For University of Houston student, vintage clothing pays the bills Leave a comment

Olivia Haroutounian’s keen eye for vintage clothing is paying off.

The 22-year-old University of Houston senior, who scours local garage sales, estate sales and websites for rare designer clothing and accessories, is cashing in on her finds to pay her tuition.

Business during the pandemic is booming. With 28,000 followers on Depop, a social-media platform for vintage designer fashion, Haroutounian’s collection, @reallifeasliv, boasts everything from a rare ’80s Norma Kamali bird print dress to a ’90s Romeo Gigli empire-waist dress — not to mention the 1980s Christian Lacroix red suit. A vintage ’70s Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche caramel coat recently sold for $240.

“This has been my best year financially,” says Haroutounian, who lives in her parents’ southwest Houston home, where she’s transformed the living room into a DIY photo studio. She was recently featured on “The pandemic has definitely helped. People are at home shopping online. I’m spending about three to fours each day shopping myself.”

Haroutounian is a huge fan of Prada, and she snagged a pair of 1996 Prada pants (for a mere $20) from the spring/summer collection made famous by Kate Moss. The only problem: The pants don’t fit.

“They wouldn’t go over my hips,” she says. “I spent years looking for these stupid pants, and they didn’t fit.”

But her greatest finds come from lesser-known designers from Japan and France, where she buys pieces in bulk.

Haroutounian’s love for vintage clothing began in childhood. She was just 6 when she would accompany her mother, who owned an antiques store in Arkansas, on shopping trips to thrift stores and estate sales. The family later moved to Houston.

Haroutounian, who is studying communications and anthropology, started selling vintage clothing as a college freshman. Her first big sale was a pink and black, wool tweed Chanel jacket she bought for $200 and sold at a consignment shop in Los Angeles for $7,000.

“I spend so much time with the clothes that it’s become a love affair,” she says. “I’m so passionate about this.”

Haroutounian also spends hours researching designers and fashion history. Currently, she’s studying Los Angeles fashion of the 1990s.

“When I think I know about a decade, I find out so much more,” she said. “You never know everything. I want people to learn more about the importance of buying used clothing. It’s better for the environment. The clothes are constructed better. I don’t support fast fashion because the way you buy clothing has a bigger impact than you think.”

The one piece she’ll never part with? An oversize red Chanel coat by Karl Lagerfeld that stops traffic. “I will probably be buried with it.”

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