The idyllic Geneva, Illinois, could easily be mistaken for Stars Hollow. It is, after all, home to Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse, which transformed into “Luke’s” diner in celebration of the Netflix limited series reboot of Gilmore Girls. The heart of Geneva is 3rd Street, just west of the meandering Fox River. It is on this street, between Franklin and Campbell, that the stately Charles B. Wells House proudly stands. Formerly Geneva’s first hospital, the manor now holds several retail shops, including Jane Pabon Boutique.
This luxury consignment shop, nestled in the north wing of the house, is everything a good consignment shop should be. Upon entry, visitors will likely be welcomed by Valentino, Ms. Pabon’s 4-year-old Maltese Yorkie. The humble space, awash in natural light, welcomes consignors and customers alike. Luxury consignment shops like this one are the destination for high-end, high-quality, gently-used (and sometimes never-used) designer garments and accessories.
Pairs of shiny leather boots and lush suede booties stand in formation on glass shelves in the front room, tempting shoppers with the promise of the autumn to come. A doorway leads to a bright room with racks of casual athleisure and chic dresswear. Shoes peek out of cubbies from an island in the center of the room. A side table of vibrant beaded clutches complements the assortment.
Next to the checkout counter, designer hand bags, cross-bodies and wallets beckon from behind a pane of glass. Seasonal jackets, coats and dusters round out the offering.
While many consignment shops should bear a sign out front saying, “Enter at your own risk: frequent clothing avalanches,” there is something to be said for a simple and painless shopping experience.
As I meander through the shop, I pick up a khaki green silk dress, Dalmatian print cotton blouse, backless black knit tank, pink floral top and champagne sequin cocktail dress. Irene, the helpful shop assistant, elegantly displays these items in the fitting room. These small touches make Jane Pabon Boutique feel less consignment and more boutique.
While shopping, I witness consigners pop in to browse, check on their consigned items and inquire about Valentino. It occurs to me that about half the visitors on that Saturday are not just shoppers, but consigners.
It is clear that Jane Pabon Boutique is an important fixture in these women’s lives, which is no small feat in this digital age.
But while consignment offers budget and environmentally-conscious shoppers a good value proposition, I wonder if it simultaneously enables the overconsumption of wealthy consumers by providing a reliable second-hand market. From my perspective, the main benefit of second-hand shops is extending the life of clothing already in circulation. And while consignment may not solve our largest garment industry issues (environmental degradation, workers’ rights abuses, etc.), it does support entrepreneurship and extend the life of clothing.
In the fitting room, I slip into a black gown I threw into the mix at the last minute. Emerging from behind the green curtains into the middle of the shop, I asses my selection in the oversize mirror. I feel exquisite.
In a moment, I am reminded why I love shopping second hand. Whether scouring racks at Goodwill, searching rural charity shops or flitting through a luxury consignment boutique, I know I am giving these clothes new life.
-Una Voce Equa
© 2021 Emma Westfall