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Not Your Average Thrift Store: The History of Buffalo Exchange Featured Story

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By Jessica Pruitt

In 1974, when Kerstin Block first had the idea for a different sort of secondhand shop, she never expected it to grow into what it is today – she just followed her love of thrift store shopping. “I came upon the idea that there must be other people who are equally addicted to this kind of shopping, but who didn’t want to sort through as much stuff.” Enter a whole new business model – a resale shop where customers could buy hand-picked treasures in one place and also sell their clothes for cash or trade on-the-spot.

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Kerstin outside first location

From Thrift Store to Resale Boutique: The First Buffalo Exchange

At the time, Kerstin had recently been fired from a job at a local furniture shop. When she mentioned that she’d like to try opening her own business, her husband Spencer was all for it. To start, they rented out a small 400 square foot spot in Tucson, AZ and filled the store with pieces from Kerstin’s own closet. They also asked friends to bring things in. Soon enough, they had a bustling business buying, selling and trading the likes of denim skirts handmade by Kerstin, Hawaiian shirts and Kork-Ease sandals, drawing in lots of students from the University of Arizona. Their most common price? $3.50.

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Kerstin holding clothing

Originally from Sweden, Kerstin chose “Buffalo” because she liked the way it evoked the American West. Spencer contributed the “Exchange” half of the name since that’s precisely what they would be doing – opening up a shop where you could exchange your clothing for cash or trade on-the-spot, an uncommon model at the time. And just like that, they ran the business together, doing everything themselves. Kerstin was the face of the store, running the register and doing all the buying. Spencer worked behind the scenes, creating clothing racks out of water pipes and handling the accounting.

Resale wasn’t very popular at the time, but they knew there would always be people who wanted to find something cute for a good deal: they just didn’t necessarily want to dig through so many pieces in a thrift store setting. “We made it look like a little boutique,” says Kerstin. They handpicked each item based on what their customers were interested in buying and displayed them in a fun, easy-to-shop space.

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Spencer and Kerstin inside store 1977

Charting New Territory

Kerstin and Spencer didn’t know much about business, but they weren’t afraid to venture into uncharted territory. Par for the course for Kerstin, who struck out on her own at the age of 18, taking a boat over from Sweden to study at the University of Arizona. What they initially lacked in business knowledge, they made up for in strong values. “We built our business on a lot of principles,” she says, “such as respecting people and treating everybody fairly and listening to people. Those are our tenets in business.”

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Staff in front of store mid 70s

As they opened more locations – a store here and a store there – those tenets only grew. They knew how important it was to be honest and the value of people – both employees and customers alike. After all, they relied on their customers to bring in clothing and they relied on their employees to build a diverse inventory. To do this, they valued individuality and embraced the things that make each person unique. They empowered people, taking into consideration what they wanted out of the job and teaching them how the business works.

Perhaps it’s these tenets (not to mention a true passion for clothing) that have kept the business going strong for 45 years and counting. Today, Buffalo Exchange is still owned and operated out of Tucson, AZ by Kerstin and her daughter, Vice President Rebecca Block. Kerstin still oversees the daily operations of the business. “What I’m most proud of is how much we’ve been able to empower people – especially women,” she says. “That and the clothes. It’s always been about the clothes.” Now, that love for fashion has spread to around 50 stores – and growing all the time. Visit BuffaloExchange.com/Locations to find one near you!

 

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How to Pack Light: Summer Carry-on Tips

By Savy Kroop

Summer is here and it’s time to kick back and relax with a trip to your destination of choice! If you’re anything like me, though, traveling, packing and airports can be stressful. We all know you’re supposed to “pack light”, but it’s easier said than done. How are you supposed to pack a bag that’s small enough to carry-on and still look cute throughout your entire vacation? The solution lies in creating a mini summer capsule wardrobe! When every single piece you pack goes together, you can’t really go wrong.

