Engulfed in the warmth of the late morning sun, women gasped in front of a full-length mirror and told each other they looked beautiful. They did.
This was one of the primary objectives of Oliva Buchli, a fifth-year student studying fashion design. Along with collecting aid money for the city of Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Buchli used the opportunity to further her dream of opening a vintage clothing store while inspiring University of Wisconsin students to shop ethically and recycle clothing for the sake of a sustainable future.
As a transfer student, Buchli has spent much of her time at UW as the sole owner of her clothing store, Olivia’s Vintage. Racks of oversized, patterned windbreakers, retro Badger crewnecks and gentle silk dresses line the walls of her apartment, carefully selected from Goodwill and thrift stores. In the last several months, Buchli has gained nearly 700 followers on her Instagram account, many of whom use the post notifications feature to ensure they are the first to know when she posts photos of her latest items.
At her first pop-up shop last Saturday, students combed through jean jackets and flipped through the free books Buchli set out as gifts for her guests. For anyone with a taste for vintage or passion for sustainable fashion, her shop offered a beautiful, affordable haven.
“I do make my own clothes, but I’m not interested in repurposing clothes that have already been made,” Buchli explained. “I’ve always been really into vintage clothing, and people were always asking where I got it from, so everything just came together and I started this shop a couple months ago.”
Fast fashion, alive and well along the aisles of retailers like H&M, Forever 21 and the like, strive to strip designs from the catwalk and get them on mannequins as soon as possible. In recent years, this trend has become an environmental crisis — clothes are cheap and fly off the shelves fast, but end up in the trash even faster. To keep up with trends, consumers must make a concerted effort to replace their wardrobe every year, if not every few months. The EPA reported over 15 million tons of textile waste in 2013.
For decades, e-commerce has provided an ecological out — E-bay and Craiglist allowed folks to resell old clothing still in good condition, long before iPhone apps arrived to further simplify the process. In the last few years, Instagram has become another popular platform for users like Buchli to open their closet doors.
Buchli uses Instagram both because of the possibility of reaching out to a wider audience, and the simplicity for the buyer. On average, she posts between six and ten pieces per day, and followers can message her directly from the post indicating their interest in purchasing.
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Citing lack of space and slight communication issues with buyers as her only obstacles so far, Buchli plans to continue expanding, with the hopes of eventually breaking away from Instagram.
Thrifty, vintage clothing happens to be in today, even for those without a conscious interest in sustainable shopping, allowing Buchli’s shop to flourish on campus.
“Everything I’ve made so far I’m saving up so I can have my own shop in the future,” Buchli said. “This has been an incredible way to get started working a business.”
Her Instagram bio reads: “Buy from the past to support a better future for the planet.” With initiatives like Olivia’s Vintage picking up speed, a better future may come sooner than we think.