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Julia Plevin Headshot

Reduce, Reuse, Rewear

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Clothing stores that are selling vintage and reworked clothes are right on target. In this era of economic uncertainty and growing environmental consciousness, no one wants to be caught with new clothes.

Urban Outfitters has a growing part of their store dedicated to "Urban Renewal" -- a line of one-of-a-kind clothes made from vintage, deadstock, or pre-loved materials. The Urban Renewal pre-loved plaid shirts parallel a flannel trend that has taken over at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The cold weather, recession, and anxiety among seniors about finding jobs in this depressing job market have turned a normally preppy Ivy League college into a haven for comfortable, practical clothing. Students take trips to nearby Woodstock, Vermont to purchase the world's most comfortable flannel at The Vermont Flannel Company. As the economy continues to spiral downward, long-lasting practical clothing will be more desirable than trendy and cheap shirts from stores like H&M.

The ever-expanding American Apparel Empire has also wisely grown a vintage arm. The line, "California Select," is available at American Apparel's official eBay Store. It is like shopping on eBay, except American Apparel has selected the vintage clothing for you. eBay can be daunting to even the bravest of shoppers, but American Apparel helps make this world a lot more manageable.

Retail is doing horrible right now and the best solution is to invest in more re-worked, re-sized vintage clothing. Vintage clothing is both eco-friendly and wallet-friendly. The problem with vintage stores and thrift shops is that great finds are few and far between. It takes a real eye for fashion and some creativity to find vintage clothes that translate well into today's society. Even if you find a real gem, chances are the fit is awkward and unlike the fit found in stores today. Therefore, if clothing companies took old clothes and reworked them, shoppers could be assured that the fit and style were contemporary.

I made this suggestion during my recent job interview with Abercrombie and for a marketing position. I suggested that they undertake an initiative to collect vintage Abercrombie clothes or perhaps use deadstock that sits in factories overseas and rework the clothes to make a line of interesting clothing with a conscience. The interviewer responded that Abercrombie is not interested in such ideas and their main goal is to make a profit and provide a unified front. They see the stores as chains, sort of like McDonald's. I was not asked back for a second interview. Maybe someday they will realize what a mistake they made.

I also made this suggestion to the manager of the Patagonia store in Washington, DC. I used to work at this store and have an everlasting love for the company. The manager saw that my idea fit right in line with Patagonia's commitment to the environment and all the work they do to recycle. I went to the Patagonia store for a new fleece, but the truth was I didn't want a new one. Rather, I wanted a vintage fleece that had character and a color combination that no one had seen before. With their ironclad guarantee, there is a lot of vintage Patagonia around. They could easily collect old garments and create a line of one-of-a-kind outdoorsy gear.

I can foresee that someday Patagonia will have designers reworking old fleeces and capilene under layers to create new styles. In the meantime, Urban Outfitters now sells Patagonia fleeces in retro colors with a retro label. These fleeces are made new, but someday they will be made from pre-existing Patagonia.

Retail will move more and more in the direction of renewable clothing. If you are a clothing company CEO trying to figure out how to save your company from bankruptcy, try taking this advice from a college girl with trend foresight: it's time to start incorporating vintage clothes into your company.