Vintage Markets: Style & Sustainability

Sacramento – the “City of Trees” and the capital of California. The city is known for its historical sites like Old Town Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort, and the Railroad Museum, but few are aware of the hidden street culture that keeps citizens entertained and involved. Pop-up shop events, such as reselling markets, small business fairs, and food festivals occur most weekends and are considered the “it” thing to do by locals. The plethora of events remained separate until the idea of a “Vintage Market” evolved. Here’s what to know about their origin and how they function before heading out to your first one. 

So, what is a “vintage market”? A vintage market is an outdoor flea-like market, consisting of vendors selling various curated items, usually purchased secondhand. Out-of-the-box food trucks, live performances from local musicians, and the selection of niche items separate Vintage Markets from markets with one focus, such as Farm to Fork, where the main event is food. At a Vintage Market, the main event is shopping for secondhand clothes and accessories, with food and music as its secondary attraction. From 1960s jeans to 2000s electronics, anything your heart desires can be found at these events. 

Despite the popularity of traditional market events, there was a gap in market culture that needed to be filled. The first well-known vintage market, “World’s Worst Expo”, popped out of the shadows in 2020, and instantly gained a following. The reason for the recent increase in popularity towards this market was no secret – In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many looked inwards for entertainment. For some, this meant re-evaluating their personal values, spending time with their hobbies, and trying to capitalize on those hobbies through platforms such as Etsy to supplement their income. 

Young People & Planet-Friendly Values

Many realized that COVID would continue affecting their lives, and with nothing to do but watch the news, some realized that our current consumption rates would make life unsustainable in the future. In a day and age where big box clothing stores dominate the mass market and produce thousands of the same product, many looked towards thrifting and small companies to find a way to express personal style, meet their desires to constantly have a fresh look, avoid purchasing from large corporations and help drive people and planet-friendly practices. 

This realization led to younger workers starting small businesses to avoid working for “the man,” seeing how their labor for these corporations fueled the company’s impact on our surplus of garbage. The ever-growing concern around global warming caused people to reevaluate what they can do to help the planet, ultimately deciding that shopping sustainably (vintage, thrifted items) or selling sustainably was a way to do so.   

A Seller’s View

I interviewed Alissa Hanick to understand the “why” behind it all. She started her business in August, 2022 and works at local vintage markets and owns an online store and pop-up shop called, RAGI asked Alissa what got her started and led her to become a vintage seller. She said, “I wouldn’t specifically say I’m exclusively a vintage seller. I sell a lot of newer pieces as well.” In our conversation she explains: 

AH: What grew my interest in being a clothes seller is I have a genuine passion and love for fashion. The history of fashion and the mechanics of how clothing is made fascinates me so much. I wanted to be a part of this industry somehow even if it’s just selling someone else’s clothes for now. 

MI: How do you go about finding items to sell? What are the criteria for the items? 

AH: Curating the items that go in my booth is both tedious and time-consuming. When I’m lucky, I’m given some of the pieces from both family and friends. But, 97% of the time, I have to go out and source everything myself, from going to garage sales to local Goodwill stores. I look for both quality and unique textiles.

MI: That definitely sounds time-consuming! What do you think people should know about prior to attending? Is there anything they should bring to a market or a pop-up event in order to have the best experience?

AH: The most important thing for attendees to bring is cash. People should know sellers can experience technical issues with online payment methods, so it’s always best to prepare in case this happens.

MI: And why should people choose to support you and other sellers by shopping small over purchasing from larger corporations?

AH: I think people should understand first and foremost that you’re helping the planet by not supporting large businesses that lead to a lot of the carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Secondly, you’ll be looking through handpicked, handmade, and thought-out items you can’t find anywhere else. Lastly, you’re supporting entrepreneurs which is something I am very thankful for.

MI: You mention carbon emissions caused by larger companies. Is the sustainability of our planet important to you, and if so, how does selling vintage/secondhand items as your business model contribute to the sustainability factor? 

“I am passionate about taking action on our personal carbon footprints. By shopping at RAG you’re not only going to look cute and fitted, but you’ll also be helping the global cause to reduce fast fashion.”

MI: Thank you so much for your insights! Sounds like shopping small not only allows people to find one-of-a-kind items, but while doing so they’re helping the planet and supporting entrepreneurs. It’s a win-win-win.

AH: Definitely. I will see you at my next event! 

Markets for All

So, sustainable fashion is important to vendors too, not just attendees. Since the start of World’s Worst Expo in 2020, the market’s vendorship has risen from 30 to over 170, and attendance has grown, pointing to an increase of sustainability-focused citizens and businesses. With the success of World’s Worst throughout the years, others took the opportunity to start one of their own.

Stardust Vintage Emporium opened its doors in 2021 and celebrated its first birthday with a vintage market in its parking lot. This wasn’t their only event – the store now holds vintage/pop-up markets on a monthly basis. Some consist of exclusively second-hand sellers; others are craft and hobby based. Vendors are present in the store as well, switching inventory every now and then. 

No matter what type of market you attend here, there will always be live music and something to snack on. The best part is, you’ll feel solace knowing that most purchases you make are handmade or vintage sold by local entrepreneurs and a family-owned business.

There you have it; a once-hidden world now revealed. You know the story of Vintage Markets, and the names of a few to get you started in your adventure. So, if you’re looking for a fun weekend activity, want to support small businesses, or start your own, look no further. Vintage Markets are for everyone – and that includes you. 

Written, reported and video-recorded by Mckenna Ingram

Mckenna Ingram smiling with headphones around neck and teeshirt imprinted with black and white photos of faces looking out
McKenna Ingram, born in Rocklin, currently resides in Sacramento, California. She is a Communications major, with a love for Film Production, Photography, Fashion, and Politics. McKenna envisions her future career in Social Media Marketing, using her Communications and Film experience to create advertisements that are true to the brand and her style. Off the clock, you can find her playing guitar, at the tattoo parlor, or watching old movies!

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