University of Maryland students can protect the planet, save money and have fun doing it. Thrifted clothing pop-ups have become commonplace on campus.
Sophomore psychology major Renae Elsaesser first got into thrifting in high school because of the appeal of cheaper clothes that had a more unique aesthetic than retail stores. Her thrifting habits have evolved since coming to this university.
“In college, thrifting is much more of a social activity for me,” she said. “It’s really fun trying to find pieces that I know would really suit my friends and also just finding unique pieces for me.”
With a limited number of thrift stores within walking distance of campus, students have turned to buying and selling clothes in front of campus landmarks like McKeldin Library and Tawes Plaza.
Why is this trending? Maybe the sustainability associated with it. Maybe the cool factor. Maybe it’s simply the thrill of stumbling across a deal.
One thing is for sure — pop-up thrift shops aren’t going away anytime soon. The Diamondback spoke with three student-run secondhand apparel organizations on campus and to learn their thoughts on this university’s new favorite pastime.
Ethan Pham inherited his siblings’ passion for thrifting at a young age. As he got older, the senior information science major would buy the merchandise of his friends’ favorite sports teams if he found it and give it to them.
Pham is now a co-founder of secondhand apparel organization Retro Collegiate.
“I thought, why not start picking up clothes I think are cool in general and try to sell them online,” Pham said. “We’re thrifting all the time anyway.”
This is how Retro Collegiate, formerly known as UMD Thrift, came to be. With a motto of “shop sustainable,” their mission is to supply affordable and accessible clothing with a college aesthetic” to this university and others.
Pham said he supports the widespread surge in pop-up thrifting’s on-campus popularity.
“It gives students an alternative to fast fashion,” Pham said. “Otherwise students might be shopping online.”
In addition to the environmental advantages of thrifting, there is a sense of pride that comes with discovering and wearing rare pieces, Elsaesser added.
“Thrifting in general, it just makes me feel more energized,” Elsaesser said. “It’s also boosted my confidence because I can find clothing that represents me more instead of shopping at popular stores, like American Eagle or PacSun.”
Even students who aren’t able to fit pop-up opportunities into their busy schedules are able to benefit from a combination of thrifting and online shopping. Sophomore biocomputational engineering major Savannah Phillips has ordered online from UMD Vintage’s curated Instagram page and appreciated the quick delivery.
“I’m not as patient as other people are because other people will go [thrifting] for hours but I can’t do that,” the biocomputational engineering major said.
Around the Block, another campus secondhand shop, sells thrifted shirts printed with an original map design of Old Town, labeling the nicknames of off-campus student houses like Juicebox, Margville and Pandora.
“Our entire business model is based on being sustainable,” Around the Block sales and marketing head Quinn Lugenbeel said. “We thrift all of our T-shirts or get them from other sustainable sources and then get the design printed on at a local print shop.”
Lugenbeel, a junior environmental science and policy and finance major, said she thinks thrifting’s increased popularity stems from increased exposure, an abundance of inventory in thrift stores and the appeal to college students on a budget.
“Fast fashion is a huge issue. It is a major contributor to pollution and climate change as a whole,” Lugenbeel said. “For companies to be basing their products in sustainable methods, that really helps reduce the impact that the fast fashion industry has, and can really make a big difference.”
Around the Block plans on launching a new shirt design with a map of this university’s campus. Their shirts are available at the farmer’s market every other Wednesday.
“People who move here come with just a few bags, but they don’t have enough for the changing seasons,” Bad Summer Vintage co-founder Kelly Reyes, who graduated from this university, said.
That’s where pop-ups like Bad Summer Vintage come into play.
“From vintage to modern, contemporary, anything that can be salvaged, anything that deserves new life, we sell it but we also sell it for an affordable price point,” co-founder Matt Patterson, who also graduated from this university, said.
The organization held its first pop-up on McKeldin Mall in May of 2022. Since then, the popularity of pop-up thrifts on campus has grown considerably.
“This year, [thrifting on campus] has exploded,” Reyes said. “I noticed clubs and organizations have decided to take that route in order to raise funds for their clubs, and I think it’s really been working.”
Patterson thinks the growth in popularity could be because of the post-COVID-19 pandemic resale trend. Fashion trends continue to grow, and celebrities and influencers have taken more of an interest in thrifting.
“I love the feeling. I think that’s why people go back,” Patterson said. “It’s addicting because you get that feeling of ‘I found this incredible grail.’”