Confessions of a Thrifting Genius
by Abby McIntosh
Edelawit Hussien is one of those people who manages to put together incredible looks every. single. day. When I walk into the office, I see Ede and think, without fail, “Damn. That’s such a good outfit.” The 22-year-old has many titles, among them producer at Milk Makeup, filmmaker, and unofficial DJ of our office birthday parties. For the purposes of this story, however, her most relevant title is thrifting genius. As an admittedly impatient and hapless thrifter, I knew from the second I met Ede that I needed her guidance, and being the generous icon that she is, she was more than willing to share with me and you.
When did you start thrifting?
I started thrifting when I moved to New York to go to NYU. There were so many thrift stores around the campus in the East Village. Tokio 7 was LIT. I haven’t been there in awhile, but I remember them having really good Comme De Garçons and Junya Watanabe. And then there was also the Beacon’s Closet that’s really close to Parsons. There is so much good thrifting in the city, so that was a great area to get my start.
What’s your technique when it comes to thrifting?
I think it’s really difficult to have too much of a plan when thrifting. You can’t really restrain yourself in terms of time — it’s a lesson in patience. I will say, though, that I’m not the type to go to those huge, mega thrift stores and sift through things for, like, hours. I have a certain amount of patience, but not enough for that. I like going to stores that are a little curated and that pay attention to the particular kinds of items that their customers are going to be looking for.
Take me through your favorite vintage spots and finds.
I recently travelled through Europe and I made a point to go to thrift stores in every city that I was visiting. Out of all of the things I did in each city, thrifting was so nice, because you’re getting to know people [from that city].
When I was in Stockholm, I had a few friends take me to this thrift store called Humana. It was a bit curated and definitely targeted towards younger customers. I bought this bright pink puffer jacket by some Italian brand. It’s still under debate whether it’s pink or red, actually, but I was super happy that I bought it. I spent twenty minutes asking my friends whether or not I should get it, but I’m so happy I did.
Then, when I was in Berlin, a friend of the friend who I’d stayed with in Stockholm took us to this place called PICKNWEIGHT, which is curated, but as big as one of those massive thrift stores. I think it was in Kreuzberg. That whole neighborhood had a lot of cool thrift stores. I really took a lot of time in there because it was racks on racks on racks. There was a section where you could fill a whole bag, weigh it, and pay. I was looking for a white ‘60s bag and found this amazing one in the three Euro bin. I feel like you could buy a whole wardrobe out of that store and the pricing was super good. Berlin is a very affordable city. The thrifting is well-curated, but not marked up.
We then went to Paris and I went to this thrift store across from the Supreme store in Le Marais and it was A1. They were playing Young Thug and I was like, “Wait, what’s going on?” That thrift store is tiny, and it’s definitely more expensive than the Berlin stores, but the selection was so good. I got a tweed skirt there. It had a matching jacket, but I didn’t get it, which I’m mad about. I might have a friend who’s there right now go back and get it for me — it’s the whole look that matters!
What’s the most special thing to you about thrifting?
I think when you’re in your early 20s and you’re transitioning into adulthood and want to create a proper wardrobe, especially in a place like New York where you’re constantly trying to build and define yourself, it’s special to have pieces that are yours and that no one else has. In 2018, we love brands that simplify everything, which is great, but it makes us wear all the same things, use all the same products, you know? With vintage, I know that no one has my vintage Betsey Johnson dress that I love. No one has my vintage Escada jacket. It’s nice to have these things and to learn how to take care of them. Especially with fast fashion, you buy things knowing they’re not going to last longer than two months, but with vintage, you learn how to take care of something properly. That kind of relationship with your clothes is so important. Because everything comes easily to us, it’s nice to say, “You know what? I’m gonna make this work for me. It might not be my size, but i’m gonna get it taken in, or get the buttons fixed.”
What are your essential thrifting tips?
1.) Don’t rush. If you’re the type of person who’s easily swayed by other people’s opinions, this is something to do by yourself. I personally don’t like going to museums with other people, and thrifting is like that for me, too. If someone tells me that something looks good on me, I’ll buy it and then have buyer’s remorse. So I go by myself and it’s kind of therapeutic for me, to just look through a bunch of stuff and then find my golden ticket.
2.) Don’t go in with a plan or a goal of finding a specific, particular thing. You can’t have this narrow idea of what you want because it just doesn’t work that way. This is why thrifting is a great metaphor for life. You have to work with what you find. If you are looking for something specific, don’t be afraid to go on a website like Etsy or Depop, because they’re actually very good and I’ve found great deals on there before.
3.) Be willing to go to smaller stores. When a thrift store blows up, it’s hard to find the good things. There’s one that I know of that’s super lowkey, but I’ve found the best things and it’s just in a basement in Bushwick. Be willing to check out the small businesses rather than the chain thrift shops.
How do you know whether it’s worth getting something tailored or not?
If something doesn’t fit right anymore or if I thrift something that isn’t perfect, I’m willing to go the extra mile to get it tailored so I can appreciate the things that I have. When my mom was in her 20s and living in Addis, she would take European fashion magazines into tailors and they would make things for her. She had these beautiful two pieces and she would just get things made for her. For me, more than anything, it’s about appreciating your clothes and knowing that they’re gonna last you for 20 years. Thrifting makes you appreciate your things. I want to make a mindful selection of things that I wear. I don’t wanna open up my closet and have it be full of stuff that I don’t love. Besides, in New York, you don’t have space for things that you kind of like. It’s about sustainability. It’s about appreciation of the things that you own. And it’s about space.