New Beginning Thrifts, founded by juniors Clay Vander Kolk and Ali Clodgo, offers a second chance for second-hand clothes, making fashion both stylish and sustainable.
The 2020 quarantine allowed for the development of many different hobbies, but for this engaged couple, it opened up a chance for a new lifestyle through the decision to go plant-based. This was the first of many lifestyle changes, leading them to be more conscious of consumerism and plastic waste. It also planted the seed of what was to come in the upcoming months.
Despite the name, thrifting was not a “new” activity for Clodgo and Vander Kolk. Both of them grew up wandering the aisles of Goodwill, finding more fashionable pieces as they approached high school. Soon, the questions of, “Where did you get that shirt?” and more of the sort followed until the 2020 Thanksgiving break, when Vander Kolk and Clodgo decided to give the people what they wanted while continuing the seed of sustainability started months prior.
“A lot of people have (asked) us like, ‘Where do you get all your clothes? I love your style.’ It's literally all from Goodwill,” Vander Kolk said. “A lot of people say things like, ‘Oh, I wish we could find clothes like Goodwill.’ (Ali and I thought), ‘Hey, what if we started a thrift business because we also love upscaling and distressing things. It (was) just kind of like a spur of the moment decision.”
What started as a word-of-mouth social media presence on Instagram in December turned into a website, launched on the first of January. With a website offering larger possibilities, Clodgo and Vander Kolk were able to dial into the main reason they continue to thrift and the passion behind the project: sustainability.
According to The Pretty Planeteer, “An average consumer throws away 70 pounds (31.75 kilograms) of clothing per year. Globally, we produce 13 million tons of textile waste each year, 95% of which could be reused or recycled.” With this knowledge, Clodgo and Vander Kolk decided to purchase their clothes from thrift stores, the majority being from Goodwill, Plato’s Closet and The Salvation Army.
In hopes to raise more awareness of being environmentally conscious, Clodgo and Vander Kolk were able to partner with One Tree Planted. For every purchase, one dollar contributes to the mission of combating deforestation. Choosing where on the map to plant a tree and watching the number of trees planted drives them both to continue their mission.
“Raising awareness for the amount of clothes waste (is our goal) because that's one of the biggest contributors to landfills and pollution in the world,” Clodgo said. “I think that's something that we don't really realize because we live in such a consumerist culture, with fashion fads and just everything. I think that being able to find cool pieces that have been basically thrown away and giving them a new life is just really cool.”
New Beginnings Thrifts has broken the Taylor bubble, attracting people who follow One Tree Planted’s mission, friends of friends, and people who just love fashion and sustainability.
Vander Kolk and Clodgo call this their passion project, and though they are not sure if it will breed success in the years to come, they know that it is worthwhile to educate others and build on their mission of being kinder to God’s creation. Ultimately, they call their shoppers to think before they buy, and to shop small business.
“It's easy to buy from big companies just because it's so much cheaper and they have such a large customer base,” Vander Kolk said, “but there's so much more benefit to shopping with small businesses. When you buy from us, it's not just like, ‘Oh, you're helping two college students,’ really, you're helping this big company plant trees all around the world, the people that live in those communities and the thrift stores all around Gas City and Grand Rapids and their communities—it has a much larger effect than the money that you spend online at Amazon or Nike. When you buy something with us, it affects so many people.”