Rebecca Hancock (left) and Jay Davani started Suede, a business that buys thrifted goods for cheap and resells them at a bargain price. It takes the work out of hunting for bargain deals, while still providing people with stylish clothes for less.
Rebecca Hancock and Jay Davani are blessed with the gift of thrift. With perfectly coiffed hair, just the right amount of makeup, and clothes that look like they were handpicked by personal stylists, the pair are the embodiment of Providence metro-chic.
So how do they do it? Do they pour exorbitant amounts of money into their wardrobes and beauty treatments? Far from it, they say. Instead, the pair prides themselves on looking great for less, a goal achieved through "thrifting."
Davani said thrifting is the practice of buying things that have been previously owned, and can be used or new. The key is, because the things were once someone else's, they cost drastically less than they would when they were brand new. By thrifting, you can get a pair of shoes for $1, a dress for $3 and a pair of earrings for 50 cents. It's possible to put together an entire outfit for less than $10, and Hancock and Davani do it daily.
"I've been thrifting my whole life," said Davani, originally from Iran and now a resident of Cranston. Davani said her family started with nothing, and soon Davani learned that she had to find ways to do things on a tight budget.
For Davani, thrifting doesn't just apply to clothes - she went to college on numerous scholarships, gets her hair done at a local beauty school for $5 and re-purposes old furniture for her spacious Cranston apartment.
"I found ways to be a thrifty person overall," she said.
Hancock is the same way. She grew up in Fall River and said many of the women in her Portuguese family were seamstresses. From an early age, Hancock's family taught her to embrace the idea of Yankee thrift. Like Davani, Hancock applied thrifting to other areas of life - she graduated from college without student loans and got her Master's Degree free of charge.
For Hancock, staying thrifty in her adult life has allowed her to save to do things she really loves, like travel. For her, thrifting is a way to "look fantastic without spending a lot of money."
"The whole idea is: there's never a reason to overspend," explained Davani.
Look for the "one percent"
Though Davani and Hancock say thrifting will leave you with a closet full of unique finds and a whole lot of money in your wallet, don't expect it to be quick and easy.
"Ninety-nine percent of what we see is no good," said Hancock." We're looking for that one percent."
Davani and Hancock agree that it takes time to find the best deals for the most stylish items. Sometimes, you have to buy something in the winter for the summer, or vice versa.
"It might be something you don't need now," said Hancock.
Thrifting is about being able to resist the expensive impulse buy, and instead, think ahead about a piece you might stumble upon and figure out how you could use it in the future.
Davani and Hancock's new business
For those who don't have a lot of time on their hands, thrifting can be overwhelming, since there is always a lot of clothing to sift through.
That's where Hancock and Davani's new business, Suede, comes in. Suede is like a personal thrifting service; they go and find the best pieces out there, bump the price slightly and sell it to you, taking the time and potential frustration out of the process.
The pair officially started Suede over the summer, and since then have been stocking up on shoes, dresses, blouses, pants, jewelry accessories and more. The entire stock is housed in Davani's apartment, and is a walk-in closet full of things that would make Carrie Bradshaw's jaw drop.
Suede offers pop-up shops at local businesses, and will host their first in-home pop-up shop this month. They'll also launch a website and online shop soon. For now, their Facebook page is the medium through which they share their great finds and tips on how to make them into fantastic outfits.
"We're like the fairy godmothers of thrift," said Hancock.
The thrill of the hunt
For those who don't want the help of a fairy godmother and want to take the time to thrift on their own, Davani and Hancock said the experience is incredibly rewarding, and liken it to treasure hunting.
"There's a little sense of accomplishment when you find something amazing," said Davani, who fondly remembered the time she found a Chrsitian Dior blouse and bought it for $4.
"It's a thrill; an adrenaline rush," she said.
For Hancock, it was finding a pair of plaid shorts that made her heart skip a beat.
"I had a first date kind of pit in my stomach when I found those shorts," she said with a laugh.
Aside from saving money, the other benefit of thrifting is having something that no one else does. Many of the things that Davani and Hancock come across are one-of-a-kind finds, things that are designer, handmade or no longer produced.
"It's not like walking into a department store," said Davani.
"It's not cookie-cutter fashion," added Hancock.
"Thrift" doesn't always mean "vintage"
Although some of the pieces are retro, thrifting doesn't necessarily mean that you have to walk out of a store with feathered hats from the '40s, short gloves and a-line dresses.
There's a difference between "thrift" and "vintage."
"Vintage are pieces made before the 1980s," said Davani.
Think of it as the square and rectangle of the fashion world: vintage is thrift, but thrift isn't necessarily vintage.
Still, Davani said vintage is making a huge comeback, and many vintage pieces can be seamlessly woven into everyday outfits.
"Style always repeats itself," said Davani.
Davani and Hancock said they "don't kiss and tell" when it comes to divulging their favorite thrift stores, but they do say that they frequent lots of various shops around the area, as well as yard and estate sales.
"We're not going to the mall," said Hancock with a smile.
Doing more with less
Davani and Hancock met at Brown University, where Davani still works as an event manager. Hancock is the senior marketing officer at Rhode Island Hospital. But once their days are done, the pair meets up to hit the thrift shops, and show off their latest thrifted outfits around the town.
The pair hopes their new business, Suede, will begin to take off as people look for a middle ground between huge thrift stores like Savers and expensive, independent antique stores.
"Our society has really embraced being thrifty," said Davani.
"It's a reaction to extreme consumerism," said Hancock. "Now people have to do more with less."
For more information on Suede, visit their Facebook page at Facebook.com/giftforthrift or follow them on Twitter @gift_for_thrift.