Scott Hatton and Aaron Wills, co-owners of Vintage Therapy, a local second-hand clothing store, spend their Saturday mornings at garage sales or digging through attics to find inventory for their store.
Sophie Ison, a junior at the University of Kentucky, drives to Goodwill after class to find UK gear that she can reinvent and sell to peers.
Samantha Maclntyre, a 20-year-old medical coding student at Cape Cod Community College, spends her free time creating Tik Tok videos highlighting the process of re-imagining her closet through thrifted upcycling pieces.
While these people are perfect strangers to each other and come from different walks of life, they have one thing in common: their love for thrifting and upcycling.
Aaron Wills and Scott Hatton
“If you can see the opportunity that’s sitting in a cardboard box, it’s basically a drug,” said Hatton as he described the thrill of approaching any sort of sale with piles of vintage t-shirts and denim jeans. To him and Wills, thrifting is more than a hobby; it’s something they’ve made a career out of after doing it for years. Wills explained that his thrifting journey started when he was a teenager.
“I would go to the Salvation Army and try to find the most obscure shirt or whatever, something from the 60s or the 70s and put that together,” Wills said. “The idea was I wanted something that told a story, something that had history behind it, something that kinda set me apart from other people’s style and fashion. For me, I wanted to buy something that was already broken in and worn. I don’t like new stuff.”
Hatton began thrifting to save money on jeans; it just didn’t make sense to buy a new pair from the department store every time they got holes from skating. The two are now gifted with an eye for finding unique pieces, which they are confident will sell at their shop.
Someone else with that eye is Samantha Maclntyre, a 20-year-old medical coding student at Cape Cod Community College who has gained over 180 thousand followers on her TikTok page, @sageandmaize, due to her thrifting and upcycling skills. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes upcycling as “creating an object of greater value from a discarded object of lesser value,” and that’s the world Maclntyre dove into a little while after she began thrifting. Similar to Wills, she started shopping second-hand at a young age as it was an opportunity to set herself apart.
“I was really tired of having the same clothes as other people, so thrifting was kind of a way for me to have pieces that differed from other people’s,” MacIntyre said during a Zoom interview. “I really love the hunt, and the feeling of being rewarded when I find something cool. But for me, it’s also about the environmental impact. Nothing makes me more mad than fast fashion, and how it contributes to the mass amount of clothing going into landfills. I love that I can give pieces that someone didn’t want a new life, whether that be keeping it as is and wearing it as I bought it or turning it into something new.”
Maclntyre began upcycling clothing when she noticed that most articles of clothing didn’t fit quite right when she brought them home from the store. Her mother taught her to sew at age five, so she had the skill to take in the waist of a pair of pants or hem a dress to fall just where she’d like. It all changed when she realized she could reinvent pieces into something brand new.
Since then she has flipped leggings into a two-piece bikini, a large sweater into a dress and lots more. Due to the large amount of time each piece takes, Maclntyre explained her tendency to become very attached to her work, which is why she hasn’t yet begun to sell her pieces. She explained, however, that she can envision herself selling her pieces or doing alterations for clients one day down the line.
Sophie Ison, a UK Student, shares Maclntyre’s desire to have a positive environmental impact within the fashion industry through her small business. According to Business Insider, “The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shopping combined.” And this is just one of the many environmental impacts of fast fashion, which is the term used to describe clothing produced rapidly and inexpensively following fashion trends.
Beyond the sustainability aspect, for Ison, thrifting is an escape and a way to cheer up.
“If I was having a bad day, I would go to Goodwill to just see what they had,” Ison said. “I’d wake up early, go get a latte, then go to Goodwill.” There, she finds men’s large tees and other UK articles that she breathes new life into, through bleaching and cropping them, cutting different pieces and stitching them together to form one, or executing any other innovative vision she may have. @Ky__dripp is an Instagram page Ison created to sell her upcycled UK sweatshirts, tees, and vintage Kentucky apparel to students and Lexington locals. She often utilizes a bidding method, in which students have a friendly battle for her highly sought after pieces in the comments of her posts, paying anything from $10-40.
Vintage Therapy’s niche for curating, Maclntyre’s natural tendencies towards creativity and sewing and Ison’s vision of bringing it to her peers are prime examples of the different avenues the trend offers. All the while these hobbies reach others, whether by simply inspiring a broader customer base to shop second-hand, motivating individuals to fix up their clothing before buying new, or even motivating individuals to start a business of their own.