One thing I've learned when it comes to fashion and budget is if you can't afford it, don't trip. Just thrift! I grew up middle class. My parents --both from Haiti, migrated to New York before I was born. They were a poor, young couple but eventually made ends meet, so I'd say by the time me and my four siblings came into the picture, we were skimming the lines of middle class. I get my "Broke with Expensive Taste," approach to styling from my stylish dad. I can remember his unique pairing of his blazers and ties, and his incredible Tom Ford cologne.
As a child, my dad made sure we had clothes on our backs- and I mean the designer kind! He worked in the high-end department store Bloomingdales on 59th and Lex which granted him access to discounts (even on sale items). This of course allowed a young me to remain decked in high end clothing like Moschino, Guess, Calvin Klein, I.N.C., Stella McCartney- you name it. However, if I wanted to remain 'F' for Fly, I definitely had to be on my "A" game! My dad's only request in exchange for looking my best was that I bring home good grades. Sounded fair enough! Too bad back then I couldn't fully appreciate my high-end clothing at the time since I had grown so used to it. Back then I had no idea all these major labels I was clothed in.
However, my fashion life would change when I started thrifting, which I actually got into by accident. One day a quick trip running errands with my mom turned into me stopping in front of my first thrift shop. My mom is a "save every single dollar to the last penny-penny pincher," she always found great deals on clothing. I admired that.
Being one for a good sale, my mom stopped to look through a clothing rack parked outside of a Brooklyn thrift store. This was the 90's now, and I'd never seen a store like this. It wasn't bourgeois like a Macy's or a Bloomingdale's, but more so a dope mash up of various clothing closets all in one. My mother turned to me, frozen in my awe and asked the question that would change my life (and style!) -- "Alex, do you want to go in?" I replied "Yes!" and the rest, as they say, was fashion history!
I started thrifting by my junior year of high school, when my parents could no longer afford to expense my wardrobe and buy me clothes. "Thrifting" is the art of shopping around from store to store for discounted fashion finds, usually of the previously-owned kind, many of which can be a vintage "steal of a deal!"
In the 90's I'd go thrifting in Brooklyn, especially Brighton beach. You have no idea what $20 could buy back then! It was insane. But this is also where the creativity took place. I had to learn how to wear my high-end designer clothing with my thrift finds and make it all look current. I could wear a pair of jeans three consecutive days out of the week and no one ever knew.
In the 90's, I usually found shirts for $1, $5, and $8, and because I purchase so many at a time, they give me a discount, leaving me with a few bucks left to shop some more! I purchased a lot of my thrift finds in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As I got older I'd go to Long Island and Queens there awesome places to thrift as well.
You can find a lot of designer stuff thrifting. Like awesome pieces that will never be replicated. You also have to be open-minded and hella creative because thrifting isn't easy... so patience is key! You literally have to dig through racks of things and kind of figure out how to bring some pieces to life with cool accessories, shoes, hats and handbags that you may already have at home.
Thrifting isn't easy so patience is key. You definitely have to develop an eye for it, because you'll almost never find your size. I'm an 'XS' and I can assure you everything I've purchased at thrift stores has been a size 8 ranging to a 14. but, I make it work!
Thrifting became a way for me to separate myself from the crowd. In high school everyone's style was all the same, almost uniformed. I hated it. I thought to myself "this is style?!" People call this "getting fly or best dressed?!" So I rebelled and did my own thing.
My androgynous style started with always wearing my brothers clothes because at the time (90's) baggy clothes were in style. I even wore my dad's button ups! My dad hated it and continued to purchase these high end women Moschino clothing, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, Guess, Polo, Tommy Hilfiger etc. hoping his precious daughter would outgrow this "Tomboyish" style that she single handedly OWNED.
The in-crowd couldn't understand me and I could never reveal my secret. 'Where did u get that top?! Why did you get the white Jordan's instead of the red ones? Where did you get that necklace from? That's an amazing backpack, where is it from?!' Thrifting became my thing, my outlet.
I've seen people wear trends that they didn't like. Their reasoning with wearing this "trend" was because it was "in." Thrifting became a way for me to escape these "trends" and what's popular. I NEVER cared for those things.
I naturally have a pretty healthy imagination --thrifting helped fused my imagination and creativity together
I'm 100 percent all about individuality.
Here are three of my frequent places I thrift in New York:
L Train Vintage -- 1377 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221
Arthritis Foundation Thrift Shop -- 1430 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Housing Works - Soho --119 Chambers St, New York, NY 10007
All images courtesy of Alex Douby