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Classic Loot: Giving Clothes A Second Life

Attending college in a new city, I’ve had the amazing opportunity of being surrounded by vendor markets filled with fashionable individuals dressed to the nines. One of the perks of living at SJSU is the close proximity to Downtown San José, where they hold events like First Fridays in the SoFA District and Every Friday hosted by the Urban Vibrancy Institute. At these events, organizers invite creative individuals ranging from painters to second-hand clothing sellers.

Shopping second-hand allows us to discover and add unique clothing items to our wardrobes. It also gives us the chance to support small businesses and be a part of a close-knit community. One of many members of this community is a thrift shop called Classic Loot located in Japantown, San José. 

Classic Loot is owned and operated by Tam Tran. In our interview, Tran discusses what Classic Loot is all about and what sparked her interest in starting her own business in the sustainable fashion industry: “It started with vintage stuff, handmade stuff, and then it grew to just buying trendy items. If someone’s looking for something unique like, I don’t know, a fried chicken hamburger bag or something like that they’ll come to us to find that unique item,” Tran said. 

Photo courtesy of Classic Loot

Thrifting and second-hand shopping has always been a part of Tran’s life. She dives deep into how she felt about fashion as a teenager and gives her two cents about thrifting’s rise in popularity with this generation. Fashion is a form of self-expression that allows us to translate who we are on the inside to the outside world but with style. 

“I think I’ve been interested in secondhand since I was in high school and that’s like many, many years ago. I’ve always liked how you can find something that the next ten girls next to you at a party don’t have. I’ve always been really enticed to secondhand and thrifting since I was younger and it really fascinates me now that the younger generations are super into thrifting. It’s wonderful,” Tran said. 

Photo courtesy of Classic Loot

In 2012, before the opening of Classic Loot, Tran worked as a graphic designer. Although she loved to design, her true passion lay with the sustainable fashion industry. To pursue her interests in fashion, Tran shopped at garage sales and shared her thrift finds on Instagram when the social media platform was just hitting the app store. Then she slowly made the transition to using e-commerce platforms like Ebay and Etsy

Photo courtesy of Classic Loot

 “I hated my adult job so much that I would basically ditch every day. So then that’s when Instagram just came about, and I had probably like 20 friends on there, and I went to a garage sale, and I picked up some jewelry and posted on there and it was not the nicest or most aesthetic posts. I wasn’t making any money or anything from it, but I just knew I was so much happier when I started slowly making this switch,” Tran said.

Photo courtesy of Classic Loot

Starting a small business comes with its own set of challenges, but with hard work and dedication, it is possible. For Tran, the toughest part of starting her own business was gaining the support of her loved ones. In today’s world, young people tend to romanticize entrepreneurship and launching startups, but Tran offers a raw and unique perspective focusing on how imperative it was to have her friends and family support her business venture. 

“I think the hardest part is definitely getting my friends and family to be on board with what I was doing, because to them it was always a hobby. It was like: ‘Oh, when are you going to get a real job?’. I’ve had a real job you’ve seen now unhappy I was. It definitely took a long time for people to realize she’s here to stay. That was the hardest part for sure,” Tran said.

Designing homemade jewelry and curating stylish clothes to fill up the racks in her store, Tran successfully opened her own thrift store dedicated to inspiring her customers to dress to express. Tran is not only a creative individual but also a business-savvy entrepreneur. Tran offers a piece of advice to women looking to start their own small businesses: 

Photo courtesy of Classic Loot

“In the past year or two, due to COVID-19, I’ve seen a lot of businesses come about and I think it’s really amazing. It’s really cool, but at the same time there’s just so many that I think they kind of look at each other as role models and it seems like all of them are starting to blend in because they’re not sticking to what they love. So my word of advice is definitely stick to what you’re passionate about and, and just do a lot of research and just do the best that you can be,” Tran said.

Before the interview came to a close, I asked Tran’s top three tips for thrifting and her advice  did not disappoint: 

“Definitely bring cash. I know that we live in a world of Venmo, but bring cash because I feel like there’s more room for negotiation. Don’t bring your cutest outfit. What these vendors normally do is look you up and down, and be like: ‘She looks like she has money’, Tran said. 

“The third tip is a fanny pack because you have your free hands to kind of just rummage. Sometimes the best stuff is laying on the floor underneath a bunch of other crap so you have to kind of get down and dirty to find the good stuff.”

After chatting with Tran, I felt inspired to curate my closet and think deeply about how I want to present myself to the world. I previously thought that being stylish meant you had to shop from popular or trendy brands, but after this interview, I learned that you can still dress the way you want to dress without breaking the bank. 

The purpose of fashion is to make us feel however we want to feel. It’s a form of self-expression and can help us feel empowered. It’s a way of saying who you are without having to put it into words.

Share your thrifting tips @HerCampusSJSU!

Hello! My name is Wila Mae. I'm a sophomore at San Jose State University as an intended Advertising major. My role at Her Campus at SJSU is Senior Editor and Writer. I love reading literary fiction and listening to music. Check me out on Instagram @wilamae.navarro
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