‘Unique, different, and cool’: The rise of vintage clothing shops in SLC

Local News

Courtesy of Vantage

(ABC4) – To find a new look, many locals are turning to old styles. Several vintage clothing stores in the Salt Lake City area are saying they’re busier than ever nowadays.

“It’s super noticeable, just within the last two years,” says Paul Curtis who owns Vantage Clothing, a reused clothing store located downtown, of the renewed interest in vintage threads.

Curtis is right about the recent uptick in interest for used clothing. A Statista study of monthly active users on the popular used clothing app, Depop, shows a significant increase from 2017 to now. Another study shows that of the current user group, 48.4% are from ages 20-29, with an addition 34.6% under 19. Younger fashion-seekers clearly like the look of used clothing.

Even some of the most powerful figures in high-end fashion think that this is not just a trend, and could be the future of the clothing industry. Virgil Abloh, who works as the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear line in addition to being the CEO of his own label, Off-White, sees vintage and used clothing having major staying power.

A rack of clothes at Vantage in downtown Salt Lake City (Courtesy of Paul Curtis)

“In my mind, how many more t-shirts can we own? How many more hoodies? How many sneakers? I think that like we’re gonna hit this like, really awesome state of expressing your knowledge and personal style with vintage – there are so many clothes that are cool that are in vintage shops and it’s just about wearing them. I think that fashion is gonna go away from buying a boxfresh something; it’ll be like, hey I’m gonna go into my archive,” Abloh told Dazed & Confused Magazine in December 2019.

Curtis thinks a variety of reasons are influencing the younger generation’s attraction to reused clothing.

“I think it’s probably a mix of younger generations being more conscious of their actions with the environment and their consumers. What I’ve noticed, and also just the style, the style of 80s and 90s is super in right now,” Curtis tells ABC4.

It’s no secret that new clothing can come at an enormous cost in both materials and human labor, according to Scientific American. The publication reported that the Global Fashion Agenda estimated around 21 trillion gallons of water went into making new clothes in 2017 alone.

What happens to new clothes after they are no longer desired can also be detrimental to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans put more than 21 billion pounds of clothing and footwear into landfills in 2015. Labor conditions in overseas factories are also commonly known.

A rack of reused clothes at Swish SLC’s pop-up shop.

Aside from being more eco-friendly, Paul and other used clothing enthusiasts think that the look is unique, different, and cool.

“Growing up, I never wanted to just go buy some stuff that every other kid could go by, and I think it probably had to do with just wanting to stand out when I was growing up and looking up to people who were like also just going to thrift stores and such,” Paul says of his days as a youth in Portland, Oregon.

While Vantage boosts one of the city’s largest selections for used clothing, other smaller clothing sellers are finding ways to spread the movement.

Austin Malichanh works the counter at his reused clothing pop-up shop, Swish SLC.

Austin Malichanh owns Swish SLC, a clothing pop-up store that operates on Saturdays only at the Hip-Hop Education and Resource Center on State Street. Malichanh started his business by posting his used clothes for sale on an Instagram page. His following got large enough that he was able to open his own storefront, with help from the center.

To keep his store stocked on the weekend, Malichanh makes it a routine to hit up as many thrift stores as possible throughout the week. He’s learned what sells and what doesn’t with experience.

“It comes with putting in time, because once you go out for the first time, you don’t really know what you’re looking for. But after a while, you get used to looking for tags and stuff and you don’t really need to look things up while you’re at the store, because a lot of times, you could just look up a certain piece online and they’re like ‘Oh, it sure sells for whatever.’ Then, after a while, you could kind of just price things on your own and know what it’s worth by looking at it,” Malichanh tells ABC4.

Paul goes through a similar process, but also explains that he often buys clothes wholesale at warehouses packed to the ceiling with unwanted shirts, pants, and shoes. He says the amount of clothing that he can pick from is staggering.

“There are already so many clothes out there, there’s definitely plenty to be reused,” Paul says. “There’s no reason why people should be buying new clothing.”

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