By Mick Swasko, @mickswasko
3:06 PM CST, December 7, 2012
Thrift stores got you down in the hunt for that perfectly ugly Christmas sweater?
That was Clarissa Trujillo’s predicament in 2007, when she and her husband George went on a last minute hunt for an ironic eyesore of a holiday sweater for a party.
“We just couldn’t find him something we considered ugly enough,” she said, adding most thrift stores were picked over by the time the holidays came around. So, the former West Loop pair took to the Internet. Still, the options were slim. That’s when it occurred to them that there’s a market for awful Christmas outerwear.
“It just sort of dawned on us,” she said. Over the next few months, she spent her commutes brainstorming ideas, and uglysweaterstore.com was born.
The site, which was originally operated out of their condo, was the result of hours of thrifting throughout the year, collecting hundreds of ugly sweaters, vests, cardigans and turtlenecks. In its first year, the site only sold a few hundred items. Now, the site has a warehouse in Arizona – where Trujillo relocated for her husband's job a year ago – and sells sweaters by the thousands.
“I think people are just catching on that it’s a really fun way to celebrate the holidays,” she said. “It’s something you can laugh at, and laugh at others. The trend is really growing exponentially.”
Trujillo said the site now relies on a wholesaler that collects vintage merchandise, but she still can’t stop herself from buying a few every time she’s in a thrift shop. After spending years searching for the worst, she said she has some favorites.
“We had one that was sort of a sequin fireplace with a really gross 3-D white car in front of it, it was kind of creepy,” she said.
The holidays are busy, she said, but surprisingly, the summer can get clogged with orders, too. She said Canada, Australia and the UK often order during that time. At the beginning of the year, the site had a stockpile of about 5,000 sweaters. She said it’s already sold several thousand in 2012.
Trujillo said the site offers express and priority shipping options that can usually be delivered in about five days.
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