How One TikToker Made a Career Out of Thrifted Clothing

“The fashion industry needs to move in a more sustainable direction or everything’s just gonna fucking explode,” Macy Eleni tells LA Mag

If the pandemic brought anything to the world, it was an increase in the prominence of TikTok, sustainable fashion, and thrifting. Macy Eleni, 29, made a career by combining all and even earned a $30,000 sponsorship along the way.

Eleni first started out thrifting back in Ohio as a child, when it was a necessity for her and her family—believe it or not, thrifting was not always the fun and hip lifestyle activity that many Angelenos have made it into today.

“I was raised by a single mom in Ohio, so I have been thrifting my whole life out of necessity,” Eleni told Los Angeles magazine. “And it’s what I always did, and it’s something that I was like made fun of for in elementary school, in high school, and middle school, but it’s something I loved so fucking much—I loved fashion.”

Eleni as a child, with her mother. (Photo by Macy Eleni)

Sustainability, Fashion

Throughout school, Eleni took a particular interest in journalism, and specifically, entertainment. In 2016, she found her love for being on camera through her high school when doing both the morning announcements, and running production for their TV station as well as the school magazine.

After picking up some camera work and editing experience, she started a YouTube channel under the name FashionOutsider09 at 16—before anyone knew it was okay to put your name out across the internet.

Following a brief creative halt during her time studying fashion merchandising at Ohio University, Eleni revamped her ideas and launched Blazed and Glazed. The channel, which now has grown to a community of 124,000 subscribers, focused on what she had known best for most of her formative years: fashion and thrifting.

“I started [Blazed and Glazed] a year before the pandemic started… I feel like I can talk a lot more about like mental health and stuff on YouTube—I talk a lot more about that on Instagram as well. I love it over there,” Eleni said.

The turning point in Eleni’s entertainment career, however, came alongside the massive popularity boom that TikTok experienced during the pandemic. According to Statista, the app saw a growth of 180 percent among users ages 15 to 25 after the pandemic started and people shuffled to their phones for comfort.

In July 2020, Eleni launched her TikTok under the same Blazed and Glazed name, which spoke on the same concepts of thrifting, sustainability, and fashion that grew her YouTube channel. The cherry on top, though, was bringing viewers with her on trips to estate sales and thrift shops across Los Angeles.

“I started my TikTok… and got to 100,000 followers within just like the first couple of weeks that was on it. So, I was like, ‘okay, this is way different from YouTube’ like the discoverability aspect is huge,” Eleni remembered. “And honestly, from there like is when I just started getting contacted, because I was the only one really making content around thrifting the way I was doing it.”

And Eleni was right—her content was buzzing, electric, and everything in between. A lot of thrifting content she made came without the overall message of modern thrift that fashion can and should be moving in a more sustainable direction—a message that grew her to nearly 400,000 followers.

ThredUp, a leading purveyor and researcher of sustainable goods, reported that 2020 was a huge year for sustainable fashion in general. A total of 33 million consumers bought secondhand apparel for the first time, 76 percent of those people planned to continue shopping secondhand, and the overall resale market is expected to grow by 5.4 times in the next five years.

As Eleni insisted, “the fashion industry needs to move in a more sustainable direction or everything’s just gonna fucking explode.”

And she’s not wrong. As it stands, the apparel industry accounts for a total of ten percent of global carbon emissions. The most recent fashion endemic, microfiber pollution, feeds 0.19 million tons of microfibers into the environment annually. One load of laundry can typically release 700,000 microfibers on its own.

That same report by ThredUp found that used clothing items damage the environment far less than new items, with secondhand clothing accounting for an average of 3.7 lbs. of carbon emissions, 4.8 kWh of energy, and 1.2 gallons of water, as compared to 21.1 lbs., 38.8 kWh, and 78.5 gallons, for new clothing.

“A lot of like, younger kids and people in high school are more interested in more sustainable fashion—they’re interested in vintage, they’re interested in thrifting,” Eleni said about her audience. “They’re interested in actually helping the planet and not only just like the environmental side of it, but for me, it’s so much more the ethics side of it, and the way people are treated in the conditions they work in, in these like fast fashion factories.”

This is the message that Eleni has really tried to convey, and it’s one that has even earned her a $30,000 sponsorship deal. In fact, most of her money comes from brand deals like that one, and she really only does a resale event once a month to interact with her viewers.

Unlike some other creators on the platform, Eleni says sponsorships like that came after “a lot of saying no” to companies that “aren’t going in a more sustainable direction, aren’t more size-inclusive,” and just don’t match with her brand identity.

And for the future? Eleni is taking it to the next level of entertainment by working with Laura McDonald to sign with The Gersh Agency and bring her message to everyone’s televisions. TikTok may have been her grand entry into entertainment, but her overall goal has always been to shift fashion television away from the high-brow repetition it has been stuck in for the past couple of decades.

“My goal is to reinvent the fashion entertainment space because it hasn’t really existed since like the days of like, ‘What Not to Wear’ and just shit that was never sustainable because they would do these makeovers on people and… dress them in clothes that they would never be able to sustain for the rest of their lives,” Eleni expressed. “And I want to switch that up.”

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