A vintage clothing store created by UH senior helps pay for tuition


Using her passion for fashion, corporate communications senior Olivia Haroutounian collects and sells vintage clothes to pay for school fees. | Juana Garcia / The Cougar

Amid the popularity of entrepreneurship, many UH students have started small businesses around their passions or a niche they find interesting. For Olivia Haroutounian senior in corporate communication, her passion is the world of vintage fashion.

As the mastermind behind his company RealLifeAsLiv, Haroutounian collects and resells designer and vintage clothing.

From Chanel to smaller designer labels, she finds and collects them, most of which sell for hundreds of dollars.

Besides being the owner, she is also the creative director, often modeling the clothes she has collected for pictures on her. website, Depop and instagram.

Although she is still in school, she retains management responsibilities for her rapidly growing business as she works there full time.

The way she started is a testament to her mother, who sparked her interest as a child.

Like her, Haroutounian’s mother ran a business collecting and selling vintage clothing. Growing up, she watched her mother go to estate sales and yard sales to pick out items and eventually sell them for a profit.

“I like to say I’ve been doing this since I was born basically,” Haroutounian said. “But I started very young because my mother has been selling vintage clothes since I was born.”

Such exposure and love for fashion history inspired her to take over the business after her mother’s retirement.

Since then, the business has taken off, helping Haroutounian pay for his school fees through sales.

With more than 30,000 followers on Depop, Haroutounian’s business is gaining more traction than ever.

His story is featured in vogue and The Houston Chroniclearousing the interest of many fashion enthusiasts who actively buy her clothes.

“The vogue article really changed my life. It gave me the platform I have today and connected me to people I never thought possible,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the experience, and I can’t describe how amazing it is to find such a massive community interested in fashion in the same way I am.”

As she continues to gain more and more followers, Haroutounian is making sure to use her business as a platform to champion second-hand shopping and understand fashion history.

Buying second-hand helps keep clothes out of landfills and combats poor working conditions and wages. Along with fast fashion causing problems for the fashion industry, it is also tightening the pockets of big business.

Additionally, understanding fashion history helps cultivate individual style and self-expression, according to Haroutounian. Describing fashion as powerful, she uses clothes to express how she feels and suggests others do the same.

“The best fashion advice I can give is to be yourself. I use clothes as a way to radiate how I feel on the inside,” she said.

“So if I need to be comfortable, I’ll wear a pair of sweatshirts and a vintage t-shirt. But if I feel like peacock, I’ll put on a pair of Manolos and a vintage dress to spend my day” , added Haroutounian.

For those looking to score their next pair of Manolos, Haroutounian’s vast knowledge and experience means he knows where to look for vintage clothing around Houston.

However, with more and more people entering the industry, finding vintage clothing is becoming difficult, she notes.

“The best advice I can give is to go to lots of different places and don’t give up easily when it comes to vintage hunting,” she said.

“Frequently going to thrift stores three to four times a week and going to places like the Buffalo Exchange and smaller independent vintage shops like The Fashion Time Machine is the next best thing.”

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Keywords: fashion, UH students


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