How To Do Sustainable Retail Therapy, The Gen Z Way

July 28, 2022

My love for thrifting began over a year ago, when I was in the mood for some retail therapy. As a college student, I didn’t have the funds to keep up with all the new trends. Especially since the speed of trend cycles has done nothing but accelerate over the past couple of years. These days, college students shop from a range of companies like SheIn and Amazon. These companies use unsustainable and unethical methods to keep products cheap.

I had recently learned about the impact of fast fashion and sweatshops, so I was trying to avoid these types of companies. Thrifting had been trending. I kept hearing about friends finding quality clothing for cheap. That’s when I decided it’d be fun to drive around to the local thrift shops in my area and see what I could find. Well, what I ended up finding was a way to shop to save the planet.

Endless Possibilities

With thrifting, the possibilities are endless. It’s about embracing and finding individual style whether it lines up with current trends or not. It’s not like other retail stores that are focused on constantly producing new trends to keep business going. Instead, the focus is on recycling clothing and repurposing it, to keep it out of landfills. It is well known in the fashion industry that trends cycle back every couple of years, or what it seems like now for Gen Z is every couple of months. Thrift stores have always had the same target market which is people who are looking for a good deal.

Therefore, their focus isn’t on the newest trends. That is why these stores will take any style or size of clothing as long as it’s in good enough condition to resell. It caters to a range of all styles since a range of people drop off and sell their clothing there. The same goes with body type. People are getting rid of clothing that is too big, small, long, short, or doesn’t fit them in another way. That is why thrifting is not something that is limited. It is something anyone can love and enjoy.

Getting Started

Now, for some tips on how to find the best places to thrift and the methods for making it less overwhelming. First, start by looking at what is local to you. Goodwill and Plato’s Closet are typically common in areas and offer good options. If you do choose to go to Goodwill, look to see if you can find one that offers Goodwill bins. These bins are the jackpot. This process requires you to dig through bins and whatever you find gets weighed and that is the total cost. I have left the bins with name brands like Nike, Patagonia, Coach, and more with the total price costing no more than $10.

It is also nice to explore the locally owned stores in your area. You support a small business while at the same time can find great vintage or current looks. Local stores are also typically non-profit. For example, Great Things—a non-profit in Charlotte, North Carolina—has always been one of my go-to’s when I’m home visiting family. This is where I have found many dresses, Nike athletic shorts, and my favorite faux leather light blue jacket. A lot of cities also do events with local vendors that sell second-hand clothing.

Tips to Thrift like a Gen Zer

Social media majorly influences the way Gen Z views fashion now. As I mentioned, the trend cycle speed is now at an all-time high. This is due to platforms like TikTok and Instagram having influencers constantly advertising new styles to buy. At this point, there are too many trends to follow, and we are picking and choosing what resonates most with our personal style. Gen Z is all about creativity and showing authenticity through what you wear. Thrifting allows a person to not be distracted by trends and just look at what stands out to them.

Thrifting is like a treasure hunt: you don’t know what you’re going to find and there shouldn’t be expectations. It is nice to make a list of items you are looking for, but don’t let the list constrict you. Look for items that have multiple purposes and uses to them. Gen Z is the same generation to turn pants into a top or find 10 different ways to style a swimsuit. Don’t be afraid to wear something in a way it wasn’t intended to be worn. Thrifting will allow you to get out of your comfort zone. Also, if you are into sewing, thrift flipping is extremely popular right now. I have seen people turn out-of-style tops into a full crop top and skirt set. These accounts on TikTok are known for their upcycling talents: @hippiehued and @caro_uccellino

Don’t knock it till you try it

If you can’t decide if you think the item is cute, just try it on. Not everything has hanger appeal. The items I have been the most unsure about when seeing are the ones I end up loving most when on. Thrifting really allows you to find out what styles, patterns, and colors really represent your personality.

Lastly, thrifting is really good for finding statement pieces. This could be a funky pair of pants or an iconic pair of shoes. Before purchasing a statement piece think of multiple ways you can wear it. When brainstorming ideas of different ways to style a statement piece you avoid the issue of “I have so many clothes but nothing to wear!”

Now, let’s save the planet and some money!

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Photo: Logan Collins

Logan Collins
Logan is a senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, double majoring in management information systems and religion. She lives a vegan lifestyle and has completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training. Her passions include environmental and human rights activism which inspires her into wanting to spread awareness through her writing and speech. You can find her on Instagram at @_logancollins.


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