By Kyle Arnold Orlando Sentinel
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some second-hand stores are morphing into very hip boutiques with social media playing a growing role in sales.
Some Central Florida entrepreneurs are putting a boutique spin on second-hand clothing shops.
From vintage threads to brand new styles, used clothes are getting the high-end treatment at small stores around Metro Orlando.
The new wave of retro and vintage stores look more like Park Avenue boutiques than traditional second-hand shops.
Store owners say customers don't have time to sort through thousands of pieces at thrift shops and are instead seeking carefully curated collections of older, designer brands. Styles vary wildly too, from loud 1990s fashions to classy '50s dresses.
And social media plays a growing role as pieces are posted and sold via platforms such as Instagram.
"Many of these resale boutique are more selective about the pieces that they have in their shop," said Maria Wyatt-Uhl, a local fashion blogger and public relations professional. "You can get great deals and unique vintage finds."
It's an evolution from the days of shopping at Goodwill or even pickier shops such as Plato's Closet and Style Encore.
For instance, Horizons Vintage on Orange Avenue has about 100 pieces of merchandise at a time. Most come in just one size.
Store owners say it's a labor-intensive business, requiring an eye for style and a deep understanding of fits and fashion.
Store owners still buy items from the public, but also employ some vendors and seek it out at places such as estate sales. Some use a consignment model.
Brandy Tezak recently moved her Retromended Vintage from a 600-square-foot store in Orlando's Ivanhoe Village district to a space more than twice as large in Mills 50.
The store specializes in dresses from the 1950s and '60s, but also mixes styles from other decades. It has a small selection of men's apparel, but mostly caters to women.
Most pieces range from $25 to $50.
"Everything is curated and handpicked," said Tezak, who opened Retromended four years ago. "You see a lot of the owners' personality in the shops; you see their style."
At her old space, Tezak found most of Retromended's merchandise buying from the public. But with the bigger store she has brought on a few partner vendors.
"A lot of our vintage stuff comes from families," Tezak said.
Thornton Park boutique Closet Freekz focuses on a younger crowd with mostly '90s urban styles.
Owner Ashley Bolling, a former track athlete at UCF, started the business online selling on Instagram. Her store mixes graphic T-shirts with riding pants and wet suits, which she says can be very fashionable.
"It can be a risk sometimes, but you develop a sense for what people want and how that fits in with your own style," Bolling said.
Closet Freekz has one other employee, but Bolling said much of the success of the store depends on her knack for buying hip merchandise.
While many boutique shops specialize in items more than 20 years old, not just any piece of vintage era clothing will work, said Breanne DiDomenico, who recently opened a shop Horizons Vintage on North Orange Avenue in Orlando and has a shop in New York.
Horizons, DiDomenico said, specializes in '60s and '70s "Bohemian" styles.
"Things now are more form fitting, so even if it's from the '60s and '70s it has to have a certain look," DiDomenico said.
But she said clothing items from top designers of any era tend to look good, even decades later.
"It's not as simple as just a certain brand," she said. "There has to be a demand for it at the moment."
Horizons also keeps a small inventory of merchandise, trying to sell it quickly so it can move on to new pieces. DiDomenico said the store has about 300 items in storage to sell before she has to replenish.
Not all stores deal exclusively in clothes from bygone decades.
Dechoes Resale has expanded from a single shop in Orlando to four. It focuses on both new and older clothing and handbags.
Dechoes has been in Orlando for 18 years, so owner Kerri Colangelo said her skills are growing for picking out styles and quality.
Having just passed 17,000 followers on Instagram, Dechoes sells shoes and accessories in an online shop.
However, modern clothing styles are fast-moving, and could be tired just months after being bought at a name-brand store, Colangelo said.
"Vintage is great because it's not the kind of thing you see for cheap at Forever 21 or H&M," she said.
The store gets almost all of its merchandise from buying from the public, although it has to be picky.
"That's probably the hardest part because we could have a whole store full of loser stuff," she said. "We always have a second employee give their opinion on anything we buy."