The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois Vintage Fest hosts first open market in CU

Bianca Olson
Students browse racks of clothing at the Illinois Vintage Fest in Lincoln Square Mall on April 6.

Illinois Vintage Fest held its first event in the Champaign-Urbana area on Saturday. With over 40 vendors and a great deal of customers — students and locals alike — the halls of Lincoln Square Mall were filled with the sound of happy sellers and eager shoppers hoping to get their hands on a one-of-a-kind relic. 

Co-owners of Illinois Vintage Fest, Ben Justice and Shayne Kelly, actively organized and talked to customers and vendors.

“Illinois Vintage Fest started in the pandemic year, 2020,” Kelly said. “We were bored and stuck inside and we had a bunch of clothes we had been collecting for many years so we decided to start an event selling vintage clothing, and little did we know, an event at my parent’s house with 10 friends had a thousand, two thousand people show up.”

The event was not exclusive to clothing vendors — Some in attendance specialized in vintage and handmade jewelry pieces, as well as other accessories and decor items. 

Kelvin Johnson, a vendor from Memphis, specializes in creating unique pieces with a method called “cut-and-sew” as well as upcycling and reworking. 

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“‘Cut-and-sew’ means that I start from bare materials, or a solid material like tapestry blankets, afghan, granny square blankets,” Johnson said. “And then I cut it and sew it from a pattern to make a hoodie, a sweater, crewneck, pants, shorts, shirts — I do it all.”

Other vendors simply specialize in finding unique vintage pieces and selling them for a reasonable price. 

“The thrift store that I work for is very into community service, and most of what we get isn’t even priced,” said Jenny Lawler, a vendor from Heyworth, Illinois. “We do a lot of free things for people in need, so when there are vintage pieces like the things you see at this event, I curate them and sell them at events like this to keep our doors open for the mission aspect of our thrift.” 

Among all the separate vendors was a community of like-minded people with the same appreciation for vintage clothes.

“The biggest thing we do with Illinois Vintage Fest is bringing people together: the shoppers and the vendors,” Justice said. “Since 2020 we’ve formed a really good community of vendors that became friends because of Illinois Vintage Fest.”

For many vendors, events like Illinois Vintage Fest are a prime opportunity to show off their talents, art and business. 

“I exclusively sell at these events. This is my livelihood, this is my full-time job, and I tell people that it’s exclusive,” Johnson said. “Every event I have different stuff, I make different stuff every week, so copping it from the event itself is better than anything else.”

More motivation for vendors to sell used pieces lies in the environmental benefits of thrifting.

“Environmentally I think it’s a big deal. A lot of vintage clothing is older than a lot of the people shopping here, and it stays around for a long time too — it’s much better than buying new,” Lawler said.

Vendors also use this motivation as an opportunity to grow their brands in an environmentally friendly way. 

“I definitely understand the sustainability of it — turning something old into something new,” Johnson said. “For me personally, reselling it and making money off of it is a great deal on my end, and it’s great for the earth.”

Thrifting has become a trend in the past few years, and the resurgence brought growth in customers who vendors can sell to. 

“You used to frown upon getting clothes from the thrift store and now everyone wants to hop on, everyone sees it through social media and everybody feels like it’s something that’s easy to do,” Johnson said.

Large thrift events like Illinois Vintage Fest bring opportunities for shoppers as well as vendors, providing unique pieces of clothing that are truly one of a kind.

“I mostly look for shirts, like cool t-shirts that you can’t find in any other store,” said Marcy Longo, sophomore in LAS. 

There is more than just fashion for sale at these events: Shoppers also use it as an opportunity to get outfit inspiration from others and see where the trends lie.

“I come here because I like to see what people are wearing, see what people are selling and see if I can find something that I would want to buy,” said Hailey Hillman, freshman in Business.

Illinois Vintage Fest isn’t limited to the C-U area, hosting similar events in other parts of Illinois like Grayslake, Springfield and Wheaton. With this being the first Illinois Vintage Fest event in C-U, the amount of shoppers present is enough to declare the event a success.

“If anyone goes to school here or they’re from town, this is our first event here — but we’ll be back bigger and better than ever,” Justice said. 


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