Racks on the Rise: Thrifting in Isla Vista

Illustration by Diane Kim

Yuriko Chavez

Staff Writer

Thrifting is a popular activity among members of Generation Z, and Isla Vista (I.V.) residents are no exception. What is the obsession with buying second-hand? And, when did it become popular?

On Oct. 8, Thriftopia, an outdoor thrifting clothing market typically held every second Saturday of the month, was hosted in I.V.’s Little Acorn Park. The event lasted from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and featured live musical performances from DJ Serenade, Jomch, Magnetize, and The Doors Experience.

Numerous canopies, banners, and clothing racks lined up the edges of the Little Acorn Park, as residents made their way paging through various sweaters, jackets, and skirts on the racks. 

Under gray skies, music pulsed through the crowd. As I looked around at the wide variety of clothes displayed on the racks, I became curious about the people behind the clothes and decided to interview the thrift vendors.

The vendors had various reasons for why they began selling clothes. 

“I always loved thrift shopping, ever since I was a little kid. I just like finding treasures,” Max Brody, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) student and owner of Max’s Closet, told The Bottom Line (TBL). 

He continued, “I realized I could turn that into a business and now I’m still having fun and making money on the side.”

Emily Perez, an Oxnard local who manages La Ropa Bonita, shared how she finds the clothes for her store: “Some of it is my mom’s old fashion, you know, she was a baddie in the ’90s, and the rest is stuff that I saw [at other thrift markets].”  

“I travel all around sourcing clothes,” stated Gabby Paddick, SBCC student and manager of Glossaryla, “I’m very fortunate that my business has grown to a point where I don’t have any student loans. This pays for my college, my living, my food — everything. And that’s something I’m very, very, grateful for.” 

Thrifting is a way for young people to find items that are not only unique to their style but cheap as well. Thrifting can be both a fashion choice and a business decision. According to ThredUp, an online resale store, thrifting will become an $82 billion industry and will surpass fast fashion by 2029. The resurgence of thrifting has been made possible by the return of Y2K fashion, the enticement of finding unique articles of clothing, and the participation in living a sustainable lifestyle. Not only is Gen Z consuming second-hand goods, but they are also re-selling their own clothes through online marketplaces such as Depop, a platform with 90 percent of its 30 million users being under 26. 

When I asked vendor Lily Klein about why she thought so many college students enjoy thrifting, she said, “I think that a big rise in thrifting came partially from finding cheap and cool clothes, especially in the younger generation. I think it’s because we can’t necessarily afford all of the cool designer stuff that’s out right now.”

Thrifting, for many of the vendors, serves a purpose beyond fashion too. The one that immediately comes to mind for many of us: sustainability.

“I think a lot of people here [in I.V.] are very forward thinking and a lot of people want to move towards a more recycled future,” comments Brody. “And I think vintage is a great step because when people get to dress up, and save the environment.”

On the other hand, vendors like SBCC students Lily Klein and Sequoia Cousins may also have a fundraising motive. Klein and Cousins run a non-profit called Give 2 Pets Thrift Store, an initiative whose purpose is to help animals.  

“All of our profits and proceeds go directly to helping animals,” Klein told TBL. “We have our own animal sanctuary […] we also work with hospitals, hospice [and] social workers in order to get pets that seniors have […] so they have somewhere to go.” Klein said. 

There were a similar variety of reasons why attending students chose to shop second-hand. 

UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) student Sarah Lew said, “It’s interesting to see how everyone dresses differently and how they have their own unique styles.”

“A lot of the people here are super environmental and they would love to prevent waste from going into the trash dumps,” states Jess Healy, also a UCSB student.“I think our youth is taking that [environmental] culture and we like revamping styles and being out there.”

“I used to go thrifting with my friends a lot, back home,” said Ashna Ahmed, a first-year UCSB student. “So when I heard this event was happening, I just wanted to go. […] It feels a lot more personal and friendly [thrifting] here, because in my home I thrift mostly at Goodwill and Savers, but here there’s actual stalls, you can actually meet the vendors and talk to them; so I like that aspect of it.”

Thrifting is Isla Vista will seem to always garner a crowd whether it’s motivated by finding a good deal, protecting the environment, or being a part of the community. 

The next Thriftopia will be happening on Nov. 12 in Little Acorn Park.