Thrift shopping is essential for students who want to save the planet and their wallets.
Online giant ThredUP has released its resale report, which says that worldwide sales of second-hand clothing will grow from $96 billion in 2021 to $119 billion in 2022, with sales expected to increase by $99 billion by 2026.
Four Northeastern students studying fashion or the environment — three of whom are from California — told News@Northeastern about their favorite places and outdoor markets to thrift in Boston and Oakland, home of Northeastern University’s Mills College.
They also explained why they shop second-hand and why they plan to give used gifts for the holidays — and described a few of their finds.
“I’ve come this whole way through college with environmentalism and finding ways to get people involved in climate solutions,” says Nia Beckett, a fifth-year journalism major with a global fashion major.
“I think saving is a big part of it because everyone gets dressed in the morning. And we know that fast fashion is a huge problem that contributes to landfills and workers being mismanaged.”
Ava Rognlien, a fourth-year environmental studies student with a design minor, says she also prefers to buy second-hand clothes to extend the life of the clothes and avoid the fast fashion cycle of quick production of inexpensive new clothes that end up in the landfill.
“Undoubtedly, my passion is sustainable fashion,” says Ragnlien, a volunteer at Fashion Revolution, an NGO dedicated to protecting the rights of workers in the garment industry around the world.
She says thrifting is also about personal expression and community building.
“I am the eldest of three children. My stuff was always passed down to my siblings,” says Ragnlien from California. She now shares clothes with her roommates. “We never have to go to the store.”
“With fast fashion, you can find a really cool thing, but everyone has the same thing,” says Kiki Pearson, a sophomore majoring in international business and minoring in global fashion studies.
“I think it’s good to buy things on purpose and also to buy used,” says Evelyn LaVelle, a sophomore environmental engineering major.
“When you thrift, you can find one-of-a-kind items. That’s the most rewarding part, Pearson says. “For environmental purposes, second-hand is much better than fast fashion and buying new things.”
What are your favorite thrift stores?
“The big area that everybody likes is the garment district in Cambridge,” says Beckett. “Another one I really like is the Buffalo Exchange (in Brooklyn). Sometimes they get items that still have a price tag on them.”
The Goodwill store in Roxbury and Boomerangs in Cambridge are on LaVelle’s list.
But her all-time favorite is the Alameda Point Antiques Faire near Oakland, a monthly open-air flea market where she has shopped with her mother since LaVelle was in high school.
“The flea market is so big,” LaVelle says. “It’s just an interesting place.”
Pearson also grew up in California and is more familiar with thrift stores in Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley than in Boston.
“My favorite is called Wasteland. It’s on the Haight. This is an upscale thrift store. It has Prada and Yves St. Laurent. They are quite selective about what they get.”
Rognlien, sales associate for Boomerangs Special Edition in South Boston, says, “I just love Boomerangs in general. The one in Jamaica Plain is also wonderful.”
Rognlien also loves Boston’s outdoor market in Copley Square, which runs from late May to late September. The market features independent designers as well as vintage dealers.
Cambridge Vintage Antiques is also on her list. There are several stories of clothing, furniture and jewelry. “I could spend hours there,” Rognlien says.
Northeastern University journalism student Nia Beckett shows off a favorite find, a vintage suit from Buffalo Exchange. Photo by Alice Stone/Northeastern University Northeastern University journalism student Nia Beckett shows off Social Tourist patchwork corduroy pants from Buffalo Exchange and a Calvin Klein coat from Goodwill in Cambridge. Photo by Alice Stone/Northeastern University Northeastern Journalism student Nia Beckett shows off some of her favorite thrift store finds, including a vintage suit from Buffalo Exchange, patchwork corduroy pants from Social Tourist, also from Buffalo Exchange, and a Calvin Klein coat from Goodwill in Cambridge. Photo by Alice Stone/Northeastern University
A $10 Calvin Klein coat from the Goodwill Store in Cambridge is one of Beckett’s most prized possessions.
“I’m from Florida, so I came up with no outerwear,” she says. “It’s always a great find.”
Moschino’s hot pink Wasteland T-shirt tops Pearson’s list of budget finds.
“A lot of tops are cropped today. This is a fitted full length t-shirt. Love to wear it with low rise jeans. It’s kind of a 2000 silhouette that I think is making a bit of a comeback.”
Ragnlien says she bought the chest at Boomerangs in Jamaica Plain, which she considers one of the smartest purchases because it holds so many clothes.
She says she should mention the long black faux fur coat from Goodwill in Roxbury. “It’s incredible.”
For LaVelle, a brown Gap sweatshirt purchased at an Alameda flea market is a comfortable favorite item of clothing. “It’s very big, but it’s kid size,” so it fits, she says.
Among other flea market treasures is a shirt with large flowers, which she cut up to sew into two tank tops.
Would you save for a gift?
“I actually just did it,” LaVelle says.
She says she bought a sweater, candle, candle holder and leg warmers from Indigo Vintage in Berkeley as a Secret Santa gift.
“I think it depends on who you’re giving the gift to and whether they can appreciate the story behind it,” Pearson says.
“My parents aren’t huge fans” of thrifty gifts, she says. “Some of my friends really like it.”
“You want it to be good or something that person will really appreciate,” Beckett says.
Ragnlien says she bought a second-hand Diesel shirt, men’s jacket and initials necklace this year as gifts for loved ones.
“All my gifts this year have been shopping gifts, mostly from Boomerangs and online shopping store Depop,” says Rognlien.
“It’s not about the price,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to tell someone what you think of them. The gift is very personal to that person.”
The downside of thrift
The students say that the low prices usually associated with second-hand stores can encourage people to buy too many things.
“It’s important not to buy too much,” LaVelle says.
“Just because it’s less expensive doesn’t mean you should buy something if you’re not going to wear it,” says Beckett.
Sometimes “you have to look through the pile of not-so-good stuff,” Pearson says.
“It’s not like you just go to Newberry Street and find what you want.”
The rise in popularity of frugality leads to rising prices, a phenomenon Rognlien calls “frugality.”
“Prices are going up because there’s a lot of interest,” she says. While buying secondhand is a good thing, Rognlien says it’s important to keep in mind that low-income people can depend on secondhand for everything from clothes to cookware.
Don’t forget to switch places
Swaps are a way to exchange clothes and other goods without exchanging money, says Rognlien, who helped found a clothing swap at Northeastern called Tailored Collective in the fall of 2021.
Exchanges are held every semester, and the last one is in October.
“People say, ‘I’ll trade you this for this.’ It’s just wonderful,” says Ragnlien, who has also organized clothing donation drives for homeless shelters and other programs.
“Just because you don’t want it doesn’t mean someone else can’t make good use of it.”
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