It’s not often that when you leave a stable 9-to-5 to open your dream business, you hit the zeitgeist of the times so cleanly. Luckily, this is exactly what happened to Crystal Palmer and Sandra Huizar when, after several years working together at USAA, they decided they needed a change and opened a “recycled fashion” boutique on Hildebrand called Stitch to Wear.
Palmer, formerly of Austin, had always been inspired by the capital’s outpost of the clothing-recycling mecca Buffalo Exchange.
“I wanted the same energy here in San Antonio,” Palmer says. Like Buffalo Exchange, Stitch to Wear isn’t just a vintage clothing store or a consignment shop. The focus is on buy-sell-trade. They mainly take exchanges on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so “Friday is the best day to shop,” hints Palmer.
This works perfectly for Stitch to Wear’s core audience: college students.
“I wanted to have the store as close to as many colleges and universities as possible” says Palmer, listing clients from SAC, Incarnate Word, Trinity, and more. “They’re the type who will look into their closet, wonder, ‘What am I going to wear tonight?’ and grab something to bring in for trade. They come by, we agree on a swap, and I have some new merchandise and they have the perfect outfit for the evening.”
Stitch to Wear’s owners believe this immediate gratification is more effective than straight consignment — it’s fashion on the spot.
In the four months the shop has been open, Stitch to Wear has attracted its fair share of regulars, something Palmer felt confident would happen. With work by local artists on the wall, free WiFi, and satellite radio, Stitch to Wear fosters a casual hang-out atmosphere. Palmer and Huizar sit at a large open table near the cash register that’s open to customers, too, and they try to support their customers’ businesses as well by patronizing their venues, whether performances, openings, restaurants or bars.
One of the challenges of wearing vintage and recycled clothing can be the fit — you love something, but it’s just not quite made for your body. So Stitch to Wear has added in-house alterations and custom work by Huizar’s cousin, Enrique Almanza. Self-taught, Almanza has interned with Angelina Mata and shown at Southtown’s Art of Fashion and at the late, lamented Ruta Maya.
Stitch to Wear is well aware that the timing for their new business couldn’t be better. In addition to the tag line “Recycling is fashionable,” Palmer knows that people are going to need and want to look good for less for a long time to come. Some of her favorite customers are status-conscious teens who come in with their parents looking for that elusive Hollister shirt or jeans they could never afford otherwise.
“It’s hipper than Solo Serve,” Palmer jokes.
In the future, Stitch to Wear would like to offer fashion shows and monthly design workshops for students geared toward making fashion even more accessible for this audience.
In addition to the big brand names, Stitch to Wear is currently stocking vintage cowboy and tuxedo shirts, women’s shirtdresses and sundresses, and lots of jeans. The men’s section, curated by Almanza, is very strong. My Stitch to Wear picks for this spring? A winsome sleeveless cream shirtdress with an accordion-pleat skirt and teal polka dots, a black jersey tube-top maxi dress with bold stripes in primary colors, a classic navy trench coat, and a beige beaded Paul Smith purse Almanza scored in New York’s meatpacking district (it needs a little love, but it’s worth it).
Stitch to Wear regularly hosts 50-percent-off sales, so merchandise turns over quickly. Shop often, and if you’re looking for something specific, let the staff know — Almanza may be able to whip up something custom for you, or they’ll keep an eye out and call you when the right thing comes in. Because that’s the kind of shop this is. •
Stitch to Wear
514 W. Hildebrand