After attending ThriftCon, a thrift show and sale held for the first time at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Dec. 15, we’re sharing some trend takeaways:
Scoop up any branded items you find in thrift stores. Cartoon characters on bedsheets and T-shirts, sports jerseys, memorabilia from rock bands, food packaging – anything with a logo or character on it was for sale here, sometimes reworked or upcycled into a completely different item of clothing or accessory.
Authenticity sells — even if it isn’t authentic. Case in point: thrifted painters’ pants that are loaned to an actual painter to supply the requisite splotches and drips, then resold.
Anything can be a candidate for recycling into something cool and hip: fringed sofa throws, cereal boxes, plain white T-shirts and even the purple fabric bags that hold Crown Royal whiskey are being reimagined into new items.
An afternoon at the show revealed that men are very much into thrifting. The majority of attendees and vendors were male.
There were dozens of interesting vendors at ThriftCon, which was organized by three entrepreneurs from Denver: Mario Conte, Ken Mead and David Bywater. They have held four previous ThriftCons in Denver, starting in May 2018. Each one doubled the attendance of the one before.
In Los Angeles, they presold 4,000 tickets and were expecting 8,000 attendees by the end of the day. There were 90 booths representing just under 120 vendors. Conte noted that the crowd was more diverse in its thrifting aesthetics than the vendors were, as the vendors were primarily from the streetwear community. “But, just like ComicCon has grown to embrace many different styles, as we grow, we want to attract all the different styles of thrift,” said Conte.
Peder Cho, of Los Angeles, was displaying an array of labeled items that he had reworked into clothing and accessories for his UTOPIA label, where everything is recycled, handmade, and with “zero duplicates.” (@utopia.us) “People collect random things,” he observed, “and the avid fan is always looking to stand out.” He has taken Reese’s Puffs cereal boxes with Travis Scott’s name on them, plastic bags from Tyler the Creator’s Golf Wang label, hundreds of cleats from the University of Miami football team, hooks from the back of Adidas sports shoes, and made custom garments and accessories with them. “I tend to go with brands that aren’t fashion and bring them to fashion,” Cho said.
Zig Zag Goods of Los Angeles (zigzaggoods.com, @zigzag.goods) attracted attention with its thrifted painted boots for women, refurbished and made into one-of-a-kind objects with acrylic paints. “We like sustainability,” said Piper Cashman, who was working the booth with Amanda Adam.
Several other vendors featured upcycled thrifted wear, such as Njeri Akosua, who had hand-dyed clothing (honeyflowerhandmade.etsy.com) “I use 96 percent thrifted clothing, and make each piece unique,” she said.
Thrifted bedsheets and comforters are the raw materials that Weaver (single name only) from Colorado Springs was selling. (His online store is theancientyouth.com) He had a rack of $50 cotton shorts made from vintage bedsheets, many with cartoon designs. Turns out those GI Joe, Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers sheets have a second act. Weaver also makes puffer duffles and sleeping bags from his finds.
“There’s a real range here,” he said of the show. “Some people are selling from a card table three items for $10, and then others are selling $200 or $300 for a jacket.”
Those throw blankets that are popular for the backs of sofas? They are in abundance at thrift stores, and a clever vendor, Rudy Puente (@thechubbychicano) has turned them into casual pants. All his items are thrift store finds — reworked. “Upcycling reduces the carbon footprint,” he said. He buys relatively clean secondhand painters’ paints, then loans them to one of his relatives, who works as a painter. Once his relative gets the pants messy with paint, he gives them back to Puente, who sells them for $30-$40. “People like to look like they work hard,” Puente observed.
What was selling? At throwbacks vintage, what was popular were clothes from the 90s – “anything the Spice Girls would wear,” said vendor Tal Heruty, as well as tank tops, crop tops and animal print clothing.
“Every purchase surprises me,” said Kim Kulka, a creative director who sells curated vintage for kids under the Lifetime of Leisure name. (lifetimeofleisure.co, @lifetime_of_leisure) How did she get into the business? “I’ve always loved thrifting and all my friends were having kids, so …” Nineties fashions are selling, particularly bright colors and color blocking, she said, “and anything that looks like small versions of adult-looking clothes.”
Sneaker culture was well represented, with its own spinoffs. Been Had Those (BHTfootwear.com), a company selling vintage footwear and sports clothing, brought shoes and pins, and also pillows made in the shape of particularly favored shoe brands. They were priced at $50.