Makin’ it New: Creating Sustainable Fashion Before it was Cool

How Anna Gilkerson went from selling her own clothes online to building a curated thrift empire.

“A challenge is not the challenge itself, but how you respond to it,” Anna Gilkerson says, eight years after starting her curated thrift shop. She says her responses have evolved since the beginning of Makenew, knowing that no matter what challenge she faces, she is contributing to the ever-growing sustainable fashion movement every single day. 

Makenew Curated Thrift & Unique Essentials was, and still is, a one-of-a-kind shop—one that keeps Halifax both trendy and eco-friendly. And even though the concept is all the rage today, the “curated thrift store” idea was a foreign concept to the fashion industry when Gilkerson began in 2010.

Makin’ it New: Creating Sustainable Fashion Before it was Cool
Anna Gilkerson and her partner Zac from Makenew Curated Thrift & Unique Essentials

“I was actually just trying to sell some of my own personal second-hand pieces online to make some extra cash,” Gilkerson says about the early days of Makenew. Soon, her background as a designer in Montreal and her experience with owning her first sustainable fashion line combined to uniquely position her perspective as an entrepreneur.

“It felt like I was curating,” Gilkerson says about staging her clothing on models. Her designer instinct knew that the presentation would read well visually. Inevitably, the craving for uniquely curated clothing caught on with online shoppers. To test how well the e-business would translate to the world of bricks-and-mortar retail, Gilkerson set up a few pop-up shops, and the community was officially hooked on the idea. 

Gilkerson recalls opening her first retail location—a tiny hole-in-the-wall upstairs from another thrift store. “I worked hard and tried to save as much as I could, buying more stock to keep the lines fresh,” she says. “I did it all: the trades, my own photography, marketing, buying, merchandising and bookkeeping. Everything.”

“It was important to them that I was paying myself and not taking on debt. Those simple things are actually so important for small businesses, and CUA really understands that.”
—Makenew’s Anna Gilkerson

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As the business grew, Gilkerson started thinking about a bigger location. She wanted a financial partner who believed in and understood her sustainable vision. And that’s exactly what CUA provided. 

“CUA helped me get what I needed to grow, while also encouraging realistic financial goals,” says Gilkerson. “It was important to CUA that I had a strong business model and good work ethic.” The advice that CUA gave Gilkerson motivated her to not only look out for her business, but also for herself. 

“My account advisor always took the time to sit down with me when I needed it. It was important to them that I was paying myself and not taking on debt. Those simple things are so important for small businesses, and CUA really understands that. CUA is way more than just a bank.” 

Makenew keeps growing both on and offline, with an increasing selection of quality clothing and accessories, as well as expanded hours for the Agricola Street store. Gilkerson has stayed true to the brand all the while experimenting with new ideas. Her customer base has expanded to connect with those aged 16-to-85. According to Gilkerson, any generation can find their unique style at the shop.

“Our customers are smart and follow global trends. They expect a lot—and they should. Aiming to please and offering a unique shopping experience will always be something we strive for at Makenew,” says Gilkerson, who continues to be hands-on with the business at all times. 

Spending half her time in the shop, Gilkerson splits her remaining hours sourcing pre-worn clothes and designing her own AKG clothing line, a slow-fashion model of fluid basics that is sustainably sourced and ethically made in Halifax. With the business bursting at the seams, additional help from a trusted source has been the secret to continued growth—that’s where Gilkerson’s partner Zac comes in. 

“He has been helping me behind the scenes for five years and officially joined the company in 2018. Zac’s skills and previous work in men’s fashion have taken Makenew to a new level. In addition to having experience with buying, merchandising and sales, Zac is also a trained photographer and filmmaker. Once we took the plunge, we realized right away it was the best decision for the growth of the business.”

With extremely full schedules, Anna and Zac find balance between Makenew and making time to relax. For this tailored pair, peace of mind comes with a daily dose of family time including eight-year-old daughter Elly, the family dog, bird, and sometimes a laptop. To learn more, visit or visit 2698 Agricola Street.

This content has been developed and paid for by CUA, without involvement from The Coast’s editorial department.

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