Unique thrift store in Manchester encourages you to Beg, Steal and Borrow

Meet the woman behind Afflecks Palace’s stylishly sustainable thrift and swap shop which she set up in her early 20s after moving from the USA.

What was the most impressive thing you did in your 20s? Did you have your life figured out? Had you started a new career? Were you travelling the world?

Not every twenty-something knows exactly what to do – but Erin Taylor-Thomas had her life planned out in pink.

Erin owns the quirky and vibrant thrift shop Beg, Steal & Borrow in Afflecks Palace, Manchester, which she set up at just 21 – a year after she emigrated to Manchester from Nashville, Tennessee.

The now-25-year-old told Mancunian Matters: “When I first moved to Manchester, I had no idea that I wanted to start a shop.

“The vision was mostly just to make clothing accessible for people and for them to be able to experiment with their style, without having to shop for fast fashion.

“Manchester has a fashion sense – there’s a lot of people who just express themselves through clothes, and you can see it on the streets. 

“So I saw an opportunity, and I took it, and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.”

The pink paradise is filled with stylish pre-loved clothes and accessories. Erin handpicks the clothes she receives, so every item is curated to her target audience.

Whatever your style, from Y2K to grunge to streetwear – she’s got it all.

With a passion for sustainable fashion herself, Erin knows how to put a good outfit together.

She will be curating the looks for a fashion show later this month celebrating Manchester’s fashion history.

The ‘Fabric of Us’ show will be held at the Science and Industry Museum on the evening of March 21.

Talking about her personal fashion style, Erin said: “I think the best tip I can have is just don’t pin something down. Experiment and have fun with it.

“Sometimes people take pictures of me in the street, which I think is weird, but I know that I look nice and like I’m happy with the way I look. It just takes a lot of confidence.

“Build your confidence and have fun with it and wear exactly what you want to wear.”

Alongside acting as a regular thrift shop, Beg, Steal & Borrow lets people swap their preloved items for a voucher of equal worth to spend in the store.

She explained that her business model has developed from being ‘buy, sell and trade’, and has now shifted to ‘clothing exchange thrift shop’ due to the mass influx in clothes she received – hence the name of the store.

Erin’s mission is to make sustainable fashion accessible to everyone – even more important during a time of economic hardship.

She said: “Clothing needs to be accessible to stop people from going to fast fashion brands. 

“The stores surrounding us can be quite expensive and I think that, especially with vintage clothes, by making up your own prices, you create a price bubble. So it takes all the clothes out of circulation, which is not the goal.

“At a time when people don’t have much money and they’re looking for ways to save, if that’s through trading their clothes or shopping at lower price points, then I’m happy to facilitate that.”

Although the concept of thrifting was first developed in the early 19th century, it gained its popularity in the USA at the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Now, thrifting remains a popular way to shop: 61% of Americans buy second-hand items over new ones.

Erin spotted a chance to upgrade Manchester’s current thrifting scene and introduced a standout trade-and-swap business model for her shop.

Within its three years of business, Manchester’s thrift community has grown fond of Beg, Steal & Borrow’s distinctive style, alongside their busy events made for sustainable fashion lovers.

The shop’s most recent success was seen at their ‘Galentine’s Day’ party which celebrated other women-owned businesses as well as a rummage sale provided by the shop.

Amazed with how far her company has grown, Erin said: “I didn’t know it’d be this successful, I’m not a pessimist but I just didn’t believe it. But I am genuinely surprised at how many people love it, and that brings me a lot of joy and motivates me to do more.

“Sometimes I have to take a moment because I am so overwhelmed by how proud I am of how far it’s come. The people that I’ve met along the way, the experiences I’ve had, I can’t even put a price on it.”

Apps like Vinted and Depop have also helped broaden the thrifting audience and allow users to sell their own pre-loved items – but although they’re great tools to help thrift culture grow, the unregulated nature of these apps often causes controversy and may damage the reputation of independent second-hand stores.  

Erin said: “I love Vinted because it is targeted at people who are just clearing out their wardrobes and I support that, I use it all the time. 

“The thing about Depop is the price bubble. I don’t use Depop because [sellers] will wait for someone willing to buy it, while it takes it out of circulation for the people who can’t afford it.

“I think that it’s the future – and culture is good where it’s facilitating things being circulated – but when you price people out of stuff just so that you can make a hustle it’s not right.”

It’s an exciting time for a fashion lover to be in Manchester, especially the appearance of the Chanel Métiers D’Art fashion show in the Northern Quarter last year.

While fashion is constantly expanding and growing across the city, Beg Steal & Borrow is no exception in improving Manchester’s fashion scene while helping it be more sustainable.

With Erin on the case, it will be inspiring to see what the young talent can do next to expand the fashion scene further. 

Images courtesy of Erin Taylor-Thomas

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