You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but the models strutting down the catwalk created inside Robson Square ice rink October 7 were wearing recycled fashion

For Eco Fashion Week’s Thrift Chic Challenge show, three designers were each given $500 to create a fashion-forward collection composed strictly of items found at Value Village. Based on the trendy crowd that showed up to battle for front row seats you never would have guessed everyone was gathered to see cheap thrift store clothes from decades ago. But that’s what Eco Fashion Week is all about: promoting sustainable style choices.

As the models sashayed by in the reworked hand-me-downs, it was obvious that each collection was vastly different from the next. Local fashion stylist Kenneth Wyse used every shade of pink he could find to create gender-bending outfits inspired by Barbie and Ken dolls. Northern B.C.-bred musician and designer Dandi Wind Opaine pieced together seemingly infinite textures, colours and patterns to create an extremely eclectic collection complemented by models wearing blue lipstick. Kingston, Ontario, native Claire Bouvier of The Claire Closet had the most wearable collection with models in fun vibrant layers of long skirts, flowy pants and blouses, all accessorized with vintage hats and glasses.

We spoke to some of the experts to find out how they score thrifty finds at Value Village:

• “Have an intention before you go,” says Bouvier. “Because if you go in there and you’re just trying to look at everything, it’s overwhelming.”

She suggests going through your closet before you shop to see what it is your wardrobe needs. This way you have some direction when you first get to the store.

• Wyse is adamant that you have to look through a lot of items in the store to have the most success, but suggests you bring an open mind and a budget.

“Honestly you have to look through every single item of clothing because stuff is hidden; other thrifters will sometimes put other shirts inside jackets!”

• Even if you think thrift shops aren’t for you, give them a chance because you never know what you might find. At the very least you could find a great Halloween costume. Years ago a co-worker that Bouvier admired took her to Value Village for the first time.

“I remember thinking,  ‘This is what I’ve been missing my whole life!’” Now she shops vintage stores daily and runs a business that introduces other girls to thrifting called, The Claire Closet.

• You need to have patience to be a great thrift shopper and to make your style unique. That patience can pay off. For this challenge Wyse found a 100 per cent silk Versace shirt for $12. 

“You have to take the time, but it’s worth it in the end because your outfit ends up being essentially one-of-a-kind,” says Wyse.