The cycle of fashion trends may seem to shift faster with each passing season, but it’s often crystal clear when a new, not-so-new aesthetic captures the moment. One of the biggest recent examples was the ’90s obsession with all things in the mid-2010s, which saw Marc Jacobs re-release his legendary ’92 grunge set in Perry Ellis and countless flashbacks during fast fashion. Now, without a doubt, Y2K is a moment of nostalgia that has taken root, specifically among Generation Z.
“Nostalgia for the year 2000 sells really well,” says SoHo-based founder of Funny Pretty Nice, Natalia Spotts. “The year 2000 had a lot of cool silhouettes that you can’t find now.”
Spotts turned her personal love of saving into a business after leaving her previous job in 2019 and started selling antiques among friends. This led to the creation of an e-commerce site, pop-up stores (including a recent six-month stint in Westport, CT), and eventually, a standalone store in New York City—two soon-to-be stores, with a flagship store opening in March 2022. For 2000s silhouettes that may not necessarily resonate with consumers of all ages (like those who live in the high-rise jeans camp), Spotts are nonetheless achieving success among their Generation Z peers thanks to their curation, as well as how they use social media to connect Likes and followers IRL shoppers.
“I was a little influencer before I started Funny Pretty Nice,” she says. “I had this community of girls who were really interested in bats. And because I had this community that I could access, it spread very quickly.”
The Spotts story is similar to many of its fellow Gen Z adventurers who have also built a social media pipeline to brick and mortar selling vintage products. It shows that this generation’s appreciation for Ed Hardy shirts and Mudd Jeans isn’t just an indicator of changing tastes: it highlights how the future of vintage has been shaped by some of the younger, smarter, social media entrepreneurs.
This new era of vintage is something Gina Gottlieb, Instagram shopping editorial merchandiser, started noticing a little over six months ago. Along with TikTok — whose popularity during the pandemic hit three billion downloads last summer — Instagram and its Reels feature have been the biggest (and sometimes only) marketing tool that helps drive Gen Z seller’s current success, whether they already have a large following. Or starting from scratch.
“It was great to see that retailers of all kinds are taking advantage of features as a way to tell stories and bring products to life in an incredibly exciting and engaging way,” says Gottlieb. “In particular, when it comes to vintage or thrift styles, this market can be intimidating for shoppers. It’s not the kind of shopping people are used to or seems to be more specialized. Being able to use Reels and Stories to showcase these pieces feels accessible, fun and inspiring. “.
The intimidation factor seems right for Matthew Chun, owner of the Bowery Gallery. The New York native remembers walking into vintage streetwear stores in SoHo and feeling unwelcome: “I was fascinated by the product, but didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone on staff or take any photos. I felt like I was staring at.” Chun opened his own store in the Lower East Side in April 2021, offering a different vibe. It’s filled with the work of emerging artists and designers, as well as a selection of vintage clothing and Chun’s CBD line, Potion Potion.
Chun sees his work as an opportunity to “change the culture” around retail and antique, and social media has been his biggest tool in creating an environment where colleagues and consumers not only feel welcome, but have also invested in the Bowery Showroom.
“This was great for us: providing an experience for [customers] digitally and then give them a chance to experience it physically. And make sure the experience itself is worthwhile too,” he says. This digital experience specifically takes place via TikTok and Instagram Reels, before any currency exchange.
The Bowery Gallery staff — aged between 19 and 21, according to Chun — have become well-known personalities on social media, offering entertainment such as mini-history lessons on famous brands, hilarious street interviews, previews of new arrivals and details on upcoming events. In store. “Process, behind-the-scenes, day-of-life — that’s what Generation Z wants to see,” he says, adding that the “previous generation” use of perfect, filtered images “doesn’t necessarily get Generation Z in stores.” Last summer, the Bowery Showroom received about 2,000 to 3,000 RSVPs for each of its shopping events, thanks to TikTok and Reels, with most attendees queuing up around the blocks.
“If one of those videos goes viral, the conversion is very high,” Chun says.
This ability to create a customer base across digital and IRL spaces hints at the future of resale shopping—a market expected to be worth $84 billion by 2030, twice as much as fast fashion, according to the 2021 Resale Report. About ThredUp – it is Generation Z -led. Several other shared priorities and trends, according to experts and General Zers themselves, support this, namely an understanding of the importance of sustainability and a focus on experiential shopping experiences that foster a purposeful community.
“The way Gen Zers shop now will forever be the way they shop,” says Lydiona (Lady) Zarco, co-founder of Tired Thrift. “Once you’re morally conscious, it’s hard to reverse.”
Together with her cousin and business partner Elona Zharku, Ledi’s Tired Thrift opened in Williamsburg in November 2020, geared specifically toward filling what they saw as a distinct market shortage for Generation Z consumers and older products. “Even big box sellers are incorporating booze into their plans,” she says, referring to moves such as Nordstrom’s partnership with Goodfair in an online antique hub, and Urban Outfitters’ launch of Nuuly Thrift last summer. “Other retailers who take inspiration from small vintage merchandise stores are showing the power of sustainable shopping.”
Liddy says businesses “must be morally conscious to attract Generation Z,” and the stats say that, too: According to the findings of the 2022 Instagram Trend Report, about 1 in 4 (or 23%) consumers expect Generation Z to “save.” More online through second-hand websites (eg: Depop and Poshmark)” next year.
“Checks these two boxes,” says Instagram’s Gottlieb, explaining that choosing vintage purchases makes consumers feel environmentally conscious.
These Generation Z business owners, among others who sell products through Instagram and TikTok, also represent a new approach to work and career, particularly in the past couple of years.
Robbie Sinclair, creative director for youth at trend prediction agency Fashion Snoops. “Not only does this combat the one-time-and-throw-away culture that we’ve seen for so long, it also gives consumers more options for owning special pieces that no one else has.”
Furthermore, Spotts—who, in addition to selling vintage clothing, has launched their own Funny Pretty Nice clothing line using recycled fabrics—believes that consumers are also more responsive to small, self-made businesses: “We’re in the post-Girl Boss era,” referring to To the toxic work cultures that have often propelled highly successful brands in the past decade. “I feel that when General Zers sees small businesses, they want to provide support.”
With the future of vintage and second-hand shopping taking shape, one of the most popular topics – even among sellers with tens of thousands of Instagram followers and millions of likes on TikTok – is the importance of being offline. Social media is critical, but it is also a way to build true personal connections.
“After coming out of a traumatic experience like an epidemic, we have been desperately longing for human interaction,” says Tired Thrift’s Ledi. The importance of her social presence can’t be overstated: One of Tired Thrift’s Instagram reels, “A Day in the Life of Owning a Store in Brooklyn,” was a huge hit last summer, racking up nearly 500,000 views; The number of followers increased after that. But they don’t measure success solely by these metrics.
Elona says, explaining that Tired Thrift’s monthly events serve that purpose and encourage peers not only to shop in-store, but so that retailers can attract Gen Zers to their stores. Get a chance to hang out with the founders and the team. “It’s a combination of wearing really sick clothes but also having a place where you feel really comfortable.”
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