What to Take on the Plane

This one’s an oft-proclaimed traveling tip, but it bears repeating: wear your bulkiest pair of shoes and your jacket on the plane. This will allow you to pack light without sacrificing important pieces – whether it’s a pair chunky sneakers or your favorite denim jacket. Not to mention that planes often get very cold, so having your jacket handy is a win-win.

For your one personal item, I recommend a cute backpack instead of a purse. This will give you a lot more capacity and is great for on-the-go sightseeing. Lastly, don’t forget to bring a refillable water bottle (empty it out before security, of course). This will save you from buying a $6 bottle of water at the airport and/or desperately waiting for your flight attendant to come around with a teeny glass of water to quench your thirst.

Pack Light with a Vacation Capsule Wardrobe

I used to plan out every single outfit for each day of my vacation. This usually ended up in a suitcase overstuffed with an obscene amount of shoes, not to mention that I brought along tons of pieces that I never ended up wearing. No more! Even though I don’t subscribe to a capsule wardrobe when I’m at home, it makes vacation packing a warm ocean breeze.

A capsule wardrobe is a selection of staple items that can be easily mixed and matched. When I recently went to Florida to visit my family, for example, I brought along:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 3 tee shirts
  • 1 dress
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses

With these items, I was able to put together at least 5 completely different looks! It also gave me a lot of flexibility to create an outfit that actually fit the temperature and situation on-the-fly. What they say is true – less is more! When you pack light with a capsule wardrobe, you can customize it to any style, but I definitely recommend including a simple T-shirt. You can wear it tucked, untucked, tied in a knot, over or under a dress and, if you’re feeling crazy, you could even cut into a crop top.

Double the Fun

My favorite tip to pack light is bringing pieces that can serve more than one purpose – for example, this sweet lemon-print swimsuit that can double as a cute tank top. BOOM! You just created another look for your vacation wardrobe. P.S. If you’re bringing extra sunnies and don’t have a case for them, just tuck them into your shoes to keep them safe throughout your journey.

The key to a successful capsule wardrobe, of course, is having solid staples that you truly love. If you’re not finding what you need in your own wardrobe, head down to your local Buffalo Exchange to trade in that great pair of jeans that just never fit quite right for new-to-you summer styles perfect for your vacation capsule wardrobe. Bon voyage!

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Express Yourself: Buffalo Exchange’s Pride Fashion Lookbook

Happy summer, everyone! Although the summer solstice is still on the horizon, the festivities have already begun – most notably Pride. Whether you’re strutting your stuff at Pride as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community or you’re tagging along as an ally, we’ve compiled a bundle of inspiration for you to take along on your pre-Pride shopping trip!

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion, Men's rainbow jumpsuit

Pride Flag jumpsuit at NYC Pride 2018

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion, Rainbow Butterfly Cape

A magnificent butterfly cape from Buffalo Exchange Astoria

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion,Pink sequined t-shirt Sequins at NYC Pride

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion, 60s psychedelic jumpsuit

Psychedelic Jumpsuit at NYC PrideFull Story

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I Got It From My Mama: How I Discovered My Personal Style

Buffalo Exchange Happy Mother's Day Personal Style

By Savy Kroop

I wish this wasn’t such a corny cliché, but yes, I will happily call my mom my best friend. Her optimistic and confident personality has made me the way I am today. She is the most open-minded person I know and believes wholeheartedly in being your own person. Her view on individualism has created what she jokingly calls a “brat” who knows what she wants (i.e. me). From a young age, I started experimenting with my personal style and my mom let me wear whatever I wanted. From hairstyles to clothes to friends, she let me choose my own path and express myself the way I wanted. And yes, I blame her for every horrible fashion choice I made.

Buffalo Exchange Mother's Day White Cowboy Boots

These Boots Were Made For Never Taking Off

Some kids had a favorite blanket, teddy bear or doll. Not me! I had my favorite boots. They were white Western boots that, in my mind, went with everything (even my Easter Sunday dress). My grandma constantly would try to get my mom to a) brush my hair and b) “take those dang cowboy boots off!” My mom would reply with something along the lines of, “Just let her be herself.” Of course, I don’t remember much of this. I will say, however, that I currently have a new pair of white cowboy boots that I wear regularly. Coincidence? I think not.

