And Gelman is not the only one hitting up Atlanta’s resale shops and antique malls to fuel her business. There is a legion of people, from fashion designers to film and television costume designers, whose businesses depend on the thrift and resale market.
Former Alternative Apparel industry vets Caroline Hust and Corey DeCraene are the owners of the Atlanta clothing design company Craene Studio + Archive, which launched in 2021. Their hand-dyed shirts, pants and housewares are part of a growing trend for sustainability-minded products made from discarded clothing, with prices ranging from $28 for a jersey tank top to $98 for a denim jacket. And all of their repurposed clothing is sourced from thrift and resale shops, save the occasional bag of clothing dropped off by friends and family. Their repurposed home goods come from the hospitality industry.
The pair regularly scour Atlanta thrift stores from Goodwill to the Southern Thrift Market in Norcross for T-shirts and sweatshirts they can convert into colorful, repurposed items for consumers who want to look good while supporting businesses that share their values.
“We realized the most sustainable thing to do is not make new clothes,” said Hust. Even clothing with stains or small holes can be transformed with dye or small stitches and patches. They especially like to support thrift stores with a mission they believe in, like Lost-N-Found Youth Thrift Store in northeast Atlanta, which supports LGBTQ homeless youth.
Taking note that stores like Goodwill often price women’s clothes like jeans and T-shirts higher than the exact same items sold to men, they make all Craene products unisex.
The pair fan out on their thrifting trips, loading their carts with an average of 40 to 50 pieces and then regroup to compare notes on what they’ve found. They tend to organize their thrift runs by neighborhood to save time: Decatur one day, Sandy Springs the next.
Over time they have developed some key strategies. Rule No. 1: sustenance and hydration. “We have to bring snacks, because we’re there for like four hours,” said Hust.
Karen Freed, who grew up in East Cobb and now lives near East Atlanta Village, has worked since 2006 as an assistant costume designer and fitter on film and TV sets. Seeing movie stars in their underwear is just another day at the office for her.
“Actors make this joke. They say, ‘There’s two people in the world that you say, Hello, how are you? And then you take your clothes off, and it’s doctors and costume designers.’”
Freed has worked on Hollywood films including “Hidden Figures” and the television shows “Stranger Things” and “The Wonder Years,” as well as indie films including the Atlanta-made “The Arbalest.”
One of her career highlights was working on the Adult Swim sitcom “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell,” where her goal on thrift runs was to find “intentionally ugly” and “intentionally cheap looking” outfits.
Freed’s literature degree from the University of Georgia has proven surprisingly apropos to her current job.
“When I get a script, I analyze it. We have to break it down and figure out who’s this person? What would they wear? How can we show the audience on a conscious or subconscious level a ton about this person when they walk into the frame?”
Like many film industry folk, Freed has found costumes for her various projects at Clothing Warehouse in Little 5 Points and at a favorite spot, the massive Mother Lode in Avondale Estates. “Vintage malls are great because you have a lot of vendors in the same space,” said Freed.
Tiffany Hasbourne is a costume designer who divides her time between Los Angeles and New York and has done well enough in her job to help her father — who initially doubted her career choice — buy a house. She studied computer animation at the Art Institute of Atlanta and has worked on multiple productions in the city including “Atlanta,” “P-Valley,” “Boomerang” and music videos for bands like Jagged Edge.
Though many film and television costume designers work with shoppers who physically source clothing at thrift stores, Hasbourne prefers to do the sourcing herself. She often finds her costumes in the resale shopping mecca of Little Five Points, which she likens to New York’s West Village. The Goodwill on Piedmont is where she sourced outfits from multiple eras for “The Goof Who Sat By the Door” episode from season four of “Atlanta.”
“We were looking for men’s suits, we were looking for women’s dresses, purses, tops, vintage looking sweaters, vintage sneakers,” said Hasbourne. She prefers to source within the city where a production is shooting to support the local economy rather than going to stock houses in Los Angeles for costumes.
Corey Craene is excited to see Atlanta “starting to cement itself as having a reputation … as a secondhand fashion presence.” The downside is an increase in prices. He’s noticed T-shirts slowly inching up at resale stores from $2.99 to $3.24. And the amount of vintage and second-hand retail inventory being bought for resale on sites like Depop, Poshmark, ThredUp and Mercari has also increased.
But if the game is sustainability, he admits, then they are all just doing their part.
Recommended thrift stores
Ben’s Antiques & Market. 9365 The Landing Drive, Suite C, Douglasville. 770-949-1887
Southern Thrift Market. 5775 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Suite 1000, Norcross. 770-446-5302
Lost-N-Found Youth Thrift Store. 2585 Chantilly Drive NE, Atlanta. 678-856-7824
Goodwill at Piedmont. 2135 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta. 678-791-1107. Monday is 99-cent day at every Goodwill.
Agora Vintage. 279 E. Broad St., Athens. 706-255-2623