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Thrift craze promises cash

During quarantine, I added almost 100 pieces to my closet, and it did not cost me a thing.

In January and February, my boyfriend and I began casually thrifting. We went to different Goodwills around Greenwood with the hope of finding cool vintage clothes. The rising trend of sustainable shopping had us busy searching for interesting pieces among the seemingly endless supply of ratty high school t-shirts. Then, in March the world was thrown into quarantine, with everyone developing different interests to occupy their minds. He and I delved into our hobby full-force, and before long, our shared interest had transformed into an obsession with finding, selling and identifying vintage fashion.

It began with social media deep dives on thrifting accounts, both locally and nationally. Before long, the algorithm had sucked us down the rabbit hole, and we both decided to download the app Depop, a resale platform where users sell clothes, shoes and accessories. Although we initially wanted just to look at the cool stuff people found, we eventually got the itch to see for ourselves what legitimate thrifting could be like. So, when stores started opening up, we hit the bins.

Let me explain. “The bins” is Goodwill Outlet, the last stop for many clothes produced as a result of our capitalism-induced fast fashion movement. The Outlet is a warehouse with bins full of clothes that people can dig through (usually with gloves on, but I am not judging) and purchase for $1.25 a pound. This is where resellers flock– with such low prices, the profits seem easily obtainable. But how do you sort through the seemingly endless supply of worthless junk? That is where the dedicated thrifters are separated from the typical: the research.

Hours and hours were dedicated toward figuring out what defines a “cool” piece. Researching tags from the 80s and 90s, looking up authentic brands and seeing what was selling out fast absorbed our lives. Soon we realized what to actually look for, and eventually we narrowed it down to a science. Dig through the bins, look at the tags, throw it back or sling it across your shoulder and keep moving. Before long, we had gathered enough inventory that we realized we had the potential really to make some money.

Although we grew attached to many of the items we picked up, a lot of our stock consisted of pickups we knew would sell well and fast. We set up our Depop account to sell and quickly got to work modeling and posting clothes. Before long, we had buyers. Suddenly, we were actually running a legitimate business. Shipping eventually became easy enough, as we did research into the best way and decided to ship directly through Depop. Thanks to hipsters being willing to pay almost anything for a vintage brand name, it only took a few sales for us to be in the green. We now are running a successful small business as teenagers and hope to continue for as long as we can.

So, ultimately, why is sustainable fashion making such waves in 2020? This question requires a multifaceted answer: first, clothes from the 80s and 90s are just made better. The signature single stitching on vintage t-shirts is one of the things that resellers look for. Another reason? People like to be unique. Fashion is cyclical, and the mass-produced t-shirts of the modern era just do not cut it anymore. The allure of having cool clothes that are authentically on trend is becoming more appealing. 

Unfortunately, one of the criticisms of clothing resale is that gentrification’s ugly head has reared in thrift stores. People have brought up the concern of rising prices in stores that cater to the lower class and have historically been looked down upon. Seeing young, rich, typically white people go into a resale shop or look on Depop and buy clothes marked up 400 percent without a second thought has caused some discord about the activity. Is it ethical to take clothes in a system designed to help the less fortunate? I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I do know I can pose another. Ultimately, in a country in which the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing each year, should we really be concerned with the rising trend of sustainable shopping? Or should we be targeting fast fashion companies who take advantage of unfair labor, churning out millions of poorly-made clothes and slapping a clearance tag on them? 

In a society in which everything is documented, the desire to buy new, cheap clothes in order to avoid repeating outfits can seem appealing, regardless of how low-grade the clothing itself can be. However, I ask each and every person to take a moment and think: where do our clothes come from, and what impact is this having on our world? Are we as individuals going to continue contributing to the staggering clothing waste crisis, or can we each do our part to tackle this issue? 

Hopefully, I’ll see you at the bins.

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