My mom is actually the one who introduced me to the world of shopping second-hand. She was raised in San Francisco with four siblings by two immigrant parents, and thrifting was the least expensive way they could keep their growing family clothed. Consequently while I was growing up, my mom thrifted nearly everything for me, even baby clothes. And now, because of her, thrifting is a natural shopping habit for me. Some may see me as a vintage-loving minimalist, but if I’m being completely honest, my love of thrifting definitely didn’t start out as a form of activism. It’s always just been a fun, affordable way to explore my ever-changing personal style.

In fact, it wasn’t until my freshman year of college, nearly four years ago, that I began to understand how damaging the fast fashion industry really is – both to humans and to the planet. After a bit of research I started making an effort to shop more ethically and sustainably, no longer buying from stores like Urban Outfitters or Asos, but instead relying heavily on thrifting while also seeking out ethical brands. (Reformation, Lily Ashwell, and La Causa are some of my favorites.)

Today my current closet is almost 100% ethical and sustainable, and a large chunk of that is thrifted. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a slow fashion activist, but I do believe shopping ethically is much simpler than people think. It really just starts with finding one second-hand store you like. Growing up, my favorite place to shop was a thrift store called Community Projects. It had the perfect blend of vintage and new, and now, looking back, I can see the huge hand that store had in shaping my style. Now, every time I’m back home, I make sure to stop by and pick up a few new pieces for my wardrobe. Because even living in Los Angeles, where there’s an abundance of vintage and ethical brands, Community Projects is still my favorite place to shop.

Although I’ve personally made the change to stop buying fast fashion, I understand how difficult (and expensive) it can be to live 100% sustainably. Buying from these slow fashion shops often costs more than Urban Outfitters and Forever21, but that’s where thrifting comes in. You shouldn’t have to spend an arm and a leg to look good, and shopping second-hand is a unique way to cultivate personal style without breaking the bank. And if you do decide to splurge on a piece from, say, Reformation, at least you’ll still be shopping guilt-free.

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