Thrifting Around Berkeley

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A Student’s Guide to Sourcing Secondhand

As someone who has not bought retail clothing in over three years, I can safely consider myself a second-hand clothing connoisseur. Buying your clothes second-hand is environmentally sustainable, cost-efficient, and cyclical. There are a myriad of environmental and ethical reasons I source my clothes from sustainable sellers, but the most outstanding reason is the exclusive element of uniqueness that vintage pieces do for my style.

The Bay Area is known for its rich urban cultural style and Berkeley is no exception. Throughout my time at Berkeley, I have compiled a list of my favorite sustainable fashion sources. I hope it can serve as a resource for my fellow vintage enthusiasts, or inspire someone to start sourcing sustainably!

Flea Markets

What I love about flea markets is the relationships you create with vendors who sell there weekly. In addition to finding unique antiques, you get to create meaningful connections with your favorite vendors and stands. Compared to the other two flea markets, the Alameda Flea Market is a bit farther away and you will most likely need to use Berkeley Moves (the campus Rideshare) to get there if you do not own a car because public transit lines are inaccessible to this location. However, it is infamous for its vast, expansive collections. I have visited multiple times, and I have yet to even look at every vendor tent, simply because there are so many. You can find great deals on dozens of authentic vintage clothes alongside art, jewelry, furniture, and plants.

Vintage Magic 8-ball flats I found from the Alameda Flea Market

  • Ashby Bart Station, Every Saturday and Sunday
  • Alameda Flea Market
    2900 Navy Way, Oakland, CA 94501, Every Sunday
  • Oakland Vintage Market
    222 Jefferson St, Oakland, CA 94601 Every First Saturday

Antique furniture tent stand at the Oakland Vintage Market

So-So Supermarket Monthly Vintage Sale

Every month, Mel Willis, the owner of consignment shops Indigo Vintage and So-So Supermarket (two Berkeley thrifting staples) hosts a monthly vintage sale on Telegraph street. All of the vendors are local, so if you’re looking for a sustainably-sourced clothing market that is closer than the weekly flea markets, make sure to check this one out! If you follow @thesosomarket on Instagram, flyers for the exact dates and time are always posted a week before. Check out a glimpse of it on the Berkeley Life Instagram.

  • Every Second Sunday on Telegraph
  • There is also a So-So Supermarket location in San Francisco (1409 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117)

Estate Sales

Estate sales and garage sales are a hit or miss because they don’t have a target demographic, but all the items you find will most likely be authentic vintage! I have found most of my prized possessions at estate sales such as my vintage 60’s red mules and 50’s silk-spun matching set. I usually find local estate sales that are happening near Berkeley on estatesales.net. There are active estate sales every weekend, usually starting on Fridays. My advice is to go on Fridays or Saturdays rather than Sundays so you can reap the benefits of first-come-first-serve.

Vintage 70’s sherpa coat I found from an estate sale in Northside

Second-hand Art Stores

This one is for my fellow designers and artists at Berkeley! Sourcing textiles for sewing and art supplies can be a financial drain, especially for college students, and both these locations in Berkeley provide a multitude of cheap reused art supplies. Even if you are not an artist or don’t know how to sew, both stores have a huge collection of cheap vintage or handmade jewelry. I bought one of my favorite pairs of earrings here.

  • Reuse For Arts & Crafts, (1824 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702)
  • East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, (4695 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609)

Some pairs of my favorite vintage earrings from Reuse For Arts & Crafts

Urban Ore

Although it is technically a second-hand furniture warehouse (with guaranteed great vintage furniture finds), Urban Ore also has a small clothing section from donations. Do not be deterred by the small scale of their clothing stock; I have found an authentic 1950’s vintage silk suit as well as $15 vintage Coach kitten heels. Even if you do not find any clothes that suit your taste, you can peruse their 30,000 square-foot warehouse filled with cheap, second-hand furniture. I have found a beautiful hand-painted Chinese coffee table as well as $2 vintage dining chairs here.

  • 900 Murray St, Berkeley, CA 94710

There are so many options to shop sustainably in Berkeley, you just have to search for these gems. I picked all of these places while keeping consideration of the average college student’s budget. These gems are all affordable, unique, and my personal favorite sources.

Shannon Kim is a sophomore at UC Berkeley majoring in political economy and anthropology.