Hey Penn State, can we go thrift shopping?
A recent fashion trend — thrifting and repurposing clothing items — has taken over Penn State in a big way.
Vintage clothing accounts have taken over Instagram, with their target audiences being teens and young adults in college.
The Instagram accounts @joepascloset and @pennstatethreads are two that have grown in following by focusing on selling students authentic Penn State clothing items from previous decades.
Zac Cowell started thrifting seven years ago, and when he found a Patagonia jacket for $3, he quickly became obsessed with the idea of thrift shopping.
Cowell (senior-environmental resource management) started selling different thrifted items through eBay, but found that the Penn State items he was collecting weren’t selling as fast as he wanted them to.
“I knew people wanted [the items], and it was other college kids who did,” Cowell said. “I’d go to parties and football games and people would ask me to the buy the shirt off my back.”
With storage space running out in his dorm, he knew he needed to start selling more clothes. He didn’t want to use Facebook Marketplace — which was his parent’s suggestion — so he started an Instagram account.
Cowell started the account on his own and opted not to promote @joepascloset on his personal account until he got over 50 sales. His first post premiered on Jan. 31.
“It was a struggle, I just followed people,” Cowell said of increasing his follower count. “I found a snowboard shirt and followed the Snowboard Club at Penn State. I also followed the people on sorority and fraternity accounts. It was from the ground up.”
The account grew quickly. Cowell now has over 4,000 followers and sells the items he posts in an average of two to three minutes.
Cowell said he encouraged followers to put on post notifications to make sure they don’t miss rare items.
“It’s an excitement factor,” Cowell said. “I wanted it to be like this because the things I find are very rare. Once I post it, I can never find it again.”
Cowell said he finds the items through various sources, with the State College Goodwill being his most popular spot. He said he would walk there once a week and bring home items until he could afford to have his car in town.
Cowell also uses the internet, flea markets and garage sales to look for deals on older Penn State clothing items. He has a friend who lives in between Altoona and Pittsburgh who sells him finds from other areas.
With over 500 items that Cowell can currently sell, he said he sticks to posting new items twice a day, to make time for his 15-credit course load and scheduled meetings with customers to pick up items and to ship items from the post office.
“I use the money to buy more items, to give to everybody,” Cowell said. “I also paid for my parking this semester and a storage unit now.”
Cowell said it will be a while until he sees a large profit because of the fees associated with running his account. However, he currently has over 150 sales on @joepascloset and around 600 on eBay.
Looking for new ways to expand his market and reach, Cowell recently began doing giveaways with PSU Barstool and has his sister sew custom pieces from items that aren’t selling on his page.
As a senior, Cowell would like to get an environmental job with the government in Colorado, but is still debating this decision because of how well his account is doing.
“Who knows, I think everyone loves cool clothes. Our parents were cool, they wore cool clothes,” Cowell said. “A lot of times we forget that, but you can’t find these things in a store. It’s an environmentally friendly way to live and buy.”
Ellison Porter spoke highly of Cowell and the simple process of purchasing items.
“I absolutely love how he finds the coolest things that are one of a kind and so unique,” Porter (sophomore-biobehavioral health) said. “He’s so kind about it all.”
Siblings Deniz and Arif Demise began their thrift account, @pennstatethreads, in early August 2019.
Deniz, 2018 alumna of Penn State, works a full-time job in Washington D.C. and leaves her younger brother Arif, a freshman, to do all of the business in State College.
Deniz said both her and her brother grew up in State College and have parents who work at the university, which gave her a fascination toward vintage Penn State clothing.
“Throughout the years I’ve been thrifting and collecting numerous vintage Penn State apparel to rep at football games or just simply walking around campus,” Deniz said.
Deniz said the colors and designs they used back in the 90s had a “certain flair” that modern Penn State clothing is missing.
Storing the thrifted items in their State College home, Deniz said they are always looking to find the next new piece, thrifting multiple times a day.
Through shopping at thrift stores and personal connections, the brother-sister duo felt it was best to use Instagram to sell the items because of the potential to reach customers in their target demographic.
With just over 1,000 followers, Deniz and Arif are always finding ways to make their brand grow.
Deniz said the money currently made off of sales is recycled back into the business to keep expanding their reach.
“One thing we did that really increased views and followers on our account was by doing a giveaway,” Deniz said. “By doing this, we gained over 400 followers in a week.”
Evan Zakovic said he bought a Rose Bowl shirt from 1995 from Deniz and Arif.
“The page followed me on Instagram and all the pieces they had all had a certain look that I liked,” Zakovic (freshman-division of undergraduate studies) said. “I paid through Venmo and had the shirt two days later.”
Deniz said she hopes to one day do a @pennstatethreads pop-up shop in downtown State College.
“If it keeps on growing and being successful, I could see this being a long-term thing,” Deniz said. “I can definitely see a market like this for other universities across the United States.”