Buffalo Exchange Mother's Day White Cowboy Boots

WHY2k Did You Let Me Wear This?

The white cowboy boot story may be cute, but as I got older and continued to express myself through my personal style, my fashion journey took on a slightly more embarrassing tone. BUT I think we can all agree that we made questionable fashion choices in the early 2000s, right? At that time, I started becoming obsessed with brands, logos and shopping at the mall. It started with Limited Too and then progressed to wanting an exclusively Hollister-filled wardrobe. My mom was not too thrilled about shopping at these stores because, well, they were more expensive than the secondhand stores we used to shop at before my mall-brat phase. However, she was patient with me and let me shop the Hollister sale section and even buy the occasional full-price pair of jeans!

Buffalo Exchange Mother's Day Personal Style

New Style, Who Dis?

My mom’s patience paid off in the end though, because when I got to high-school, I discovered thrift shopping for myself. I realized it was a great way to find unique pieces that no one else had. My mom went from being reluctant to go shopping with me to being excited! She knew that I was still figuring out my personal style and thrift shopping was a great way for me to discover what it was (and on a budget, too!). Shopping secondhand allowed me to try out a wide variety of styles and trends, from boho/beach babe to Instagram-coffee-shop hipster to punk chick, all the way to who I am today! I discovered my personal style on my own, but I owe it to my mom for encouraging me to follow my own path and giving me the freedom to do so.

In the midst of switching up your own personal style? I recommend stopping by your local Buffalo Exchange to find new-to-you pieces that totally speak to your sense of style. Better yet, bring in your closet cleanout and you you could take home 30% back in cash or 50% in trade to spruce up your wardrobe. P.S. Need a fun Mom’s Day idea? Go resale shopping! You and your mom will both find something you love.

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Thank You for Shopping Our Earth Day $1 Day Sale!

Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Charity Donation

By Jessica Pruitt

Drumroll, please…the final numbers are in! To all of you who stopped by our annual Earth Day $1 Day Sale on Saturday, April 20, we want to say a HUGE THANK YOU for helping us raise $52,628 for the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team! WOW! That’s the most money we’ve EVER raised from a $1 Day Sale. It’s also a whole lot of happy animals! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Cute Puppy Dog Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Las Vegas Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Bargain Shopping Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results

Teaming Up with the Animal Rescue Team

Every year, we hold an Earth Day $1 Day Sale on the Saturday closest to Earth Day at all of our stores (except outlets) and donate 100% of the proceeds to a deserving non-profit. This year, we teamed up with the HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team to help out animals in need!

Not only does the Animal Rescue Team save animals from abusive conditions like animal fighting operations and puppy mills – they recently rescued 84 Great Danes from an abusive breeder in New Hampshire – but they are also ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to help animals during natural disasters. During the 2017 hurricane season, the Animal Rescue Team helped more than 2,000 animals following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. They do this by developing pet-friendly evacuation plans, moving pets out of harm’s way before a storm and performing emergency field rescues when needed.

Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Coats for Cubs Cute Baby Bears

Coats for Cubs

Thank you to everyone who donated their fur to our Coats for Cubs program as well! Every year from January 1 through Earth Day, we invite customers to drop off fur coats they no longer want at any of our stores and let us know they’re a donation to Coats for Cubs. We then ship them off the wildlife rehabilitators across the US, who use them to provide comfort to orphaned and injured wildlife. The rehabbers say that this speeds up their healing process. This year, we collected 2,002 furs, another record-breaking amount! Since taking this initiative over from The Humane Society in 2006, we have collected and distributed more than 15,108 furs.

