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In the past three weeks, Yanina Landsaat has sold clothing and accessories to a stylish 60-year-old, a Hasidic woman, a librarian, and a plenty of hipsters. Her consignment store, Don The Verb, which opened on May 5, is home to an eclectic collection of fashion treasures old and new. Yet something undefinable unites them. You could call it "chic." Landsaat calls it "pretty, not grungy, and subtlewith a little Frenchiness."
A few years ago, she spotted a hole in the consignment businesspeople had to be willing to schlep their unwanted clothing to the store; no one was willing to do the schlepping for them. "So I thought, fine, if you won't do it, I will," Landsaat explains from beneath her dark, blunt bangs. That's when she left her day job and started Drive-By Consignment, a service that proved quietly popular with the kind of Upper East Side lady who wouldn't be caught dead hocking her old threads. "Most of my clients are in their 50s and 60s," Landsaat says, "and they have the best stuff. You can tell by looking at their clothes how much fun they had."
Landsaat likes the idea of recycling, and has an eye that allows her to see a piece of clothing in very different contexts. When she considers a short Bill Blass couture dress that's cut like a blazer with a huge ruffle down its front, she translates it out of the penthouse apartment where it's been living since the '80s and onto the kind of girl who might wander into Landsaat's store on Delancey Street. "They're like you and me," she says of her customers. "They want to look good, but they're all on a budget."
Drive-By Consignment started with fliers. Landsaat would spend the week picking up items from customers' houses, then sell them on the weekends at the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market and Saint Anthony's in Soho. The stuff was great. "I was selling Chanel bags on the street," she says. Her business grew so quickly that soon she could barely store the clothes in her apartment.
Eventually, she opened a shop uptown, but with a partner whose taste differed from her own enough to keep her from buying many of the pieces she loved most. After eight months, and with the encouragement of her husband, Landsaat was ready to go it alone. Three weeks later, she found out an old trim shop was closing on the edge of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and signed a lease.
Conveniently, Landsaat's husband is a contractor, so she had more than a little help recycling the shelving into industrial-looking wall panels and installing windows display where before there had been just clutter. Looking around, she says she would like to wear all the clothes hanging from the racks, all the shoes lined up on the floor, all the necklaces and bags on display. When deciding what to buy, Landsaat tries to channel her regular customersnot on the assumption that a particular customer will end up with a particular piece, but for inspiration. She ultimately imagines herself in all the items"in an alternate universe," she says.
On this particular Wednesday, she's wearing the downtown unifiorm of tight Levi's and a black T-shirt. "When I go to a party or have people over, I am pretty over-the-top," she says, "but generally, my life's just not like that."