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7 Latina-Owned Secondhand Shops That Promote Sustainability


Like many immigrants, Latines have a complicated history with secondhand shopping. Some of us grew up parsing through thrift stores out of necessity. Others were raised to avoid them at all costs, viewing shiny, new things as symbols of success. In recent years, an alternative school of thought has emerged from both ends of the spectrum: more and more, Latine shoppers of all class backgrounds are embracing pre-owned clothing for its prices as well as sustainability and style points

“Growing up first-generation in a super white community, I couldn’t comfortably sit in one group or the other. I used clothes to express myself,” Mexican-American Isabel Robles tells Refinery29 Somos. Upon entering her teen years, this meant exploring the once-taboo worlds of thrift and consignment stores. “As I grew up, I grew more comfortable with my individuality, and shopping vintage and secondhand gave me the opportunity to pull pieces and style myself differently from everyone else.”

Others, like Moises Mendez II, shop secondhand as a way to honor their elders’ values. “My mom, who is from the Dominican Republic, is the biggest believer in ‘if you can get it for cheaper, why not?’ She also does her best to be environmentally conscious,” he explains. “Because I saw those two things growing up, they’ve been instilled in me, and I feel like I’m fulfilling them by shopping secondhand.”

No matter your motives for buying secondhand, it’s also a great way to support Latine entrepreneurs. Below, we’ve rounded up seven Latina-owned vintage and thrift stores that will change the way you shop. Keep reading to learn how each founder got their start, how they feel about sustainable shopping trends, and more. 

The Plus Bus — Los Angeles, California

Co-Founded by Marcy Guevara-Prete

Origin Story: “My business partner and I had so many clothes. Not only did we want those clothes to go to other happy homes, but we wanted a place to come and actually have a shopping experience in person. It’s so stressful and feels like such a disparity that the amount of options for our straight-size counterparts are just so abundant, yet there’s just nothing for plus-size shoppers. But we have money to spend, places to go, people to see.”

On Sustainability & Personal Growth: “When we started the store, sustainability was not on my radar. But it has become so important to me and such a central part of our business. Not only do we know fashion is a huge polluter of the planet, but I care about my wallet, I care about investing in brands that do care and are trying to be ethical. I really try to shop out of The Plus Bus, and I’ve been able to do that successfully for almost three years now.”

Current Boutique — Washington, DC

Founded by Carmen Lopez

Origin Story: “Growing up, my mother and I would visit la segunda for treasures every weekend. I saw an opening in the market to make consignment shopping cool, modern, and on-trend. At 28 years old, I saved enough money to launch my business, Current Boutique. My parents, especially my father, didn’t support my decision. No one in our family worked for themselves, definitely not a woman. I started with a lease on a small brick-and-mortar storefront and grew it to three. Now, it’s evolved into a national e-commerce consignment website.” 

On Attention to Detail: “I was brought up to know that everything has value and I should cherish my belongings to make them last. We tell our customers to bring us natural fabric items made from cashmere, silk, linen, and cotton. Not only do they hold their value, but their new owners will get repeat uses, which is the key to circular fashion.” 

Poorly Curated — New York City

Founded by Jamie Espino

Origin Story: “As a kid, my Tata would take me thrifting. We’d go thrifting and we’d go to lunch. After college, I started applying to jobs at bigger fashion companies, but then I realized none of these places shared my beliefs. The more I thought about how I’d be spending my time, the more I was like, ‘I should just try to do vintage full time.’ Now, it’s about to be six years. I love what I’m doing with Poorly Curated.”

On the Cost of Fast Fashion: “At the end of the day, vintage is a very sustainable way of shopping, especially compared to disposable fashion, which is mostly made by people of color who aren’t getting paid fair wages. Why would I want to contribute to people who look like me not getting paid fairly? Also, when it comes to climate change, it’s always poor communities of color that tend to be affected. Why would I do that to myself, essentially?”

Fresa Thrift — Denton, Texas

Founded by Anisa Gutierrez

Origin Story: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I opened my store, Fresa Thrift, but during the lockdown, I decided to quit my full-time job and just jump into the store full time. It was a combination of what I loved and needing to love myself.”

On Owning a Business: “I’ve always had a boss, so it’s hard for me to see myself as my own boss. As a Latina in the workplace, I was the one who said, ‘I’m going to put my head down and work.’ I wasn’t around a lot of people who looked like me, and I wasn’t going to give them a reason to look down on me. For my mother and my grandmother, starting a business was never an option or a thought. For me to do it and have them say, ‘You make it look so easy,’ it’s nice to hear. It makes me wonder: What would their small businesses have been?

Debutante Vintage Clothing — Pomona, California

Founded by Sandra Mendoza

Origin Story: “I had amassed so much vintage for myself to wear that I had to start selling some of it. In 1998, I started flipping things on eBay and realized, ‘Wow, I can make some money.’ Eventually, it grew into my business, Debutante Vintage Clothing.”

On Generational Shifts: “When I first started my business, my parents were like, ‘Eso trapos viejos, ¿vas a vender?’ It’s only been this year — and I’ve been in business since 2005 — when I showed them my shop, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s nice here. It’s organized.’ As immigrants, they wanted everything brand new and shiny. I’m so proud that younger people are embracing secondhand and even mending and repurposing. As a business owner, inventory has become a lot harder to source [laughs]. But as a social movement, I’m so happy.”

Love Street Vintage — San Francisco, California

Founded by Graciela Ronconi

Origin Story: “Growing up Latina in an immigrant family, we didn’t have a whole bunch of money. We’d go thrifting a lot, so I always felt comfortable shopping secondhand, even when it wasn’t a thing. When I was a teen, the cholo and pachuco scenes were pretty popular. There were all these cool subcultures that incorporated vintage into their looks, and although I was young, I wanted to look like that. One thing led to another, and I ended up owning my own vintage store starting in 1997. Love Street Vintage is my fourth or fifth incarnation. I’ve had it for almost 12 years now.” 

On Learning Through Experience: “It’s hard to buy used and vintage all the time, but you just try to do your part. I feel like this generation is really educated about the fashion industry. Thrift stores have been a huge teacher to me. Just shopping, feeling different textures and constructions from different eras, that’s been very influential for me.”

Circular — New York City

Founded by Vanessa Enriquez

Origin Story: “Three or four years ago, I read a book called ‘The Conscious Closet’ that really opened my eyes, not only to what the fashion industry does to the earth but to garment workers. I was like, what can I do — even if it’s a minimal impact — to spread the word and create something that can make a difference? I loved shoes, I loved designer stuff, and I loved the idea of trying to be more green when launching a brand. All of that came together to form Circular, a shop for designer vintage and secondhand footwear.”

On Putting Quality First: “I really pride myself in putting thought behind every pair I sell. I also repair them myself. If I thrift a shoe and the strap is wonky or the leather sole is coming out, I clean them, use shoe glue, and/or add leather paint. There’s a lot of love and thought that goes into everything. It’s not only about pretty shoes.”

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