Ontario’s largest travelling vintage and sustainable clothing event took place in the middle of Mississauga’s Square One shopping centre over the weekend, aiming to cultivate communities through fashion.

The event, hosted by The Street Market, brought together vendors from across the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal to help sell their thrifted apparel in the high-traffic mall.

The Street Market’s founder and CEO, 22-year-old Harrison Snyder, started the travelling thrifting event in 2019 to help bring small businesses together. “As we got into it, our goal was to just help businesses make money,” Snyder said.

The idea came from a vintage clothing business Snyder started in his senior year of high school called Curated by Grail, which ultimately led him to meet his current business partners. Together, they created a vintage store called The Clarendon Trading Company, and during their first retail store opening in Markham, they decided to invite different vendors, which ended up becoming their first street market.

“To help uplift small businesses, we try to enable them to sell in high-traffic environments with the help of large corporations. Ultimately, we’re just giving small businesses a platform to sell in corporate settings,” Snyder said.

Claudia Filipsky, owner of Cloud Girl Vintage, was one of the vendors at Square One over the weekend. The 29-year-old started Cloud Girl “because I wanted to show some of the fab things I’ll find on the day-to-day and bring sustainable, cute things for everyone to wear and a passion for history and fashion.”

The Street Market events give small businesses a chance to sell when the retail landscape is too expensive for small businesses to start with a physical storefront, she said.

“These events help you connect with people and bring secondhand fashion to a whole new market, especially at the malls like Square One and Scarborough Town Centre,” she said.

Joshua Solomons, owner of YYZ clothing, was another vintage clothing vendor at Square One. Solomons said the event “helps bring awareness about a subculture that most people, especially older generations, don’t understand or know about.”

Ontario’s largest travelling vintage and sustainable clothing event, hosted by The Street Market at Mississauga’s Square One shopping centre over the weekend, aims to cultivate communities through fashion.

“By having these events in high-traffic areas like malls, you allow for fast-fashion consumers to learn and see how preowned and vintage items can be just as affordable, with more quality than what these customers are used to,” Solomons said. “Toronto Street Market gives a platform for us to not only profit off of our hard work sourcing, but to teach and show people this whole other side of the fashion industry.

“The fast-fashion industry is detrimental to our planet and a lot of people don’t think about that when buying cheap clothes. All of my items are hand-picked and create a circular cycle for garments that would end up in a landfill or shipped off overseas where they’ll eventually be forgotten about.”

This year, The Street Market has so far hosted over 20 events, touring Montreal and cities across Ontario while working with corporations like Cadillac Fairview, which owns several shopping malls.

Snyder said working with a venue like Square One is interesting because there are “certain visual guidelines that we have to adhere to, so when it comes down to merchandising the event, it's not just us slapping something together.”

Still, the timeline for hosting a Street Market event is a matter of weeks. Typically, the company puts out a Google form for vendors to apply two to three weeks beforehand.

“It's like an audition, and since we have such a limited amount of space, we typically choose 14 vendors — while we typically get upwards of 60 vendors applying,” Snyder said.

While it's difficult to choose vendors, the Street Market team looks for variety and selection.

“Recently, we have been focusing on more females and people of colour ... businesses to help support them,” Snyder said.

Another thing Snyder has to consider is the diverse mall demographic. “We’re working with such a wide group of people, whether they are old or young, people who like thrifting or have never thrifted before,” he said. “It’s eye-opening to see what type of consumers are interested in secondhand, sustainable options.”

For first-time thrifters, Snyder said The Street Market is a great place to start because there's so much variety and the events are free to attend.

Through hosting these events, Snyder has learned how to market on tight timelines and bring the Street Market experience to different venues in the province and beyond. “It's our first time consistently touring after the pandemic lockdown, and we literally do the events every weekend or biweekly.”

Snyder said many people seem to be intrigued by the Street Market’s events right now. “We have a lot of enthusiastic guests. Customers have come to every single event we’ve had this year and travel from Waterloo and Guelph to Montreal just to see [us],” he said.

“We do have a lot of repeat customers and loyal fans who come to everything, and the vendors seem to love it as well. We have a tight-knit community, and everyone is friends and very uplifting and supportive of each other.”

The Street Market hopes to hold events in other Canadian cities in the future.

For first-time thrifters, Snyder said The Street Market is a great place to start because there's so much variety and the events are free to attend.

The Street Market’s next event is happening Saturday, Oct. 22, at Parkdale Hall in Toronto.

Nairah Ahmed / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer