A sophomore is turning to Instagram to show that one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.
Jay Xu, a sophomore in the business school, is the founder of @gw_thrift, an Instagram account with more than 800 followers that sells clothing he purchases from thrift stores around the DMV area and delivers to students’ residence hall doors.
The Instagram account has about 90 posts with clothing ranging from worn oversized college sweatshirts to a vintage Tommy Hilfiger denim jacket. Prices for the clothing on the account range from $5 to about $35, but some of the consignment posts are priced at up to $80.
In addition to the pieces he offers, Xu also allows consignment posts on his account, where other students can sell their clothing for $4 per post and followers of the account can shop unlisted pieces in Xu’s closet in Francis Scott Key Hall by appointment.
Xu – who started thrifting during his junior year of high school – said when his friend first took him to a thrift shop, he was skeptical.
“The first time I went, I thought everything was dirty. I thought it was kind of gross,” he said. “But eventually I kept on going and I started finding this stuff and started wearing a lot of vintage clothing like Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.”
By the time he was a senior in high school, he said his closet was filled with mostly thrifted clothing pieces.
“I was getting a lot of compliments on my clothes,” Xu said. “People were asking me where I buy my stuff and people would offer me money.”
But Xu said he didn’t realize how vast the market for thrifted and vintage clothing was until he spent time traveling around the world. While studying abroad in Paris last year, Xu said a lot of thrift stores around Europe sold vintage American pieces like denim, college-branded clothing and windbreakers. In Tokyo, Xu said he saw the same thing – American-themed thrift stores nearly halfway across the world.
“I realized people – not just in America – people worldwide are really into vintage styles,” he said.
Students interested in purchasing an item from the Instagram account can direct message the account to inquire about the piece, buy it and schedule a delivery time. Xu said he typically receives payment through Venmo but customers have also paid in cash and through other payment apps.
Xu said he has thought about selling vintage clothes in the past – particularly when he would see cool pieces that he would not wear himself when on a thrifting trip – but it wasn’t until he came to GW that he decided to pursue his idea.
Xu said when he previously thought about selling his clothes, his biggest hesitation was the shipping cost, but at GW he is able to cut the cost of shipping by living on campus and delivering directly to residence hall doors.
“I’m selling my clothes for pretty cheap,” he said. “Shipping is probably going to be $5 to $7 and after that, I’m selling a jacket for $20 – there’s no point in doing that.”
Xu said he was able to gain a steady following using Instagram and following students posted on GW sports, fraternity and sorority accounts. Eventually, people began to follow him back and Xu started making sales.
Freshman Kayli Sweeney said she learned about Xu’s account through her boyfriend, who is Xu’s roommate. She has purchased two items from the Instagram account – a Rutgers University sweatshirt and a Reebok windbreaker for a friend – and said she likes the service because Xu, who is a seasoned thrifter, curates the clothing for the shop.
“He knows how to pick out really specific pieces – kind of vintage or good brands,” Sweeney said. “He takes a lot of time to go through the thrift stores.”
Freshman Katie Kunkel said she received a discount for posting a picture of her first purchase on her own account to promote the account. She added that Xu was prompt and delivered her purchase to her room in Thurston Hall in “a couple minutes.”
“I haven’t found any good thrift stores in the area so it was really good to just pick up a few things,” Kunkel said.
Theo Spohngellert contributed reporting.