(ABC4) – To find a new look, many locals turn to old styles. Several Salt Lake City-area vintage clothing stores say they’re busier than ever these days.
“It’s been super noticeable, just in the last two years,” says Paul Curtis, owner of Vantage Clothing, a downtown repurposed clothing store, of the renewed interest in vintage yarns.
Curtis is right about the recent surge in interest in used clothing. A Statista study of monthly active users on popular second-hand clothing app, Depop, shows a significant increase from 2017 to present. Another study shows that among the current user group, 48.4% are between the ages of 20 and 29, with an additional 34.6% under the age of 19. Fashion-seeking youngsters clearly love the look of second-hand clothes.
Even some of the most powerful figures in high-end fashion think it’s not just a trend, and could be the future of the apparel industry. Virgil Abloh, who works as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line in addition to being the CEO of his own brand, Off-White, sees vintage and used clothing having a lot of resistance.
“In my mind, how many more t-shirts can we own? How many more hoodies? How many sneakers? I think we’re going to reach this really awesome state of expressing your knowledge and personal style with vintage – there’s so many cool clothes out there in vintage stores and it’s just about wearing them. I think the fashion is going to move away from buying a cool box; it’ll be like, hey, I’ll go to my archives,” Abloh told Dazed & Confused Magazine in December 2019.
Curtis thinks there are a variety of reasons influencing the younger generation’s appeal to repurposed clothing.
“I think it’s probably a mix of younger generations who are more conscious of their actions with the environment and their consumers. What I noticed, and also just the style, the 80s and 90s style is great right now,” Curtis told ABC4.
It’s no secret that new clothes can come at a huge cost in materials and human labor, according to Scientific American. The publication reported that the Global Fashion Agenda estimated that around 21 trillion gallons of water were spent on making new clothes in 2017 alone.
What happens to new clothes once they are no longer wanted can also be harmful to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans put more than 21 billion pounds of clothing and shoes in landfills in 2015. Working conditions in factories overseas are also well known.
Besides being more eco-friendly, Paul and other second-hand clothing enthusiasts think the look is unique, different and cool.
“Growing up, I never wanted to buy stuff that all the other kids could use, and I think it probably had to do with just wanting to stand out when I was growing up and watching people who were like also just go to thrift stores and such,” Paul says of his youthful days in Portland, Oregon.
While Vantage has one of the biggest second-hand clothing selections in town, other smaller clothing sellers are finding ways to spread the movement.
Austin Malichanh owns Swish SLC, a Saturday-only pop-up clothing store at the Hip-Hop Education and Resource Center on State Street. Malichanh started her business by posting her used clothes for sale on an Instagram page. His audience grew big enough that he could open his own storefront, with the help of the center.
To keep her store stocked on weekends, Malichanh makes it a point to visit as many thrift stores as possible throughout the week. He learned what sells and what doesn’t with experience.
“It comes with time, because once you go out for the first time, you don’t really know what you’re looking for. But after a while you get used to looking for tags and stuff and you don’t really need to look for things while you’re at the store because often you can just search for a certain part online and they are like ‘Oh, this sells for anything.’ Then after a while you could sort of assess things for yourself and know what it’s worth by watching it,” Malichanh told ABC4.
Paul follows a similar process, but also explains that he often buys wholesale clothing from stocked warehouses with unwanted shirts, pants, and shoes. He says the amount of clothes he can choose from is staggering.
“There are so many clothes out there already, there’s definitely a lot to reuse,” Paul says. “There is no reason for people to buy new clothes.”