Duluth retailers give new life to old clothes
Social media has given vintage sellers a popular platform that reaches customers in the area and around the world.
Duluth vintage sellers have a perspective not everyone shares: The COVID-19 pandemic has been great for their businesses.
Instagram has become the premier selling platform for many vintage businesses in Duluth, including Christina Livadaros, owner of Voula Vintage.
Livadaros started her business in 2019 and decided to nix a brick-and-mortar booth once the pandemic hit so she could sell without fear of business restrictions due to the virus.
“I think people are wearing pajamas more, but are also more interested in what they will get to wear at one point,” Livadaros said.
Thanks to social media, she’s resold vintage clothing not just to customers in Northern Minnesota, but all over the world.
“The algorithm has been kind to me,” Livadaros said. “I get little pockets of people because that’s how the internet seems to work. My reviews are people wearing the clothes and taking a picture and showing their friends that they like what they got from me. If their friends see it and they all live in New York, then I get a New York following.”
Online, vintage sellers share photos and measurements of their products. Most sales happen by commenting to claim an item and exchanging over apps like Venmo. Other selling platforms, like Etsy, Depop or Shopify, are also popular for vintage items. Some vintage sellers have small booths in stores and have pop-up shops at various businesses and conventions.
Amanda Belcher, who has operated Spirit Valley Vintage since 2014, was content with her clothes being sold from a rack in Spirit Valley neighborhood's Annex Novelty Shop, but she saw that the vintage market was expanding online. Now she can sell to anyone, anywhere from Instagram — and in 2020, she saw interest in vintage really pick up.
“I think over the last year it’s really kind of exploded,” Belcher said. “I’ve even seen a change in the places I used to thrift. Now they’re kind of cutting out the people that flip clothes and increasing their prices.”
Local vintage sellers source their items from places like Savers, Goodwill, antique and consignment stores and estate sales. Some have established enough of a presence that customers will reach out to them to offer them things they may like.
Livadaros said she will travel for vintage, and always encourages people to send her photos of old clothing and other items before throwing them away. She received tubs of sewing materials from a woman who planned to throw them away, and Livadaros said she uses the materials every day.
Clothing isn’t the only vintage niche that’s gaining traction. Mallory Moore sells vintage furniture from her home and at a booth at Old Town Antiques in downtown Duluth. She started Amore Dolce six years ago, but really saw business pick up about two years ago.
Moore said people are spending more time at home, which has made them appreciate the well-made furniture from decades past. Her customers have also appreciated that they can pick up the furniture the same day they buy it, usually with no assembly required. She also noted that used, vintage furniture is usually cheaper, too.
“I think people are trying to establish their unique style and vintage is the way to go for that, for sure,” Moore said.
Carli Dudzik, owner of Pretty Great Vintage, has helped vintage take on a new life online and at her booth at Old Town Antiques, but she’s also trying to preserve its old life. For some of her clothing, she will make up a fabricated background story of who she imagines would own the piece and post it to Instagram with the the hashtag #untoldvintagestories.
A red raincoat she sold in early 2019 came with this backstory: “Alex was a trendsetter who was known to cave in to buy the latest and greatest. From pet rocks to Chia heads, to Rubix cubes, Alex had them all. Including a coat for nearly every type of precipitation. Come snow, sleet, falling ice, fog or snow, Alex was prepared. As was Alex’s closet which was filled to the brim with jackets & bins of toys that were past their prime.”
Dudzik said she believes people have become more aware of the effects of fast fashion, and buying clothes secondhand is a more sustainable practice — plus, it can support small businesses. Fashion is cyclical, and many times, trends come back into style years after they were first popular. Many of the customers Livadaros, Dudzik, Moore and Belcher serve, especially from social media, are in their 20s and 30s.
“I just think there’s so much cool stuff out in the world and sometimes you just have to look at it a little bit differently to see how it could fit into your lifestyle or your needs,” Dudzik said. “It’s a fun way to acquire things rather than on Amazon or from Target.”