Thrifty is the new Vogue

BY: DANIELLE CARSON

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Whether it’s a hipster paradise, trove of costumes or a place to score some cheap jeans when you are short on cash, thrift stores are no longer avoided by the younger generation. When my mom dragged little me into the thrift stores to pick up cheap deals on those usually overpriced, little necessities like collared shirts or jeans, I was always embarrassed. Today, contemporary bohemians and teenagers alike rock “vintage” fashion—jeans with stirrups, jackets with Day-Glo colors or sweaters with psychedelic designs. Now we rock these items like they are the new Prada because one-of-a-kind is the way to go. Consumers are tired of the see-through leggings at Target and ten dollar disposable jeans at Forever 21, products of the widespread trend of progressive obsolescence that results from the high demand in this culture of waste.

There are many types of resale shops that sell used goods, and some are most definitely not thrifty. Charity shops such as The Salvation Army put their earnings toward drug or alcohol recovery programs. Goodwill’s dollars go towards the developmentally disabled. Other thrift shops are run by hospitals, churches or schools, and donors get a tax deduction.

Some thrift shops are consignment shops, which agree on a selling price with the donor and then take a certain percentage from profits. These differ from thrift shops in that they are often for-profit. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, sales at thrift and consignment shops are growing five percent per year.

About 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year, according to NARTS. First Research, a consumer research group, estimates that the resale industry has annual revenues of approximately $13 billion.

Some would say that thrift shopping is reemerging due to the economic recession, but others would beg to differ that the worn tags and soft, already-used articles are becoming popular, especially among the college demographic where individuality and that stretchy dollar are the best commodities.

Although the average item in “Out of the Closet” on Sunset Boulevard is $10, shops farther from the center of Los Angeles send a sweater out the door for less than a dollar. According to Daniel Hauger, community relations manager for The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Clinic in Anaheim, Salvation Army stores all over the nation offer 60 percent-off days, and other sales a couple of times during the month.

LA is full of for-profit stores that have sprouted from the trend of reuse. Jetrag in Hollywood, a for-profit vintage boutique unlike The Salvation Army, is one store that offers a one dollar Sunday sale.

Sierra Hood and Nicole Stayer, both thrifters from Los Angeles, said that you need to work a little to find those desirable pieces, but that’s what makes a treasure most precious.

Known by thrifters as “vultures,” some try to take advantage of the resale craze, finding vintage labels among the treasure and trash and resell it for not-so-thrifty prices. Hauger said that there are often vendors that visit his stores on half-off days, scrounging for goodies or buying in bulk, then reselling them at flea markets or boutiques for often-inflated prices.

Simone Harrison, a 22-year-old thrifter, has gone to thrift shops her whole life. She has worked in a vintage store and today buys around 90 percent of her merchandise from secondhand stores.

“As I got older and broker…I needed to find alternatives to Forever 21," Harrison said. "Also, my hips don't lie and vintage clothing is more suited to a girl with curves. The clothes are also made better, the fabric is more resilient and there's always the promise that no one at a bar or party will have the same outfit as you.”

According to Harrison, buyers come from overseas to buy American vintage clothing, allowing American sellers to truly capitalize on the fad. She said that many vintage shop owners take advantage of their popularity by upping their prices.

“Don't get me wrong, there are some very special pieces out there that I would drop a paycheck on," Harrison said. "But more often than not they’re selling mass produced, cheap clothing for more than current retail prices."

Buffalo Exchange is one consignment shop that buys used goods for cheap and raises the prices. Their colorful racks are where the rich hipsters spend their Saturdays. Harrison said that for the price, college students should visit cheaper stores and do the hunting themselves.

“I buy my clothes for no less than five dollars, then I sell to Buffalo and other boutiques who give me around six to ten dollars depending on how judgy they're feeling that day," Harrison said. "Then they sell it back to girls like me for $15-50.”

For many, thrift store shopping is about romanticizing the past, digging through shelves and racks of treasures from all over the world. Each piece tells a story.

“People take it as a badge of honor to see the gem that they found there… some take it as a competition," Hauger said. "For me, when I go shop there you never know; there might be a diamond in the rough."