like I use those skills every single day when I’m at work.

Me: When was your first retail-clothing job and where was it? Tell me a bit about how to got from there to working for KX.

Denise: So my first job was at a place called Ziliotto, it’s still a Toronto Fashion boutique. The owner, Jennifer Ziliotto makes all of her own pieces and it’s very hands on. So that’s where I got my core styling skills from and I’m super grateful for that because it’s now led me onto this job. And I’m trying to create that boutique feel here at the 533 Annex Kind Exchange location too.

Me: Tell me what it is that you love about working at KX.

Denise: Oh it’s amazing. Okay, so every girl whose ever been to fashion school and says “ya I want to be a buyer” I can do that all day every day. All day every day. And not have to get on planes to do so.

Me: It’s funny, so in preparation for doing this interview I did some research on the internet and there’s a lot of people who’re really angry about bringing garbage bags of clothing to the KX and having people take like 3 items. Having talked to you guys a lot, I sort of understand the curating process. But tell me about how you go about making selections.

Denise: So, the reason I was able to make you ladies look so lovely today – not that you don’t already look lovely – but the reason I was able to find some great pieces is because I have to be picky in finding them in the first place. I want to offer something that is unique and different and only special to the KX.

Me: I’ve been trying, as you know, to be very selective in items that I’m choosing now. So like, if I’m searching for a denim shirt, I don’t want to buy the first one that I find because I would buy it and then get home and realize that it wasn’t the one for me, and then next thing you know I’m bringing it back to the KX to sell. I was wondering if you’re generally a good judge when it comes to knowing that you will wear what you buy. Have you figured out how to know in advance? Do you have any shopping rules that you follow?**

Denise: I do have shopping rules that I follow. I think it’s more practicing the discipline in following those rules. Especially when you’re working here in the KX you can find all sorts of things. What I usually recommend to my customers is to look into the past. As to quote Dr. Phil, “the past is the perfect prediction of…something or others” * laughs * Future, uh, behaviours. So if you look to the past and you find something that you felt comfortable in, felt good in, then that’s what you should be looking for in the future.

Me: So the whole idea of going outside your comfort zone, is that an idea that you prescribe to or not? Kash is shaking her head.

Kash: I think I’m pretty good at this. I think I very rarely buy things that I don’t then wear all the time. And I think it’s about getting older and having some real talk about my body and like what does and doesn’t feel comfortable. And thinking about the past. And this comfort zone still has to fit into what I’m buying now.

Denise: I’m definitely all for people going outside of their comfort zone. I do it every week with my clothing picks. But if I don’t want to spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning, then I’ll look to what I wore last week and then I’m ready in 20 mins.

Me: Oh that’s great. Because that brings me to another question I have about those moments where you feel like you have nothing to wear and you have to get out the door really quickly. And people are always really amazed when they come with me to a clothing store because I can pick things out really quickly, try them on, and get in and out like a machine, and I feel like that’s a skill that I got from working in retail for years and years and that has translated into those rush moments at home. But ya, I’m wondering how you deal with those moments. Kash, is that a thing for you?

Kash: You know, I just wear jeans and t-shirts all the time, so it’s pretty easy. * laughs * I’ve got like three outfits that I love and feel really good in and so if I get up in the morning and don’t know what to wear I usually default to one of three combinations of things.

Me: What is your favourite item in your wardrobe right now? Or how about top three?

Denise: Definitely my denim shirt collection. It translates into fall/winter. Number 2: printed pants! It’s the best. Because you automatically look funky and look like you’ve put effort in to what you’re wearing. But really all you did was put on a pair of pants. And number 3: booties. Ankle booties. Staple.

Kash: Daisy printed hot pants that are really silly. And I have a palm printed onesie that I wore for my birthday that is really good and makes me feel like a tiki torch and I’m really into feeling like I’m a middle-aged lady on a tropical vacation in 1952.

Denise: And your jellies.

Kash: Ya! My jellies are really good. What about you Margeaux?

Me: Ummm…probably my denim skirt (pictured below), brown sandals (also pictured below), and bag dresses. I love a dress that makes me feel like I’m wearing a bag but looks, you know, stylish.

Final question! Tell me about your look Denise.

Denise: My outfit today is inspired by roll out of bed chic. I’m basically wearing pajama bottoms. But I’ve got some awesome trending colours in the lines and then I just paired it with a denim top to keep that trending theme. And then simple jewelry. Keeping it simple.

Kash and I left with quite a few of things that Denise picked out for us. Kash with the midi and the denim top I wore in the “street style” shot. And I walked out with the Top Shop floral vest worn in the “print on print” as well as the denim jacket, and the t-shirt from the “street style” look (you can see me rocking the two tops with pieces from my own wardrobe in the photos below). If you’re interested in any of the other pieces, just pop on in to 533 Bloor and ask Denise.

But before we could we leave Denise, we asked KX employee (and very fashionable lady) Michele to take our photo.


Denise is laughing because I accidentally groped her butt in this photo. Also: please note Kash’s amazing jelly shoes.

And here I am, rocking two of my two KX pieces with some of my own closet treasures. Hope you enjoyed this post and are inspired to add some more denim and prints to your wardrobe!

I’ve always loved the t-shirt with floral skirt look, but never took the leap. Until now!


My favourite skirt and sandals. If you couldn’t tell, I’m really trying to master the look away and smile pose right now. I think it’s getting better.

** Thanks to Women in Clothes for these particular questions.

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This post was written by Margeaux

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