Fashion

How One Chic Toronto Woman Sourced Her Entire Wardrobe—for Free

Jenny Kim stopped shopping retail and started creating her OOTDs through thrifting and Bunz trades. Now she turns them into incredible digital lookbooks for the Bunz blog

Jenny Kim poses in a laundromat wearing a palm print skirt and hat

(Photo: Courtesy Jenny Kim)

Jenny Kim—a Toronto-based illustrator, graphic designer and burgeoning stylist—trades her used items for clothes and accessories and hasn’t spent a dime on new duds in almost a year. When FLARE caught wind of this, we had to ask the frugal shopper how she did it. Her answer: Bunz Trading Zone, a service that allows locals to swap items they’re done with for something they *actually* want or need.

The Bunz app, which started more than a year ago as an extension of the insanely popular Bunz Facebook group, boasts a community of 160,000+ members and has been praised for promoting sustainability and eschewing wasteful consumerism. But Kim doesn’t just use Bunz to trade her unwanted stuff: the swapping site now commissions her to create digital lookbooks for the Bunz blog that combine her love of photography, graphic design and fashion.

So just how did Kim ditch shopping for Bunz-ing and eventually get paid to model her finds? Prior to working for Bunz, Kim used the app to casually swap unwanted stuff for clothes. In spring 2016, Kim saw an ad looking for vendors for a Bunz flea market and decided she’d sell and exchange her own handmade pins and original artwork there. It was there that Kim struck up a conversation with Sarena Ally, marketing lead for bunz.com, and learned that Bunz was trying to get its trading community more involved with the Bunz brand. Ally thought Kim had the potential—and style—to do just that.

Jenny Kim wear a pink straokess top, hat and sunglasses

(Photo: Courtesy of Jenny Kim)

Ally encouraged Kim to write about her Bunz trades for the Bunz blog, which was just in its infancy at the time. It took a minute for Kim to figure out how to communicate her style, but an Instagram pic she shared to her personal account eventually inspired the way her blog lookbooks are now curated: chic, creative and often with her own illustrations overlaid on her photos.

FLARE recently chatted with Kim about her Bunz trades, her hella inspirational lookbooks and how she pulls together all those ah-ma-zing OOTDs.

Why do you source your outfits from Bunz rather than retailers?

When you go to a retail store at the mall, it is so easy to find something that’s trendy—and I find that it’s almost too accessible. There’s a chance that you could find it on somebody else, and I find that it devalues personal style. There is a huge movement right now with sustainable fashion. It’s such an interesting challenge to put together an outfit through what you can find on Bunz. You’re never sure what you’re going to find.

Jenny Kim is sitting down next to a green bicycle wearing an orange top and brown boots

(Photo: Courtesy of Jenny Kim)

What’s your creative process when it comes to your lookbooks?

The Bunz team and I always think of a theme. For example, I was going away for a couple of days to Prince Edward County, so I thought I could incorporate the lookbook with the trip itself and create a fall vacation lookbook. That was a unique way of putting together looks without feeling pressured to come up with something really quick.

Which part of the lookbook process is your favourite?

Trying to put together different looks. By seeing which ones work and which ones don’t, I get to learn a lot about what doesn’t work. It’s a process of elimination. I find that the hardest part is the actual scouring through Bunz and meeting up with people. I remember one time where I had nine trades in one day. It was a full 9-5 day.

Jenny Kim wears a blue dress and poses on a balcony

(Photo: Courtesy of Jenny Kim)

Are the outfits you wear in your lookbooks things that you would wear on a day-to-day basis or do you stretch outside of your personal style?

There was one lookbook that wasn’t really my style and that was the TIFF lookbook. That really challenged me to push my personal style and make it not about me, but [rather] on what’s trending in the high-fashion world and putting it together so that it’s wearable on the street. My personal style, first and foremost, is comfortable. Lately, it has been all about pants—high-waisted with flared bottoms. I feel like the ’90s are coming back and I’ve definitely been into that. My personal style evolves so often that I feel like I can’t keep track. I love putting together colours that might not look good together on paper but maybe just work as a fashion style.

Why did you decide to add illustrations to your photographs?

Initially it started out as an exercise for me to continue the training I received in art school on a regular basis; I lost touch with what I had learned. That’s why I started drawing myself in. I want to challenge myself to see what my outfits look like in illustrated form.

If I’m wearing, for example, an all-black outfit, it doesn’t necessarily translate well into an illustration. It might not be as interesting to look at, so I always have to play it up. I would have to find pants that have a pattern on them to distinguish something like my black coat from my black top. It brings it full circle—it helps create better outfits to make better illustrations.

Jenny Kim wears jeans, a sheer black top with appliques, brown boots and a wide-brimmed hat

(Photo: Courtesy of Jenny Kim)

What was your first trade using Bunz? 

It was a really cool experience. I actually wasn’t looking for anything specific at the time, but this person messaged me about red spray paint that I had from Halloween. I was looking through her profile and found a messenger bag, and I was like, Okay, it’s brand-new. At the time my partner was looking for one for work. I asked for that, and then she wanted some other things of mine. For me, I was just trying to get rid of things that I never used. I ended up trading three things for the messenger bag. When I got it, it was brand-new and I looked at the tag and saw that it was worth $350.

What are your top three prized possessions that you acquired from Bunz?

One of them is the messenger bag. The other would be glass terrariums and the third is an authentic leather Hieleven bag.

Related:
#HowIMadeIt: Emily Bitze, Bunz Community Founder
5 Bunz Trading Zone Deals Too Embarrassing to Post
9 Beauty Services You Can Get on Bunz for a Bottle of Wine