Since starting the Earth Day $1 Day Sale in 1997, we’ve raised over $717,900 for a variety of different charities – and we couldn’t have done it without your help! Whether you’ve been to every $1 sale for the last 20  years or you’ve never been to one before, put it on your list for next year! Remember the special selection of $1 items goes quickly and that the sale is cash only. See you next April! Want to give back in the meantime? Just stop by your local Buffalo Exchange. Through our Tokens for Bags® program, we give out charity tokens instead of bags with each purchase that you can donate to one of three local non-profits!

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Feeling Haute Haute Haute: Five Summer Fashion Trends to Try

Buffalo Exchange, Summer Trends, Summer Fashion

By Aarian Frye

Break out the swimsuits and get that away message drafted, because summer is almost here! After a long winter and a very sneezy and breezy spring, the warm weather has arrived – bringing with it a new crop of trends to try out. Whether you’re working through the summer or planning a month-long vacay, we compiled the styles you’ll want to stock in your closet. Read ahead for our favorite trends of the summer!

Buffalo Exchange, Summer Trends, Tie Dye Gucci Shirt Buffalo Exchange, Summer Trends, Tie Dye Rainforest Shirt Buffalo Exchange, Summer Trends, Tie Dye Gown

Tie Dye Hard

There’s nothing more fitting to be featured on a list of summer fashion trends than camp-favorite tie dye! Reminiscent of days spent swatting mosquitos by a lake, tie-dye has transformed into a runway-certified staple. Plus, it’s an easy way to extend the life of your favorite T-shirt: DIY your tee with a swirl of rainbow dye to rock with your denim and sneakers. For an evening look, try a tie-dye cotton or silk dress as an alternative to the LWD (little white dress). Finish off the look with white d’orsay heels and delicate gold jewelry.

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Extra, Extra! Buffalo Exchange Spring/Summer Zine Is Out Now!

Buffalo Exchange Spring Summer Zine

By Jessica Pruitt

April showers bring…our latest spring/summer zine! As the weather warms up, we’re loving bright colors and fun patterns from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s – don’t miss our “Trends We loved and Still Do” pages for some of our favorite pieces. Whether you’re doing a general spring clean or paring down as you move out of a dorm room, be sure to read Professional Organizer Star Hansen’s handy tips for tackling your closet. Plus, since we’re celebrating 45 years of business and fashion this year, we share a quick timeline of Buffalo Exchange history. Stop by your local Buffalo Exchange to pick up a free copy of the zine or check it out online!

Star-Hansen-Tips-for-Cleaning-Your-Closet

Finding the Joy in Your Closet Cleanout

Star Hansen chimes in with some surprising tips to help you get your closet just a little more organized. One of her top tips? The more categories, the better! Categorize by function rather than color, she advises, and use closet rod dividers to label each section. She believes that a happy closet = a happy you, so pick up a copy of our latest zine to find out more!

Buffalo-Exchange-Houston-Spring-Accessories-Summer-Bags

Buffalo-Exchange-Houston-Summer-Bag-Wooden-Purse

Summer Bag Trends We Love

Looking for ways to add a little zip to your spring wardrobe? It’s all in the accessories! Peek some of our favorite spring bags – from bright and fuzzy to holographic to fresh takes on a classic wicker bag – at Buffalo Exchange Houston.

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Celebrating 45 Years of Business and Fashion at Buffalo Exchange!

By Aarian Frye; Tucson 45th Anniversary Party Photos by Kaitie Brainerd

In 1974, the first Buffalo Exchange opened its doors in Tucson, Arizona as a thrift store with a twist: it had a curated selection and a buy-sell-trade model beneficial to both shoppers and sellers. Fast forward 45 years to 2019 and Buffalo Exchange has flourished into 50 stores across the US – from New York to California, each Buffalo has its own unique personality and style. Where do those stores get their inimitable style from? The communities they’re a part of! In March, we thanked our fabulous customers for their loyalty during our 45 years of business with a vintage pop-up shop at all of our stores across the country.

