Imagine a convention where hundreds of sustainable fashion and collectible brands gather and thousands of people attend. Also, imagine that this elaborate event tours throughout the United States and has a spin-off thrifting pop-up shop.
The Beginning of ThriftCon
What originally started in Denver in 2018, has rapidly grown to be the #1 vintage clothing and collectible convention in the U.S. It’s a day dedicated to sustainable fashion while also helping local fashion businesses.
Co-founders Mario (Mars) Conte and Ken Meade started ThriftCon after generating a following from their streetwear store, Station. They wanted to create a place for sustainable fashion and local brands, thus ThriftCon was born.
In its first year, 40 vendors were in attendance, now it’s over 100. After rapidly gaining credibility with buyers, ThriftCon expanded into other cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, Vegas and Atlanta. Due to each city’s unique vendors, no event is ever the same.
“We just let that city and that energy of the moment determine what that specific event will be,” Meade said.
The Impact of COVID-19
Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit, ThriftCon came to a halt like the rest of the world. However, Meade and Conte used this time to focus on growing their audience.
“We were fortunate enough to use the downtime to focus on content and kept our audience engaged and actually came out of the pandemic with a larger following despite not being able to travel and hit our markets in person,” Conte said.
Conte also said that vintage and secondhand shopping grew exponentially through the pandemic. Because of this ThriftCon is even more successful now.
“Vintage and secondhand shopping as a whole gained a ton of momentum through COVID,” Conte said. “We knew we just had to stay involved and all the momentum we had previously built would be waiting for us on the other side.”
While vendors vary from location to location, ThriftCon’s values and goals remain the same. Conte and Meade take pride in making ThriftCon accessible to the public where anyone can participate. This can be seen in ThriftCon’s prices and suppliers.
Conte and Meade hope the convention educates the public about the benefits of second-hand shopping.
“There is such a surplus of clothing circulating around the world and being produced every day,” Conte said. “We’re trying to destigmatize second-hand clothing.”
ThriftPop, A Spinoff From ThriftCon
While sustainability is important to Meade and Conte, so is the community ThriftCon brings together.
“It’s really become a celebration of all things vintage,” Conte said. He also said that vintage clothing can have sentimental value for any individual and ThriftCon is the perfect place to share that and find new friends.
“It’s a unique opportunity for many people to come together and find the connection that you won’t find in your immediate environment,” Meade said.
It’s because of the Denver community that Meade and Conte are just getting started. In addition to ThriftCon, they created ThriftPop, a pop-up vintage store held on the last Sunday of every month.
ThriftPop takes place in the parking lot next to Denver Central Market at 27th and Larimer and features 40 local vintage vendors, a live DJ (aka Conte), a ThriftCon merch booth and “lots of good vibes.”
The pop-up thrifting event was created to give Denver vendors as many opportunities as possible to get in front of people and to establish a recurring market for thrifters that is often seen in cities like New York City and Los Angeles.
“And to selfishly be able to shop and dig from all of our favorite vendors once a month,” Conte said.
The Common Collective, A Gender Neutral Brand
One supplier who values the ThriftCon community is Tristan Bego, co-owner of The Common Collective. Bego has been a part of ThriftCon since the beginning when she first heard about the event through Instagram and decided to reach out to be a vendor.
“I decide to do ThriftCon as a re-seller, it was the first big thrifting event that I had been invited to here in Denver and it just looked like it was going to be a good time,” Bego said.
The Common Collective originates from making gender-neutral, sustainable and affordable clothes like the common person.
“It’s a creative and safe space for everyone, African Americans, LGBTQ+, women, everyone that feels like that they don’t have a space, has a space,” Bego said.
Bego said that ThriftCon has come a long way since its startup in 2018. Since then, each venue has grown exponentially, bringing in even more people every year. The ThriftCon experience entails food trucks, a DJ and a donation and clothes swapping area.
“ThriftCon is a great event for local creatives,” Bego said. “It does a great job at making sure that we have a space as vintage resellers or even as other artisans that also create revenue.”
Bego is passionate about sustainability and loves that ThriftCon provides a way to spread awareness.
“It’s nice to see that it brings out the community to support sustainability,” Bego said. “Anybody that that does vintage reseller or just reselling, in general, is all about forward fashion which is sustainability.”
All About Vintage Brands – Heart of Vintage & Lost Room Collective
“My favorite part about ThriftCon is meeting other vendors and connecting with people who are passionate about the vintage community,” Conte-Salazar said.
Although her first ThriftCon experience was last year, it gave her the confidence to return and keep growing her brand.
“I did my first ThriftCon last year with my personal brand, Heart of Vintage,” Conte-Salazar said. “It was actually my second pop-up ever and gave me the confidence to keep growing my brand.”
Similar to Bego, her vintage brands focus on sustainability and spreading the love for vintage. She hopes that when shopping her brands, people are inclined to dress however they want as well as understand that vintage doesn’t have to be expensive.
“We want people to be inspired to dress in a way that makes them feel most confident,” Conte-Salazar said. “We always encourage people to pick pieces that they feel fit their authentic style instead of just going with what’s trendy.”
All photography by ThriftCon Denver.