Truc Nguyen finds a thriv­ing de­sign com­mu­nity and a gold mine of sec­ond-hand clothes in Nashville.

Some travel to Nashville for the mu­sic. Stylist Truc Nguyen goes for the thrill of the hunt at the Un­claimed Bag­gage Cen­ter.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents -

I t all started with a pair of Givenchy rub­ber slides. In the win­ter, my best friend mes­saged me a photo of the black logo san­dals, ask­ing if I wanted to buy them for $99 U.S. She was shop­ping at the Un­claimed Bag­gage Cen­ter in Scotts­boro, Ala., where the in-sea­son shoes were be­ing sold for less than a third of the re­tail price. I ag­o­nized for a few min­utes and then passed on the pur­chase (they were one size too big), but the pos­si­bil­ity of a de­signer steal put the wheels in mo­tion for my pil­grim­age to the bag­gage de­pot just two hours out­side Nashville. That’s not to say Nashville it­self wouldn’t have been enough. Yes, live mu­sic is still the big draw, but at least some of the record-break­ing 13.9 mil­lion vis­i­tors to the city in 2016 ven­tured be­yond the honky-tonks and the Grand Ole Opry to eat Mex­i­can pale­tas in 12South or try on Queen Bey-ap­proved jack­ets in East Nashville. Dev and Rachel’s first date in sea­son one of Mas­ter of None aside, Nashville’s hot rep­u­ta­tion has been helped by the TV show of the same name as well as buzzy ar­ti­cles in The New York Times, Busi­ness of Fash­ion and Vogue. Fash­ion friends have raved about vin­tage stores like Lo­cal Honey and Pre to Post Mod­ern, but it was the cal­i­bre and va­ri­ety of Nashville’s in­de­pen­dent bou­tiques that I found most im­pres­sive. I could have spent en­tire af­ter­noons pe­rus­ing the del­i­cate jew­ellery at Con­sider the Wld­flwrs, the spec­tac­u­lar sun­dries at White’s Mer­can­tile and the el­e­gant pot­tery and fur­nish­ings at Wilder.

The sense of ca­ma­raderie and sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ships among the many cre­ative types and en­trepreneurs was pal­pa­ble. At Poppy & Mon­roe, a salon and well­ness shop in Ger­man­town, you can get a mani with lo­cal prod­uct Aila pol­ish and walk out with a Ceri Hoover leather bag; both brands have de­voted home­town fol­low­ings.

“Last night, I went to Porter Flea [at Sky­way Stu­dios in East Nashville],” says de­signer and Project Run­way alum Amanda Valen­tine dur­ing a stu­dio visit. “When those mar­kets with a lot of lo­cal de­sign­ers hap­pen, I love to do my shop­ping for the sea­son. Ev­ery day, I could be wear­ing some­thing made by some­one I know—that’s pretty cool.”

But I also wanted some de­signer sou­venirs and found that the best shop­ping hap­pens at United Ap­parel Liq­uida­tors, a Nashville-based chain that Racked calls a best-kept se­cret for bargain-hunt­ing fash­ion­istas. Half of the south­ern chain’s six lo­ca­tions are in Nashville’s metropoli­tan area, and I spent hours hap­pily try­ing on ev­ery­thing I could—from lacy Ro­darte gowns to Crea­tures of the Wind shoes—my heart »

beat­ing at the thrill of the hunt and the prom­ise of mul­ti­ple mark­downs. I left (very re­luc­tantly) with only Bobo Choses shorts for my daugh­ter and a hand­ful of $5 Edith A. Miller knits.

On the last day of my trip, I fi­nally made my way to the 3,700-square-me­tre Un­claimed Bag­gage Cen­ter, which of­fers the con­tents of lost lug­gage at 20 to 80 per cent off sug­gested re­tail prices and at­tracts al­most a mil­lion vis­i­tors a year. “We are dif­fer­ent from any other re­tailer in the coun­try,” says the cen­tre’s Brenda O. Cantrell. “It’s an es­cape. It’s a cu­rios­ity. It’s a bargain hunt. We’re not a ‘have to shop’ store; we’re a ‘want to shop’ store.”

Re­port­edly the only such con­cept store in the United States, it got its start in 1970 when founder Doyle Owens bought a truck full of un­claimed bags from a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., friend who worked at the Trail­ways bus com­pany. The cen­tre now has agree­ments with ma­jor air­lines, who send their un­claimed freight cargo and suit­cases—fol­low­ing a 90-day wait­ing pe­riod—in bulk to Scotts­boro to be sorted for sale, do­nated to char­ity or dis­posed of. About a third of all the mer­chan­dise that ar­rives is di­verted to the cen­tre’s “Re­claimed for Good” pro­gram, which shares it with or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Sal­va­tion Army and Med­i­cal Mis­sion Aid.

I spot­ted ev­ery­thing from sun­glasses (start­ing at $5 and with a limit of three pairs per cus­tomer) to fish­ing equip­ment and elec­tron­ics on the sales floor, but the most lux­u­ri­ous looks are kept be­hind a counter near the main en­trance: Fendi bags and Cartier watches are mixed in with thou­sands of pieces of vin­tage and cos­tume jew­ellery. While I was slightly dis­ap­pointed with the prices (a gen­tly used Fendi bag was still $1,000), they are gen­er­ally com­pa­ra­ble to what you might ex­pect at an out­let mall or other off-price re­tail­ers. In the end, I did leave with one pur­chase: a pair of Vince leather slides in my size for $8.29. Mis­sion ac­com­plished.





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