Finding that perfect top hanging on a clothing rack is easier than hoping it might be inside a garbage bag filled with crumpled clothing.
For that very reason a Harlem church is providing a luxury shopping experience for the less financially fortunate. The 10th annual Clothing Mall at the First Corinthian Baptist Church is set for Saturday and promises to be bigger and fancier that it’s ever been.
Two floors of the church are lined with clothing racks, divided into departments and organized by sizes. Shoppers will enjoy music as they shop, and popcorn as they wait to be admitted into the mall. They go in 10 at a time, and everyone is greeted by a personal shopper who can help them find what they need and provide styling advice.
The idea is to make it a plush, Bloomingdales-like experience that makes shoppers feel pampered and proud.
Pastor Willa Johnson promises plenty of beautiful, unworn, label clothing donated from companies like Maggie London, Jessica Howard and Free Country. And from the other donations, only the very best things are picked—like a fur coat and a Stella McCarthy gown.
“We have a very aggressive sorting process. We wouldn’t give anything we wouldn’t put on ourselves,” Johnson said.
Each shopper is given 12 tickets to use on the bags, shoes, accessories, kids, juniors, men’s women’s and senior items at the mall. At checkout the items are wrapped in tissue paper and put in a boutique shopping bag to add to the high-end experience.
“Last year we had a wedding dress, there were several people who wanted the dress, but it went to whoever was in line first. She took it home and she tried it on. But it didn’t fit and so she brought it back and the woman who really wanted it got to take it,” Johnson said. “It was really remarkable.”
Volunteers have been organizing and publicizing the event for months in shelters, soup kitchens and pantries. They’re expecting more than 1,000 people this year.
“Most of the people who come together for this are volunteers, doing from the love of their heart, and doing it for families,” Johnson said. “T’ts good stuff, people are not just giving their trash, people are stocking it months ahead of time and that makes it such a success.”