In a time when many millennials pride themselves on being social activists, two women with Berkeley ties are hoping to make thrift shopping part of a social movement.
Cherry Bogue and Merav Walklet, the founders of Pussy Parlor, have a passion for fashion and they believe clothes can be a medium for positive change. Pussy Parlor hosted its first popup sale in South Berkeley at UFO Art Gallery on July 5, and the pair hopes it will be the starting point for a larger, ongoing fashion and culture initiative. The next popup will be July 19 at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market.
Bogue, who graduated from UC Berkeley, and Walklet, a Berkeley native, met as coworkers at Mars Thrift store on Telegraph Avenue. Through their time spent at work, the two discovered their similar views on not just apparel, but a number of issues that plague society. Through their analysis of the fashion industry, they discovered ways in which it contributes to world problems — from mass production and waste, to designer clothing lines body-shaming women, to the underrepresentation of all body types.
Countries around the world dedicate huge amounts of time and resources to produce fashion weeks, to pay homage to the newest trends and designs. People travel cross-country to attend fashion shows and models are often highly revered and well-paid, demonstrating the power that the industry possesses. While most get caught up in the pros of the fashion industry, they often forget to look at the downsides.
Bogue and Walklet are on a mission to open people’s eyes to the ways fashion contributes to exploitation, oppression, and a host of other problems. They believe thrift shopping could be one of many solutions. In this way their mission is not unlike that of another East Bay activist and business owner, Regina Evans, whose vintage clothing boutique, Regina’s Door in Oakland, is part of Evans’ campaign to combat sex trafficking.
The Pussy Parlor duo is particularly concerned with the environment, and the waste created by a consumer society. “It’s no secret that waste is a global issue,” said Walklet. “By recycling clothes, we give ourselves a chance to reduce our footprint even more. At some point, it becomes bigger than fashion, and about sustaining life on earth.”
According to weardonaterecyle.org, the U.S. generates 25 billion pounds of textiles per year, and only 15% of that gets donated or reused. The rest is sent to landfills. The documentary The True Cost addresses how most clothes that are sent to landfills aren’t biodegradable, meaning they sit in landfills for decades, releasing harmful gases into the air. Thrift stores like Pussy Parlor create more spaces for people to donate clothes.
In addition to helping the climate, the pair feels as if thrift shopping is an authentic way for an individual to express his or her creativity through fashion. Bogue points out how stores often bombard consumers with advertisements about what they should be wearing. Thrifting allows the shopper to come in and piece together clothing in a way that they see fit. Bogue, who is intrigued by the fashion and aesthetic appeal of the 1960s, says thrift shopping is the best way for her to express herself.
“When I walk into a store, there’s always a mannequin at the front giving me a template of how I should dress,” said Bogue. “What if I’m not comfortable with the options that have been provided? Thrift shopping just gives you the freedom to express through clothing.”
When it comes to purpose, it is clear that the empowerment of women ranks high on the to-do list for Walklet and Bogue. Hence the usage of the word “pussy.” The two feel as if the word is still taboo, and they use it as an endearing form of sexual self-appreciation. They want to take back the word from a male-dominated society and all the negative connotations that are associated with it. (Not unlike the well-known Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot.)
“We’re reclaiming the word,” said Walklet.
Walklet and Bogue hope one day they can open up a permanent store, but for now they are traveling and doing popups at a variety of spaces, such as flea markets, art galleries and farmers markets. No matter the outlet, they just want to get the word out about the cause, and, in the process, create some positive change.
You can catch Pussy Parlor’s next popup sale Tuesday, July 19 at the Berkeley Farmers Market on 63rd Street, off Adeline. The market is open from 2:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. You can also follow them on Instagram @pusssyparlorrvintage for more information regarding prices and popup dates.
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