How sisters, Ljupka Neducsin and Tanya Malinovska, have consigned their way from local pop-up to becoming local fashion icons.
By Megan Douress
Photos by Susan Beard Design Co. (susanbearddesign.com)
On any given day, the most fabulous second-hand clothing and accessories can be found in the windows of 4355 Main Street. Manayunk has been Ljupka Neducsin and Tanya Malinovska’s own personal runway since opening Remix on Main in 2009. But the fashion industry wasn’t always something the sisters envisioned themselves getting into.
“We don’t come from a major fashion city like Paris or Milan,” said Ljupka, who co-owns Remix on Main with Tanya. “We come from a very small mountain town in Macedonia.”
Ljupka and Tanya’s fascination with fashion started at a very young age. They credit their working mother, who always wore something to admire.
“She is someone who always dressed nicely for work — wearing a nice suit or matching set with plenty of accessories and heels,” Ljupka said. “We love her sense of fashion. We’re talking 10, 20, 30 years ago this all started.”
“She always had a nice lipstick or earrings with a matching necklace,” Tanya added. “She complimented her outfits, always.”
Ljupka and Tanya’s leap into entrepreneurship all started in 2005. Ljupka relocated from their home country to Manayunk, where she attended English and business marketing classes at the Community College of Philadelphia and bartended on Main Street. Tanya, however, made a pit stop in London to work as an au pair and study business before making the move across the pond in 2011.
“We live in Manayunk, we work in Manayunk – it’s our comfort, it’s our home,” Ljupka said. “To me, it’s everything I’ve known. I’m a true Manayunk person. Tanya had no choice but to come to Manayunk!”
While briefly living on the Main Line, Ljupka met a few women who had found less and less use out of the designer clothing and accessories they had collected on their travels overseas — from Japan to Italy — throughout the years. Although she was attending school and working another job, Ljupka went out on a whim and tried her hand at designer consignment by hosting a weekend pop-up store at 4255 Main Street.
“She opened the store in 2009. That was 11 years ago,” Tanya explained. “Consignment wasn’t that big back then nor were there online consignment shops. The only resale was eBay, but they weren’t selling Chanel or anything like that. Sure, there were a few shops in Philadelphia, but she started selling Chanel from the very beginning.”
Ljupka found herself completely overwhelmed by the success of her weekend pop-up that June, and confirmed what she had already suspected — a designer consignment shop was exactly what this area needed. One weekend pop-up evolved into multiple weekends, and Ljupka found herself more and more intrigued by what goes into running a small business, from visualizing products and lighting to running day-to-day operations.
“I didn’t know what I was doing with the store,” Ljupka remembered. “Was it a business? Was it a weekend thing? It wasn’t opened with a business plan or a budget. All of that came afterwards.”
“It was really interesting for Ljupka,” Tanya continued. “She was doing something that was so different and because of her studying, she got to implement some of the things she learned by creating a business.”
After two years, Ljupka had a solid business plan and relocated her shop, Remix on Main, to its permanent home at 4355 Main Street. With it, she was able to expand the amount of consignors she works with to about 1,000, some of which are still the original consignors today. However, after opening her storefront in 2011, she not only had her “baby” in her professional life, but her personal life, too. Ljupka was pregnant and desperately needed assistance in running her newly established business.
“There was no chance of me closing it because I loved it so much,” Ljupka stated. “I needed Tanya to move from London. I dragged her, basically, to Manayunk.”
“After that, the rest is history,” Tanya laughed.
The sisters found the perfect balance as business partners. Tanya was more of the creative one who thrived when creating visuals and displays.
“It’s all of these evolving things,” Tanya said. “[Ljupka] started it as a pop-up store but it went from pop-up store to finding business for clients, and then suddenly you’re thinking about visualizing products and lighting.”
On the other hand, Ljupka loved being behind the scenes of their three services: buying, selling, and consigning.
“Our business is a two-way street,” Ljupka explained. “We don’t have the easy part that other stores have where they go and purchase from the brands or manufacturers. We hunt for those pieces and when you finally find those pieces, you have to make sure that those people are willing to sell those pieces. It’s a fine line of how much they’ll let them go for and how much we can sell them for.”
“It’s not only up to us to keep happy customers who are shopping but keeping the consignors happy who are giving us their goods for sale,” Tanya added. “We are basically the bridge to both of those groups.”
