Amid the popularity of entrepreneurship, many UH students have created small businesses around their passions or a niche they find interesting. For corporate communications senior Olivia Haroutounian, her passion is the world of vintage fashion.
As the brains behind her business RealLifeAsLiv, Haroutounian collects and resells designer and vintage clothing.
From Chanel to smaller designer brands, she finds and collects them, most of which sells for hundreds of dollars.
Along with being the owner, she is also the creative director, often modeling in the clothes she collected for pictures on her website, Depop and Instagram.
Although she is still in school, she maintains the responsibilities of running her rapidly growing business as she works on it full time.
How she began is a testament to her mother, who sparked her interest as a child.
Like her, Haroutounian’s mother ran a business collecting and selling vintage clothing. Growing up, she watched how her mother went to estate sales and yard sales to pick out items and eventually sell them for profit.
“I like to say I’ve been doing this since birth essentially,” said Haroutounian. “But I started at a very young age because my mom has been selling vintage clothing since I was born.”
Such exposure and love for niched fashion history inspired her to take over the business following her mother’s retirement.
Since then, the business took off, aiding Haroutounian with paying her tuition fees from the sales.
With 30,000 and counting followers on Depop, Haroutounian’s business is gaining more traction than ever.
Her story is featured in Vogue and The Houston Chronicle, attracting the interest of many fashion enthusiasts who actively buy her clothing.
“The Vogue article really changed my life. It gave me the platform I have today and put me in contact with people I never thought possible,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the experience, and I cannot describe how amazing it feels to find such a massive community interested in fashion the same way I am.”
As she continues to gain more followers, Haroutounian makes sure to use her business as a platform in advocating second-hand shopping and understanding fashion history.
Buying second-hand helps with keeping clothing out of landfills and combating poor working conditions and wages. With fast fashion bringing problems to the fashion industry, it also constricts the pockets of big corporations.
Additionally, understanding fashion history helps with cultivating individual style and self-expression, according to Haroutounian. Describing fashion as powerful, she uses clothes to express how she feels and suggests others do the same.
“The best fashion advice I can give is to be yourself. I use clothing as a way to radiate what I’m feeling from within,” she said.
“So if I feel like I need to be comfy, I’ll wear a pair of sweats and a vintage t-shirt. But if I feel like I want to peacock, I’ll put on a pair of Manolo’s and a vintage dress to go about my day,” Haroutounian added.
For those looking to score their next pair of Manolo’s, Haroutounian’s extensive knowledge and experience equip her in knowing where to hunt for vintage clothing around Houston.
However, with more people entering the industry, hunting for vintage clothing is becoming difficult she notes.
“The best advice I can give is to go to lots of different places and don’t give up easily when it comes to hunting for vintage,” she said.
“Frequenting thrift stores three to four times a week, and going to places like Buffalo Exchange and smaller independently owned vintage shops like The Fashion Time Machine is the best thing to do.”