Gen Z entrepreneurs in Charlotte have a passion for vintage fashion. WFAE 90.7

Ella, Bella and Mariela bonded over their love for all things “Noughties” – late 90s and early 2000s fashion – a little over a year ago. They have since turned their friendship and fashion into a business.

Noughties Market CLT is the brainchild of three friends – Ella Vernille, Bella Hogan and Marilla Ferreira – who each set up their own thrift stores during the pandemic. After personally selling their own vintage online and in the Charlotte Noda neighborhood, they realized how many vintage markets offer female vendors.

“We’ve definitely opened the door for women to come into the market and do what they love and do what they love,” Ferreira said. “People who come to our markets love fashion, and it’s always a great time. It is a social event and wine market. The community is probably the best part.”

These semi-monthly events feature dozens of gay clothing and craft vendors. All together they create a vibrant community and supportive space for entrepreneurship.

Gen Z looks back at Y2K

Thrift and wine pop-up markets have exploded in Charlotte over the past several years, with local vendors and artisans flocking to breweries to build community and create entrepreneurial opportunities. The trend reflects a growing appreciation for vintage fashion and sustainability among young Americans, said Oscar Barzuna, a professor of entrepreneurship at Queens Charlotte University.

“This generation[Gen Z]dresses the way they want, not what the market is telling them to dress,” he said. “It creates an opportunity for those second entrepreneurs.”

Personal style and pushing the boundaries of the moment are key elements for Noughties Market Women. Many of the vendors (including the market’s founders) have embraced trends such as underwear as outerwear, dresses over skirts and pants, sky-high platform shoes, and other risky fashion moves.

With a general look at the Y2K aesthetic, they set up each market with a theme to inspire customer enthusiasm. The June 4 market will feature a colorful, print-filled, bold “SUMMER CAMP” theme hosted by Petty Thieves Brewing Company.

“We want to show our customer base what we’re all about. We do photo shoots for our campaigns and every event, we show the theme of the event because we like to give people a great theme to wear,” Hogan said. But we want to make sure that Notice is unique.

Fast fashion fighting

While these entrepreneurs strive for fashion at all times, they also prioritize sustainability. Hogan attended Columbia College in Chicago for a semester to study the fashion business and learned about the industry’s environmental toll. With this knowledge, she asked how she could play a role in turning the field into a second-hand resale.

“One of the reasons we started all of this is because making clothes is bad for the environment. There’s a lot of clothes that are just sitting around or going to landfills and I see all these people buying on Sheen and Amazon and all these horrible websites because they want clothes for cheap,” Hogan said. “We’re trying to let people know that these really nice clothes can be found in thrift stores. They can be found at estate sales, antique malls, wine markets. You can go and find things at affordable prices, and you can do your part by helping the environment instead of producing more clothes.

Second-hand sellers face some unique challenges, however, the reluctance of the customer to buy items without the parts. Novelty marketers combat this by offering tryouts in the brewery’s bathrooms (while on hold like a driver’s license) or by having tape measures to help customers fit in, Ferreira said.

In the life of a fashion entrepreneur

Each of the Noughties founders visit local thrift stores every week, looking for hidden gems to bring to their customers in online and physical markets. Vernille describes her routine inventory, which she calls her favorite part of the business. She visits multiple department stores in one day, digging through large charity bins, hunting down aisles on Salvation Army discount days and visiting Value Village for specific items and charms that she knows her customer base is looking for.

“The profit margins are very good,” Vernille said. “I try to make my prices very affordable for people, but I still make a profit. Some people think they’re growing, you put them on a hanger and sell them. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that nobody sees.”

She says it’s important for second-hand entrepreneurs to learn how to schedule themselves and budget to balance their output. Patience is key as searching for large pieces can be long and sometimes fruitless.

When she first started a year ago, Vernille said she undersold, but since then she’s seen a lot of growth as she learns from other sellers and understands her customer base and their needs. She started with one shelf and now has five full shelves.

Online, handmade in a post-Covid world

Noughties Market CLT and Every Women’s Individual Business has grown out of the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, making online spaces and local communities invaluable aspects of the business.

Hogan, the owner of Shop Forever Bella, was inspired to sell secondhand after being forced to move home from college. She sought community and shared interests through online forums. Vernille, owner of Pixie City Thrifts. Ferreira, owner of Sierra Antigua Vintage, fired herself from her deli job and started selling out of her closet to make extra money. Then she saw his potential to grow.

Ferreira said Sell and Sell started as a creative outlet during tough times, but has grown into something deeper. “I didn’t have a job and I was living off unemployment,” Ferreira said. “Saving gave me a purpose I didn’t know I needed,” she says. “I grew up always frugal with my mom and sister, but I never thought other people would buy it.

Social media also plays an important role in building the customer base of all three vendors. Each primarily advertises their work through Instagram. In addition to physical markets, they also sell items on their website.

“I don’t even know where my business would be now if I didn’t have social media,” Vernille said. It’s all about social media marketing. She uses the platform to showcase the savings she earns while working, promote markets and talk to customers and sell items directly.

Hogan saw the value in the online space, especially in light of the pandemic. “I saw what happened to many small businesses during Covid. It was very difficult for people,” she said. “I thought e-commerce was a great way for people to still be able to shop and express themselves when everything else in the country was closed. When I first started, it was very important to me to provide a place online for people to find things they love.

Noughties Market Overview.jpg

Carolyn Willingham


Queen’s University News Service

Noughties Market CLT’s Valentine-themed pop-up in February fills Heist Brewery’s taproom with vintage finds, handcrafted crafts and throwback tunes.

Building a community with good experiences

Community is an integral part of the Noughties Market, they say. The market had its first event in December 2022 and is growing with each pop-up, bringing in more vendors and taking up more space. Individual sellers must apply for each market. When selected, Noughties and the host brewery pay a small vendor fee to the venue, knowing it will bring traffic to their booth. Brewery partnerships work like mutual benefit transactions, Hogan said. The Noughties team then puts most of these funds into the preparation and advertising of subsequent markets.

Hogan describes the energy at the Noughties Market pop-ups: “Our community is full of amazing people who love what we love. They love sustainability, they love fashion. If they’re like-minded, they can relate to them, and then they’re coming and finding great pieces for their outfits. It’s a great community in Charlotte.”

They’re excited to grow the Knotties market, but want to maintain the unique feel and the fun of spotting pop-ups, Hogan said. Entrepreneurs also want to capitalize on their desire to sell secondhand for sustainable crafts.

“I hope to open a store one day,” Ferreira said. “It’s helping me look at how I want to run my business, what not to do and what to do. Having that community in Charlotte, it’s going to continue to grow, and it’s going to open doors for us.”

And while all three hold down part-time jobs, Nottis’ growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Barzuna highlighted the importance of finding a neglected niche in the market, which the Noughties are working to do. “What we’ve seen in entrepreneurship is that the winners adapt and the losers don’t innovate,” he said. “The secondary market offers a lot of restoration and recycling, and I think that’s the key.”

Caroline Willingham is a 2023 graduate of the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, which provides news services supporting local community news.

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