Upon entering the store today, customers find racks of blouses, jeans, and cocktail dresses from designers such as Burberry and Versace. The shelves are filled with sneakers, heels, and booties by the likes of Fendi and Louis Vuitton, but perhaps the most impressive is their extensive collection of handbags, particularly Chanel ones, which are Ljupka’s personal favorite. When asked if they have any memorable stories about tracking down specific products for their customers, Tanya recalled a time they found themselves chatting directly with the source.
“The fashion industry is ever-evolving so there’s always new pieces,” she said. “One year, we had a customer looking for these Oscar de la Renta pieces that were all one-of-a-kind. They were full of all sequins, so beautiful. We couldn’t find the pieces so we wound up calling Oscar de la Renta’s offices in New York City.”
Ljupka and Tanya pride themselves in never forgetting where they came from: Inspired by the quality clothing their mother wore when they were growing up. Their goal has always been to sell well-made pieces — and they’ve been selling a lot of the same designer brands since day one, such as Chanel and Gucci. The most challenging thing for them, however, is ensuring all of their products are the real deal.
“Our business has been built on trust, transparency, and our ability to authenticate the items and continue to learn about those items,” Ljupka said. “We went from a temporary pop-up to a full-time storefront, and those are the things that kept us going for many years.”
“We do take pride in authenticating and guaranteeing. Our name is behind it,” Tanya added.
While it’s obvious that buying consignment pieces will save you money on the most quality clothing and accessories, the environmental impact of purchasing a used item is significant, too. Tanya stated that if everyone in the United States bought one used item instead of a new item, it would save nearly 6 billion pounds of carbon emission. That’s the equivalent of taking half a million cars off of roads for an entire year.*
“What’s important about the sustainability of our consigned pieces is their durability, too — the way they are made, the layers of the canvas, the kind of leather that was used,” Ljupka said. “I just came across a Chanel bag from 1989. That is a 31-year-old handbag! Today, things are not made to last so long. There’s something to be said about the durability and the timeless nature of those goods.”
“Buying second hand is not only kinder to the planet but mostly, the consignment shops are owned by small business owners such as ourselves,” Tanya added. “They’re mom and pop shops. We’re the backbone of the local economy. There is always something new and interesting — new clients and new designers. It’s what’s so fascinating about fashion and consignment that keeps us going.”
Supporting small businesses in the time of COVID-19 can be a challenge, especially during the holiday season when crowds are expected. However, many of Manayunk’s boutiques have adapted to the times and offer curbside pickup, free shipping, and more — and Remix on Main is no exception. What started as a small weekend pop-up evolved into a permanent storefront, but in recent months, a lot of their business has moved online. Ljupka and Tanya have upped their social media game and even Skype with clients who aren’t comfortable shopping in-person.
“I will go the extra mile to communicate with a client – either on social media or email – hours at a time to make sure what they’re buying is what they like,” Ljupka said. “I want them to understand what they’re buying, how it feels, etc. I’ll engage with our clients via phone or social media, FaceTime, Skype – whatever it takes. We really take pride in our small business so our service is really important.”
When you’re ready to do your in-person holiday shopping, Remix on Main also offers one-on-one shopping appointments and has limited the number of people they’ll allow in the store at one time to five, including Ljupka and Tanya. As for what will be in style for the holidays, the sisters say to think “big.”
“We always see oversized necklaces,” Tanya said. “We see square toe heels, chunky boots with feminine dresses, we see oversized Victorian sleeves, and the bucket bags are back.”
According to Ljupka, what’s in style isn’t always what she considers fashionable. She always puts her personal comfort first, which is perfectly on trend these past few months.
“One of the things I love is a dress with sneakers,” Ljupka said of her fashion choices. “An oversized dress with Nike sneakers is fine. But the comfort is a big part of my fashion.”
“I do believe that comfort is key,” Tanya added. “If you’re in the fashion business, you can tell when they’re wearing the clothes or if the clothes are wearing them.”
Ljupka and Tanya both admit that this is a very challenging time for the fashion industry. Products are hard to come by due to travel restrictions, and it’s difficult to get the true look and feel of material when you’re ordering online — but don’t let that get in the way of your true style.
“Fashion is something that can make you feel empowered, it can make you feel confident, it’s how you express and discover yourself,” Ljupka said. “It allows you to choose how to present yourself to the world. It might not be the most important part of a person but it’s the first impression of a person.”
*Study conducted by thredUP and Green Story, Inc.