There's a certain magic in thrift shopping; rifling through racks of previously owned clothing, looking for hidden treasures. Today, however, digital thrifting is on the rise, especially on Instagram. Users can scroll through their feed, and purchase a desired piece directly from the shop by commenting or direct messaging the account. For the inexperienced, the process may seem daunting. Here, 5 of Instagram's most popular thrift shop owners explain how they got started, how it all works, and more.

Store name:

The Zoo Boutique



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How did you become interested in vintage?

I got into vintage the way I imagine a lot of people did. I was poor and wanted to look fabulous. My mother and I would go to thrift shops. She was only 16 years older than me so it was fun getting to play dress up with her like sisters. She made us look and feel like the rich girls. 
  How do you spot a good vintage piece? 

It's always the fabric first. I have been selling vintage since for 14 years, I can spot a couture stitch from a mile away, and can identify most fabrics and quality with my eyes shut by touch alone. That's something that happens after you've been doing it over a decade. 
  Do you ever get special requests from fans for something specific?

Nine times out of then it's for a "big ruffly blouse." I don't know when the trend started, or when it will end. 
  What is your favorite vintage find of all time?

I found an original couture Antonio Castillo gown from his first boutique in Paris, before he started Lanvin. It was a devastating big black satin gown that made a perfect tilted circle skirt. Super modern and clearly prophetic, but made in the early '50s. Bought it for $2 at the Goodwill bins in San Francisco, and it was valued at $10k. I think it went to a museum, but I was young and got swindled out of most of that dough. 

Store name:

Rae Bright Vintage

  How do you go about finding your products?

We are thrift enthusiasts! The most important thing for us is to be together while buying; it helps us to be editorial in our selections and talk through outfitting solutions for a variety of people. We look through and touch everything! You can pretty much disregard all categories, sizes, and labels as you shop because vintage is fairly fluid. You can manipulate and style it to fit a range of shapes, sizes, and aesthetics.

Often the best part of finding vintage pieces is the “treasure hunt”. Sifting through racks until you find that one coveted piece. Do you feel spaces like Instagram take away from that process?

Not at all. Customers crave accessibility, convenience and inspiration, and Instagram offers all of that. Sweating it out and digging through thrift store bins in the middle a California Summer might not be everyone's ideal Saturday morning activity, but we love it! So we're happy to take that part on ourselves and then offer our findings in a more streamlined way for people to enjoy browsing.

How do you spot a good vintage piece?

We are typically attracted to bright colors and fun prints. We always look at fabric quality; something that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Generally, we are searching for something that feels special but is classic and versatile. If we can envision three modern ways to style it, its a done deal.

Store name:

Ivia Retrò



How did you get started in the vintage game?

I was selling pieces from my wardrobe on Depop and I listed this vintage '80s windbreaker I bought back in high school at a thrift store for $3 and ended up selling it for $30. I realized I could do this at a much larger scale. 
   What are you finding that your customers are looking for this season?

Trends in general influence what people want. For the past few months it's been high waist denim, classic button ups, exaggerated sleeves, and structural silhouettes. 
  It seems the vintage-Instagram shop business is exploding. How do you plan to expand upon this, or is it more of a hobby?

My goal is to grow into a brand with good ethics that focuses on and embodies the beauty and liberation of the modern woman. I'll always sell vintage, but someday I would like to sell original pieces made ethically in the U.S. at a larger scale.  
  Favorite vintage find thus far:

A very Jacquemus-esque 1950s red polka dot blouse with puff sleeves. 

Store name:




How do you spot a good vintage piece?

We are always looking for quality material and construction first! Next, we evaluate if the style and shape is on-trend. With designer labels like Prada, for instance, even if the color or style isn’t super popular we’ll deem it as a great find. The construction of fake designer is never as good as the real thing, usually the stitching is coming undone and the material feels cheap.

Do you feel the social media landscape has positively or negatively affected this process?

Positively, for sure! After selling on Ebay and Etsy for years, it seemed as though we were only reaching a certain type of customer that was really seeking a specific style of vintage. But with Instagram, we’re able to reach a very broad spectrum of people. And by styling the pieces in a more current fashion we’re marketing that anyone can incorporate vintage clothing into their wardrobe.

Have you had any famous customers?

Agyness Deyn! It’s crazy to think that we’ve literally created looks based off her street style we’ve seen in magazines in the past and now she’s one of our favorite customers.

Store name:

Na Nin Vintage



How did you get started in the vintage game?

I started selling vintage clothes in 2009. I grew up thrifting and going to yard sales and estate sales with my family.  Most of my clothes were second hand and it was always a fun time seeing the excitement in my parents faces by finding a good deal.

How do you go about finding your vintage?

I live in Richmond, Virginia and I often travel within the state and area to consignment, thrifts, estates and yard sales.  I have a wonderful team who are also always on the look out and bring in incredible finds.  Whenever I go on a trip in or outside of the country I also try to set aside time for vintage buying to bring as many special pieces as possible to Na Nin.

Do you ever get special requests from fans for something specific?

Definitely lots of special requests—mostly for the perfect vintage high waisted trousers, slip dresses, and silk tops.  It's been a great learning experience and has really helped us mold our in house line that we have recently released and monthly will be adding new designs.  All of the pieces are vintage inspired with personal favorite edits, made for the modern day vintage lover who is looking for every day classic favorite designs.  We are thrilled with the response and are excited to share what else we have in store.

Store name:

Passport Vintage



How do you think Instagram has changed shopping for vintage?

I don’t think Instagram is keeping people from going out and hunting those coveted pieces on their own, the “treasure hunt” will always be appealing to the vintage consumer. Instagram helps you discover unique sellers from all over the world. We feel that through Passport we make the search for the perfect pair of vintage Levi's easier. We offer an extensive selection of select vintage Levi’s styles, but we offer our expertise on the fit of all those jeans. When it comes to finding that perfect pair it always comes down to the fit. You can have five pairs in the same style and size and they all fit differently, it can be a huge help to have someone with our experience and knowledge, especially when you’re buying online.

Do you ever get special requests from fans to find something specific?

All the time! We always have customers reaching out to us to help them find their perfect pair of jeans or a specific rare tee the’ve been wanting for years. We are always happy to look for these things for people, even if we can’t directly find the items for them we at least try to direct them to someone who has it for sale. 

Do you feel that anything influences that? For example, if a celebrity is wearing it, are they asking for it?

Absolutely! More celebrities and fashion bloggers are wearing vintage Levi's and it's really driven up demand. It's the same for vintage tees, specifically rare tour t-shirts.

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