NC State alum strives to bring diversity to vintage clothing | Culture

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After spotting a lack of affordable and sustainable clothing brands that cater to plus size women, North Carolina State graduate Mariah Collazo began selling gently used vintage clothing on Depop, eventually s expand to its Vanilla Vintage online storefront.

“I noticed that it was quite difficult to find sustainable clothes that were still in fashion, like fast fashion brands like H&M or Fashion Nova, that were still young and fun,” Collazo said. “A lot of the sustainable clothing brands I’ve seen lean more towards neutral, basic shapes, which I understand because they want something timeless, but I just saw a gap in the market.”

While attending an NC State course on entrepreneurship, Collazo chose the name “Vanilla Vintage,” citing a catchy alliteration and connection to the store’s branding.

“I wanted to emphasize neutrals, so I used the ‘anything but simple’ tagline just to show that sustainable fashion is still interesting,” Collazo said. “It’s always trendy, even if it’s neutral and timeless.”

Collazo describes its customer base as diverse and wants all women to identify with the Vanilla Vintage brand and story.

“I want the clothes to vary for different events, from work to night or vacation, all seasons,” Collazo said. “Overall, the women I primarily talk to are young, between 18 and their early thirties, and live in medium to large cities.”

Collazo’s advertising strategy relies heavily on word of mouth and social media.

“A lot of women, they kind of don’t see themselves in the other vintage fashion brands that are on Instagram and TikTok and stuff,” Collazo said. “So when they come across my page, they’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ Like, ‘Finally, I see myself in this brand.’ So a lot of it comes from Instagram and then converts people who shop with me on Depop to my website.

With more publicity since its New York Times report, Vanilla Vintage has seen an increase in new customers. The store has a return rate of 25% to 50% and Collazo strives to build customer loyalty through individualized experiences and personalized marketing, not to mention excellent customer service.

Collazo is currently working to find more vintage designer inventory, including items from brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Recently, she has taken an interest in renovation, learning paving and leatherwork for simple repairs.

Of course, Collazo also plans to expand its brand, add more sizes and styles, welcome new customers, and even plan a potential pop-up store with other curated thrift stores in the Triangle. Collazo wants Vanilla Vintage’s impact to focus on the representation of women from all demographics.

As an alumnus of NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles, Collazo knew the importance of sustainability in the textile industry and wanted to avoid fast fashion without sacrificing affordable, on-trend pieces that fit well.

“I really appreciated being able to provide other women with sustainable clothing options,” Collazo said. “That’s what I want the impact of Vanilla Vintage to be, that you don’t have to shop fast fashion brands to find clothes that fit your lifestyle. I love helping women to develop their own personal style and confidence to see themselves as stylish, interesting and fun-worthy clothes that will buck trends and not go out of style next month.

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