Buffalo Exchange Las Vegas Sonia Barcelona Performing

Sonia Barcelona performing at Buffalo Exchange Las Vegas

Buffalo Exchange Las Vegas Pin-Up Style @victoriaaajade

@VictoriaaaJade

@SouthwestMother at Buffalo Exchange Tucson

@SouthwestMother at Buffalo Exchange Tucson

Yummy Treats and Cartel Coffee Cold Brew at Buffalo Exchange Tempe

Cartel Coffee Cold Brew at Buffalo Exchange Tempe

Buffalo Exchange Phoenix Buffalo Exchange Phoenix Vintage Pop-Up Shop

Vintage Finds at Buffalo Exchange Phoenix

@MsMaverickMuse at Buffalo Exchange La Brea

@MsMaverickMuse at Buffalo Exchange La Brea

Buffalo Exchange 45th Anniversary Vintage Pop Up Shop Betty Boop

Amazing Betty Boop Jacket at Buffalo Exchange Long Beach

Darden Sisters Band Performing at Buffalo Exchange Fullerton

Darden Sisters Band Performing at Buffalo Exchange Fullerton

Fun Finds Shopping at Buffalo Exchange Santa Monica

Fun Finds at Buffalo Exchange Santa Monica

Buffalo Exchange 45th Anniversary Vintage Pop Up Shop Eugene

Buffalo Exchange Eugene

Buffalo Exchange Seattle Market

Buffalo Exchange Seattle Market

Buffalo Exchange Bellingham Vintage Dresses

Vintage Dresses at Buffalo Exchange Bellingham

Buffalo Exchange Austin VIntage Pop-Up Shop

Buffalo Exchange Austin Vintage Pop-Up Shop

Buffalo Exchange Dallas Vintage Bags

Vintage Beaded Bags at Buffalo Exchange Dallas

Buffalo Exchange 45th Anniversary Vintage Pop-Up Shop, Buffalo Exchange Nashville

Buffalo Exchange Nashville Vintage Shopping Buffalo Exchange Nashville Vintage Shopping Buffalo Exchange Nashville Vintage Shopping

Vintage Pop-Up Shopping at Buffalo Exchange Nashville

Buffalo Exchange Atlanta

Buffalo Exchange Atlanta

Buffalo Exchange Philadelphia

Buffalo Exchange Philadelphia

Buffalo Exchange Chelsea Vintage Pop-Up Shop

Buffalo Exchange Chelsea Vintage Pop-Up Shop

Buffalo Exchange 45th Anniversary Vintage Pop-Up Shop, Buffalo Exchange Astoria

Buffalo Exchange Astoria Vintage Pop-Up Shop

BuffalRoseann Fino Performing at Buffalo Exchange Astoriao Exchange Astoria

Roseann Fino Performing at Buffalo Exchange Astoria

As a special thank you, we also threw a 45th Anniversary party in Tucson to celebrate our employees, business partners and everyone else who has made our success possible. From vintage embroidery and cowboy denim to an unbelievable collection of Southwestern jewelry, all of the attendees arrived dressed-to-impress in their Western garb, ready to hit the dance floor. Scroll through to see some of the best fashion of the night!

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Dante Celeiro Receives 2018 Buffalo Exchange Arts Award

 

By Savy Kroop and header art by Jessica Gonzalez

Every year, the Buffalo Exchange Arts Award honors a member of the local art community in Southern Arizona with $10,000 so that they can continue doing their great work. On January 29, 2019, family, friends and other local artists gathered at the University of Arizona Poetry Center to celebrate as this year’s winner, Dante Celeiro, accepted the award.

Dante Celeiro accepting the 2018 Buffalo Exchange Arts Award from Kerstin Block, Founder of Buffalo Exchange

History of the Arts Award

The Buffalo Exchange Arts Award was established in 1994 by Buffalo Exchange founders Kerstin Block and Spencer Block to highlight emerging artists in the performing and visual arts as well as individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the arts through education, organization and advocacy. Each year, candidates are selected by two separate panels of experts who are familiar with the Southern Arizona Arts scene. Over the years, Buffalo Exchange has worked alongside the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona to award over $200,000 to 24 Southern Arizona artists.

