You add one too many items to your cart while shopping online and suddenly a wave of guilt washes over you at the thought of unnecessarily wasting money. But what if your shopping experience benefited not just your wardrobe, but a social cause, too?
Enter Reclaimed Womxn Vintage, a socially and environmentally conscious Instagram thrift store run by NYU student Tahia Islam, which was featured at Kimmel’s Artist Market event last Thursday. The concept was inspired by Islam’s own love of vintage clothing and thrift shopping.
“I love learning people’s stories behind where they found things,” she says, pointing to her own 80s Cole Haan shoes.
Islam studies Media, Culture and Communications and Global and Urban Education as a senior in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Born and raised in Queens with Bangladeshi heritage, she is not your average fashion entrepreneur.
While many businesses arise in offices amidst extensive meetings and lengthy paperwork, Reclaimed Womxn Vintage was born in an NYU dorm where Islam was a resident assistant.
“I remember taking photos against a random white wall in our little suite, having a fellow RA come down and be part of the photos,” she said. “Then we’d just post it on social media.”
A proud thrifting supporter who hasn’t purchased fast fashion in over two years, Islam says that her own wardrobe has always come with social consciousness.
“I’ve always loved thrifting and knowing my pieces were second hand because of the sustainability portion of it,” she said, adding that her Bangladeshi heritage has been a major factor in establishing Reclaimed Womxn Vintage.
She explained that poor factory conditions, prevalent in Bangladesh, are the sad outcome of many large-scale, corporation clothing productions, and the sustainability of thrifting is an excellent way to combat that.
Reclaimed Womxn Vintage also aims to provide a relatable shopping experience. Recalling her own thrifting history, she said while past vendors have done a good job at advancing sustainability and providing a platform that supports small businesses, the industry still seemed to lack an inclusive environment. That’s why Islam has made it a point to feature models that fight homogenous norms.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t even see myself in thrifting’ which you would think is an alternative to corporations,” she said. “All my models are women of color, femmes of color, non-binary people of color.”
When organizing pop-up events, Islam adds that she loves collaborating with markets whose agendas align with hers.
“I like to vend at places that align missions and I think that’s why I’ve been able to find a lot of markets,” Islam said. “They’re people who support people of color, small businesses, young people.”
While purchases can be made through her Instagram account, @reclaimedwomxn_vintage, most of Islam’s business comes from pop-ups, which she says she has been doing since July.
“It’s an idea that I’ve been sitting on for a couple years and officially put into reality last April,” she said of the business, an excited smile plastered across her face in anticipation of its one-year mark.
And, though business is business, Islam stays true to her social platform of sustainability and minimalism.
“Shop small, don’t shop too much, be mindful with what you purchase,” she advises. “I’m not trying to inundate people with 15 pieces a day.”
Shopping never looked so righteous.
Email Celina Khorma at [email protected]