Thrift stores are part of a $14.4 billion industry, according to an IBISWorld report on the state of the market. (time.com)
What if I told you that you might be able to find a vintage piece from popular labels like Supreme and Champion, for as low as $20?
Somebody did, and she made a whole business out of it!
Sophia Amoruso, who founded Nasty Gal, capitalized on this hidden treasure trove when she was just 22. Amoruso visited her local thrift stores and began selling clothes she had found on her eBay store called “Nasty Gal Vintage”. At its peak, Nasty Gal had over 200 employees and more than $100 million in sales.
Why is thrifting, particularly for Millenials and Gen Z, becoming trendy again? Along with success stories from thrifting businesses, there are many other reasons why thrifting is on the rise which includes:
- Environmental and sustainability concerns
- Earning income as a side hustle
- Access to one-of-a-kind fashion
- Influence from Social Media such as TikTok
#1 Environmental and Sustainability Concerns
Climate change and environmental problems are major issues for today's youth. After many learned about the detrimental effects of fast fashion on the environment, many turned to other avenues to get their clothing.
When people thrift and buy second-hand instead, it helps to lower carbon footprint, reduces massive wastage, and preserves water.
#2 Earning Income as Side Hustle
Going to the thrift store is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get. You might chance upon a decent outfit or two, but occasionally, you might have just hit the jackpot with some vintage branded goods.
Platforms like depop, a fashion marketplace app, allow users to buy and sell unique items that they have found. By finding something at a low, discounted price and turning it into something more presentable, the curated pieces can sell for much higher prices! It allows people, who find thrifting to be too time-consuming, to find specific pieces and brands that they are looking for.
This side gig, if well established, could easily bring in additional income ranging from a few hundred to even a thousand a month.
Another main appeal of thrifting is its affordability. Since thrift store inventory comes largely from donations, it translates into incredibly affordable prices. Bags, tops, and even household items can go for as low as a dollar. According to True Activist, the average clothing item sold at a thrift store is about 50 percent cheaper than in a regular store.
This is what makes it so attractive to youths, who may not have a working salary yet, to buy more reasonably priced pieces for their closet.
However, there has been a recent controversy to this, which labels this rise in thrifting as ‘stealing from the poor'. The less fortunate often rely on thrift stores for their clothing. However, with the rising popularity of thrift stores among the population, it would mean that the prices would start to go up as well. Some people have also listed their thrifted pieces at exorbitantly high prices, making it difficult for others to purchase. This has been argued to defeat the purpose of thrift stores, which were intended to sell more affordable clothing to those who need it.
Others, however, believe that the criticism is too harsh, as growing costs may be attributable to factors other than rising popularity, such as inflation. Nevertheless, purchasing second-hand items is acknowledged as being more environmentally friendly, and contributes to supporting community initiatives.
#4 Access to one of a kind items
Credit: Zach Bodish
Since clothes in thrift stores come from many different sources, with some pieces dating back to decades ago, chances are that you will be able to find a piece that no one else has. You’ll be sure to never have the same outfit as someone else in a social setting ever again!
Items found in thrift stores might also no longer be in production, making it truly one of a kind. In 2012, an avid thrifter known as Zach Bodish bought an original Picasso painting for only $14.14! There were only a hundred copies, and he managed to sell his for over USD 7000.
#5 Influence from Social Media like TikTok
Tiktok has unleashed new and creative ways that people can reuse and wear their clothes. A phenomenon known as thrift flip encourages users to combine thrifted items with creative craft making.
The Thrifting Guru, a popular TikTok account promoting thrifted items, thrifted a Harvard hoodie and turned it into a crop top. With the hashtag #ThriftFlip, her post raked in over 624,000 likes and over 360 million views. These levels of engagement demonstrate how powerful these trends can be in inspiring others to follow suit.
Credit: stories, freepik
There are numerous benefits to thrifting, particularly when it comes to environmental causes. While time-consuming, it promises individuals affordable and unique clothing, which is why it has such a strong appeal. However, as with many popular trends, there will always be some critique. Nonetheless, the thrifting culture is expected to continue to grow, with experts predicting a 400% increase in thrifting in the next five years.
After all, it contributes to lowering the fashion industry's massive carbon footprint, which accounts for approximately 2.1 million tons of CO2 emissions each year. It is up to the individual to determine whether or not that pair of jeans is worth reusing and giving a new identity to.
In the past, thrifting has always been believed to lack quality and be unhygienic. However, in recent years, things are no longer the same. Now, thrifting is becoming popular again, with many hoping to get one-of-a-kind pieces
When people think of the term “thrifting”, they might imagine an extremely unorganized store, with piles of unwanted clothes stacked on top of one another. Some might even say that the clothes look like something out of their grandma’s closet.