Community Leader Dante Celeiro

Hailing from NYC before heading to the Southwest, Dante has been involved with social activism in the arts community for over 25 years. He started the Tucson AIDS memorial quilt panels at the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation and now manages Boys R Us, Arizona’s first gender performance troupe. Feeling that there needed to be more safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community, he also created Fluxx, a non-profit that advocates open dialogue about queer culture. The organization aims to boost visibility and encourage the creation of queer arts and culture through exhibitions, performance art and workshops. Fluxx recently hosted a 10-week “School of Drag” program, for example, that taught 11- to 16-year-olds about the history of drag, makeup, costumes, wigs and dance.

Photo by Rachel Castillo

At Buffalo Exchange, we know that we owe our success to the communities that surround us. “We’ve always believed that art is essential to the well-being of the community,” says Buffalo Exchange Founder Kerstin Block, “and Dante really exemplifies that. He has dedicated himself to mentoring young people in the arts and providing them with safe spaces where they can be themselves. We’re proud to support someone who has done so much for LGBTQ youth.”

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Must-Have Transitional Spring Styles

Buffalo Exchange Must-Have Transitional Spring Styles

By Savannah Timpani, Buffalo Exchange HQ

It may still be snowing, but spring is in the air! After a long, cold winter, nothing is more refreshing than a new-to-you wardrobe filled with top spring styles. Don’t be afraid to mix and match key spring pieces with your comfy winter favorites while it’s still warming up. After all, that’s what transitional style is all about!

Buffalo Exchange Must-Have Transitional Spring Styles Mini Skirts Mini Dresses Doc Martens

Buffalo Exchange Spring Styles Leopard Print Mini Skirt and Doc Martens

90s Minis

From square neck dresses in ditsy micro florals to denim miniskirts, shorter lengths are here to stay! Higher hems giving you chills? Try layering with a warm sweater, tights and combat boots for the perfect in-between-seasons look.

Buffalo Exchange Must-Have Transitional Spring Styles Dirndle Blouses

Sweet Dirndl

Nothing brings to mind the warm-weather season like sweet, feminine styles that conjure up thoughts of a romantic picnic. Offered in just about every cream-colored hue and fabric, these retro-inspired tops gather and puff in just the right places, making them flattering for all. Pair them with your favorite jeans and skinny sunglasses for a totally on-trend outfit.

Buffalo Exchange Must-Have Transitional Spring Styles Rainbow Pastels Brights Striped Tees

Rainbow and Pastel 

Whether they’re bright and bold rainbow stripes or muted pastel tones, spice up your closet with colorful spring styles. A cute and comfy tee is just about the easiest way to try the trend.

Buffalo Exchange Must-Have Transitional Spring Styles Bright Corduroys for Spring Mules Denim Jacket

Brighten Up Your Spring Styles With Cords

Thicker fabrics like corduroy don’t have to get packed away just yet! Lighten them up with a fun tee and some cutout booties and VOILA, a perfect get-up for those sunny, yet still chilly days.

Buffalo Exchange Spring Styles Highlighter Yellow Neon Hoodie

Neon Craze

Highlighter hues are hot, hot, hot for spring/summer this year. If you want to try out the trend before the higher temperatures hit, opt for a simple hoodie. You can easily layer it with just about anything and pair it with plenty of sporty accessories, like a sling bag or chunky sneakers.

Buffalo Exchange Spring Styles Resort Wear Blouse

The Resort Blouse

Dreaming of spring break, but still have your heater turned on high? Give your look a playful feel with a printed resort shirt. Collared and boxy, these tie-front cuties are statement pieces in their own right. Wear them with boots and a chunky sweater today and some shorts and espadrilles later.

Want to find the perfect spring styles for your wardrobe? Clean out your closet and head to your local Buffalo Exchange to find some awesome transitional pieces that you can start wearing now!