Vancouver secondhand shop marks 20 years of supporting women experiencing violence

·2 min read
My Sister's Closet opened in 2001 (Melody Jacobson - image credit)
My Sister's Closet opened in 2001 (Melody Jacobson - image credit)

A Vancouver clothing store dedicated to helping women who have experienced violence marks its 20 year anniversary amid a pandemic-fuelled increase in domestic violence.

My Sister's Closet is a social enterprise of Battered Women's Support Services (BWSS), a Vancouver-based organization that provides services and community education related to violence against women.

It says all of its revenue goes toward funding BWSS programs and services.

BWSS executive director Angela Marie MacDougall said the organization has seen a higher uptake of its services since the start of the pandemic.

"Our numbers are most definitely higher from last year and previous years … we've had certainly lots of women connect with us through the store that are dealing with violence, either through calling the store itself or dropping in."

The store sells new and secondhand clothing and locally made creations by women. Both the downtown and the East Vancouver shops accept donations from the public.

MacDougall said that as a social enterprise the goal of the store is to focus on people over profits.

"It allows people to be able to interface with the issue in a way that is much more comfortable," said MacDougall.

Another key tenet of the store is to champion sustainability by encouraging the reuse of clothing.

"We're helping slow the flow of fabric to the landfill which matters because the fashion industry is the second biggest oil and gas polluter," said MacDougall.

Something for everybody

Shannon Salter has been a regular customer at the shop for over a decade. Salter said when she first started working as a lawyer while managing student loan debt, she came to My Sister's Closet for affordable professional clothing.

"There's something for every one. There's clothing for every body and every price point … It's such a wonderful, welcoming environment for everyone," said Salter.

Salter also shops at My Sister's Closet to support the organization's mission, in addition to appreciating their clothing.

"I think they do a tremendous amount of good for a very limited amount of funding … especially during the pandemic when the need for their services has really skyrocketed."

Thursday, Nov. 25, marks the start of an international 16-days-of-activism-against-gender-violence campaign. The campaign, started by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership, attempts to bring awareness to and end violence against women and girls.

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