Jesse Harman, Staff Writer
Every business begins as a seed and they all have a chance to grow past a simple buyer-seller relationship. With the right innovation and inventiveness, a business can become a school of thought.
Thriftlorde$, a local online apparel outfitter and visual art space, takes branding past the material surface and into something more interactive. The group’s founders, Mason senior Brown Dixon III and Northern Virginia Community College student Tobore Edeki, understand a broad, yet focused, scope and vision are essential to the online shop’s success.
The business was born into the modern trend of online thrifting, using social media, primarily Instagram, to resell secondhand clothing. This is part of the ever-increasing globalization of retro fashion, with even major retailers emulating these visual trends.
Thriftlorde$ has just over 5,000 followers on Instagram, supporters at home and abroad, and an expansive vision. But the self-proclaimed “creative venue” had as simple a beginning as any.
“I’d been thrifting for four to five years,” Dixon said. “We [Edeki and I] both started to get into it heavy. We were talking one day, and I said, ‘We should have a store.’ All it took was that first post.”
Dixon and Edeki run the business out of a basement. Dozens of plastic bins full of clothing act as arm rests and coffee tables. The duo tracks all purchases through private messaging via Instagram, finalizes all sales through PayPal and personally ships out all items by hand.
“We’re out here providing a service,” Dixon said. “This is work.”
The page’s followers have come to expect a familiar backdrop: clothing or any other item for sale hanging on purple brick wallpaper, a keepsake from Dixon and Edeki’s day jobs as daycare associates. The faded violet wall and sleek, comfortable display are part of the brand’s unique signature.
“We really wanted to find a way to connect with people,” Edeki said, “but we also wanted it to be bigger than that. We know plenty of other pages with even better clothes for sale, and we wanted to do something different. We wanted it to be relatable.”
One of Thriftlorde$’ defining characteristics is their attunement to their clientele’s needs and conditions. This constituent awareness is also closely connected to a common criticism of Instagram thrifting sites: product pricing. Many Instagram thrifting pages offer name-brand, albeit secondhand, clothing for full price or just under market price. Thriftlorde$ see this as an issue to actively combat.
“We’ll see these other resellers selling at full price,” Dixon said, “but we won’t.”
“I see people going to the Ralph Lauren store to get a basic polo,” Edeki added. “They’ll pay like $60 for it, full price. We’re selling that same polo for $12.”
The business is grounded in small-world comfort and inspired by big-world goals. But the loftiness of these goals is a small worry. Success is just another part of being a Thriftlorde.
“We just make sure our profits compensate us for the purchase, packaging, and shipping,” Dixon said. “We see how some people do their business, and that’s cool, but we wanted to go more this route — to show a more lifestyle aspect of things.”
Other than posts promoting clothing, Thriftlorde$ frequently posts condensed think pieces, encouraging conversation and discussion in the comments section. These posts approach topics like race, politics and other divisive issues in ways that inspire open-mindedness and rationality. One post may feature a new clothing item; another post might instead teach the words and commentary of Martin Luther King, Jr. But the key to the group’s continued success is their dedication to authenticity.
The group has a business model not unlike any other retailer. The key is the application of the model in a modern market that benefits all parties involved and Instagram sets the perfect stage for it.
“You’ve got your opinion leaders and you’ve got their followers,” Dixon said. “The followers feed the leaders. The opinion leaders are who we go for – the hipsters, the thrifting crowd. We want our followers to be leaders.”
The model seems simple when generalized to such a point, but necessary networking in order to ensure success is daunting on its own. Thriftlorde$ has received help from outside sources, such established thrifting accounts, Instagram models and photographers, and artists, to legitimize the business beyond a simple social media page.
But at the core of Thriftlorde$, beyond the business, is the idea of togetherness and family. Each post gleams with personality, and the page routinely interacts with its followers.
“A lot of our followers feel like we’re friends with them, which is wonderful to me,” Dixon said. “We want that kind of rapport with our followers. It’s crazy to me to think that there are so many people we’ve never even met, and we’re just cool with them [because of the page].”
The strong sense of community the Thriftlorde$ bring to the table extends past the relationship a provider has with its consumer. The group is involved in fundraising for causes local and abroad. They currently are raising funds, holding sales and allocating profits towards the Flint water crisis. The group’s GoFundMe page currently claims over $300 in funding in just over two weeks. These are incredible numbers for a small page.
“We want to do what we can because it really helps people who need it,” Dixon said. “It establishes ourselves as people in the community who could be seen as charitable people. It helps create unity.”
Beyond the immediate fundraising for Flint, Thriftlorde$ also holds big plans for the future. The business eventually hopes to open a physical store or pop-up art space, hold regular causes for people in need and even hold a music festival, called Dap Fest.
“When you’ve got a big stage you can really sit people down and spread an important message,” Edeki said. “That’s what we hope to be able to do.”