For many, times are still tough and jobs are few, but one young woman is using her history in the fashion industry and one of Placerville’s hidden commodities to help support a growing family. Becky Carter, wife and mother, began selling “vintage” clothes at e-commerce venue, Etsy.com, and in her previous Sacramento storefront, Velvet Leaf, as a hobby to supplement income from her sustainable, handmade clothing. Now, it is Carter’s unique eye for vintage clothes that puts her on the map in the fashion world, selling thrift in bulk to major retail outlets under her new brand, Black Sheep, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Placerville native and resident Becky Carter has had her original clothing featured in such media as Lucky, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and on The View and traveled as far as India to support her previous clothing venture with sister, Laura. The two focused on making organic, sustainable, and responsible clothing fashionable.
“When I see new clothes on a sale rack, the first thing in my mind is how can that be only $10?” Carter said, citing from firsthand experience the complexity of clothing manufacture, the cost of materials, and the expense of retailing.
According to Carter, new inexpensive clothes are a product of cheap labor overseas, heavy pesticide use, and low margins, but more socially conscious garments are not as fashionable as she would like to see. Velvet Leaf boasted a unique line of clothes often using silk and cotton untouched by herbicides and pesticides and sourced everything they could from American markets to support national industry. After a successful run at manufacturing and retailing ethical attire, the Carter sisters were met with an economic downturn that would threaten the viability of their livelihood. Their answer: “thrifting.”
“In a day and age where everything is mass-produced and everyone looks like everyone else, you strive to have individuality. In buying vintage clothes you get to have a unique look,” Carter said about her passion for old fashion.
“I like to imagine who wore this and what they were doing in it. I think there is something exciting about that. People get to feel like they are from a different time. Like they are from the ’60s or from even the Renaissance era. It makes you more of an individual.”
Carter described thrifting as a fun way for anyone to grow their wardrobe ethically, inexpensively, and fashionably, but to make a living in the industry is a bit harder to achieve. Almost a year ago, Carter got a call from an Urban Outfitters affiliate called Project Urban Renewal that had found her through her online store. Though Carter moved back to Placerville to start her family, being in the foothills would prove to be the perfect place for the untapped resource of thrift store clothes.
“I like to shop local, so the money I make from Los Angeles and New York goes straight into our local economy,” Carter said, “and I am happy to support our local thrift stores because most are charitable organizations.”
Carter specifically mentioned the chain of Snowline Hospice thrift stores as some of her favorite shopping. Snowline Hospice is a nonprofit that provides “end-of-life” support and medical care with a stated mission of “enhance the living, comfort the dying and support the grieving with compassion and dignity.” It uses income from its six thrift stores to support its mission.
When asked about the current style in Los Angeles and New York, Carter said, “Right now, the grunge look is really in: denim jackets, vintage leather, and lace.”
As a general tip, Carter recommends, “Pair your favorite basics with a vintage piece. Mix a little old with a little new.” You can reach Becky Carter at her office, 419 Main Street, Ste. 300, Placerville, or through [email protected]