Vintage market brings sustainable shopping to Union Station

By Brandon Choghri

Massive lines filled the halls of Union Station Saturday, but the crowds weren’t there for trains or buses, they were waiting for their chance to shop secondhand clothing inside a space that used to hold horse carriages.

Hundreds of shoppers made their way to Toronto’s transit hub for the travelling thrifting event known as The Street Market. Over 30 local vendors set up inside the newly revamped TD West Carriageway, where they’ll sell vintage clothing and handmade goods through the weekend.

Shoppers sift through racks of secondhand clothing inside Union Station.

Shoppers sift through racks of secondhand clothing inside Union Station. (Brandon Choghri/CITYNEWS)

“People used to be able to come in carriages and drop people off and go take the train and travel through Canada,” explains Jessica Lemire, Union Station’s director of marketing activations. “We were able to enclose the space in this beautiful glass so you can see the Royal York, you can see the CN Tower… it’s a very exclusive space but we’re really excited to get to use it a lot more.”

Used clothing might not be what comes to mind when you think of shopping at Bay and Front, but the team at Union Station says it’s a perfect match for them.

“Taking transit is everyone’s part in making the earth a greener and nicer place, thrifting is just the same,” says Lemire.

“It’s sustainable, you’re leaving clothing out of landfills and you’re also reducing chemical pollutions from clothing production so it’s all really aligned to our values at Union.”

The Street Market’s founder Harrison Snyder echoes the sentiment.

“Sustainable fashion is something that is very accessible based on the price point, based on the abundance of it, at the same time that goes hand-in-hand with public transit.”

Much of the appeal for the vintage shopping community comes down to wearable nostalgia.

“I have a 1986 Guess jean jacket,” Snyder says while showing off his denim. “A similar jacket was actually worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, one of my favourite movies.”

Snyder is in his early 20s, so that nostalgia actually dates back to the previous generation.

“Our parents grew up with these movies,” he says with a smile. “Getting to wear stuff that our parents wore back in the 80s and 90s is really cool. I look at pictures of my dad back in the 80s and see that he’s wearing something similar, so getting to wear that or recreate a photo of him wearing that I think is really cool.”

Shoppers searching through a rack of t-shirts.

Shoppers searching for vintage gold on a rack of t-shirts. (Brandon Choghri/CITYNEWS)

For some of the vendors, thrifting has been a way for them to express themselves, long before these styles became trendy.

“I came from a low-income family, so it was a way of exploring my style while not breaking the bank,” says Malak Fahmy, who started her shop Hedoum three years ago.

“I’m a big advocate for finding sustainable ways to explore your style without overconsumption, especially with fast fashion.”

Union Station is hoping to bring more of these sustainable partnerships to their event spaces in the near future.

“As the busiest building in Canada, we’ve partnered with the city of Toronto to bring the culinary, cultural and retail experiences,” says Lemire.

“That also involves showcasing the best of Toronto, and the best of Toronto are these small vendors that work day-in, day-out. They’re putting their blood, sweat and tears into these businesses.”

The Street Market’s event at Union Station continues Sunday, with shopping open from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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