Scoring a great deal for a great cause: Designer Days opens Nov. 1
Fashion and philanthropyNational Council of Jewish Women's Thriftique

Scoring a great deal for a great cause: Designer Days opens Nov. 1

“What sets our thrift store apart is the donations we get from our incredible donors."

Stuart Weitzman boots, $125 (Photo courtesy of Thriftique)
Stuart Weitzman boots, $125 (Photo courtesy of Thriftique)

For the last 11 months, the staff and volunteers of Thriftique, a resale shop run by the National Council of Jewish Women, have set aside the “best of the best” in anticipation of its five-day Designer Days event.

That means upscale donated clothing and accessories with labels like Burberry, Channel, Gucci and Missoni. And that’s just for starters.

Designer Days begins on Nov. 1 with a VIP preview party and continues with a public sale through Nov. 6.

Thriftique, located in Lawrenceville, sells high-quality, new and gently used clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry and home goods. The proceeds from its sales provide funding for NCJW programming.

In addition to offering affordable items and sustainable shopping practices, Thriftique provides on-site job training to adults with special needs.

The shop bustles with business all year, but the atmosphere turns downright festive during Designer Days, Patricia Tsagaris, Thriftique’s director said.

“It’s just festive party time,” she said. “And we hope we can infuse the whole (opening) evening with that feeling. I think it will be a nice way for people to take a break from the overwhelming feelings that they’re feeling right now.”

The merchandise is high-end and in excellent condition, Tsagaris said.

“What sets our thrift store apart is the donations we get from our incredible donors,” she said. “It’s this bank of beautiful fashions and accessories that they bestow on us to help us raise money for our programs. And we have a lot of nice items this year. We save all the best of the best that we collect all year-round, and on Nov. 1 it all comes out and that’s very exciting.”

This will be Thriftique’s 53rd consecutive Designer Days. Debbie Olszewski, Thriftique’s manager, has worked at the store for more than 40 years.

Burberry slacks, $90 (Photo courtesy of Thriftique)
“Designer Days is special because we get people from all walks of life coming in here,” Olszewski said. “And the majority of them come to get those finds that they could not afford to buy at the regular price.”

Olszewski recalled a group of four flight attendants who each year — beginning in the 1980s and continuing until about 2010 — came to Designer Days for a two-day shopping spree.
“They would actually bring their lunch with them,” Olszewski recalled. “And the four of them would buy everything they needed for the year. They would buy suits; they would buy evening dresses. It was just a nice thing.”

Olszewski also remembered Sherri Shepherd, formerly of “The View,” coming to Designer Days one year when she happened to be in town.

“She ended up coming over to the store, buying four fur coats and then showing them on ‘The View’ that Monday,” Olszewski said.

The opening night of Designer Days typically draws hundreds of customers, Tsagaris said, and the bargain hunters “come from all over.”

Chanel jacket, $200 (Photo courtesy of Thriftique)
“We have a lot of New York shoppers, Ohio shoppers, Canadian shoppers,” she said. “Some of them are resellers because they know we have a great market here and they take their items back to New York and resell them and mark them up. We’ve learned to live with that. That’s just the way the economy works with resale. But we feel our prices are great for our market.”

This year’s inventory includes a beautiful array of St. John knits, brightly-colored Pucci garments and “a lot of Louis Vuitton,” she said. The store also has an ample supply of upscale menswear and “an amazing number of boots and shoes,” including Jimmy Choo and Stuart Weitzman.

To make it to the Designer Days floor, all items must be in “near pristine” condition, Tsagaris said. “Gently used is putting it lightly, and some of them are new with tags.”

The inventory, which Tsagaris estimates to number more than 20,000 items, comprises an array of sizes, including petite and plus-size women’s fashion.

Designer Days is NCJW’s biggest annual fundraiser, she said. Last year, the event raised about $100,000 to support the organization’s programs to help improve the lives of women, children, and families.

This year’s Designer Days theme is “There’s a Place for Us,” celebrating diversity and self-expression.

Vintage silver leather coat, $300 (Photo courtesy of Thriftique)
“We really want to accentuate that,” Tsagaris said. “Style is individual and all-inclusive; at the same time, it is very diverse and we’re representing it through different fashions and fabrics throughout the store. But it’s really just the way Thriftique as a store always operates. We’re welcoming. We’re inclusive. We just want you to feel at home when you’re shopping here.

“We’re here if you are buying your first dress and you have changed your lifestyle,” she added. “We want you to know that this is a safe place for you.”

Thriftique also provides clothing vouchers to women and families in financial transition.

When NC JW Pittsburgh launched in 1893, “it was started by women in the Squirrel Hill community wanting to clothe immigrant families that were coming to Pittsburgh,” Tsagaris said. “And we are still doing that work right now. We clothed a family from the Congo last week. It was a mother and her two children and they went out of here with winter coats. So I was thinking those women who were the founders, they would just be so proud of us that we’re still continuing that work.” PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

read more: