Style and beauty expert Kahlana Barfield Brown is an avid thrifter. If you follow her on Instagram, you know that her styling videos and fashion photos often leave her audience wondering where she finds those unique and chic pieces, especially her denim collection. Turns out, Barfield Brown gets many staples of her impressive wardrobe from secondhand shopping.
Since the pandemic hit and searching through vintage racks at thrift shops in real life was put on hold, Barfield Brown has still found a way to make it work, partnering with Facebook Marketplace to continue her secondhand shopping experience virtually, and declutter her own closet at the same time. Beyond just making space for new items this New Year, her goal is for consumers to be more intentional about sustainability with their wardrobes without feeling overwhelmed. Instead of buying new clothes, she wants more of us to search secondhand first. R29Unbothered caught up with Barfield Brown, who shared helpful tips on how to elevate the fashion pieces she's found, tricks for figuring out what to sell from her closet on Facebook Marketplace, and trends she's eyeing in 2022.
Unbothered: How long (or often) have you shopped secondhand and what pieces do you typically look for?
Kahlana Barfield Brown: No matter what the occasion is I always feel like there's a way to wear denim. Even if it's like a very, very dressy event, I love to dress up a great pair of jeans. I always find the most unique and interesting vintage jeans. Before the world changed, I would go to the Lower East Side in New York and I would just spend a Saturday going into vintage shops trying on different kinds of cuts and styles. I'm not really going into stores now. So for me, Facebook Marketplace is like virtual thrifting. I mainly use it at the moment to shop for different denim.
Kahlana, how long have you been using Facebook Marketplace and what three pieces have you purchased that have become staples in your closet?
KBB: I've been using Facebook Marketplace for a few months now. I've always been like an avid thrifter in combination with, just like a shopper in general. There's nothing better for my personal look than mixing a great thrift piece with a designer piece. The main thing for me is that I'm a denim girl, so I would probably say a pair of jeans, cargo pants, and a great black designer clutch that I was able to snag are staples in my closet.
Growing up, how did your family influence you when it came to shopping secondhand and thrifting?
KBB: To be honest, it wasn't something that I grew up doing. I definitely would shop in my mom's closet in high school. I wore a lot of her older pieces that she didn't wear anymore. It's so funny how the tables turned because now my mom will not get out of my closet. But it wasn’t until I moved to New York after I graduated from college and I started working at InStyle and I was in Paris with an editor that I actually went into a thrift store. She showed me where she’d go shopping for vintage pieces to find out of season one-of-a-kind items. I really learned then to appreciate thrifting.
"I asked myself three questions going through pieces: when was the last time I wore this item, will I ever wear this item again, and will I be mad if I see someone else with this item knowing I had it, but I let it go?"
Kahlana Barfield Brown
In an age where sustainability is being treated as a “trend” (and sometimes as a luxury), how can brands ensure sustainability remains accessible?
KBB: One thing that I've noticed is that a lot of designer brands are playing with vintage and recycled material which I absolutely love. For example, they take a pair of denim and add patchwork, then market the price up to $2000. That goes against everything that we're trying to do here. I feel like brands need to be more aware of that and really make it more accessible to people.
What are some tips for people looking to declutter their closet and want to sell items on the Facebook Marketplace?
KBB: I just did this. I asked myself three questions going through pieces: when was the last time I wore this item, will I ever wear this item again, and will I be mad if I see someone else with this item knowing I had it, but I let it go? I like to donate, resell, and give away items so that I’m able to see what I have in my closet. But there are definitely things that are in my closet I probably will never wear and still have tags on them. [Sometimes] I l purchase [items] because they are like a piece of art to me. So when you’re ready to sell make sure to take quality photos of the pieces to post. To me, that is like an indicator that this person cared and took care of this piece and cares about the way it's displayed.
For people still working from home and who may be struggling with their personal style, can you share some easy style advice/tips that can help with being camera-ready?
KBB: I think picking out some tops that are eye-catching with textures or patterns is a great start. I usually add earrings that are gold or have some color to them. I have my go-to tops because I know that they always work for me. I know this sounds extra but I test out my looks and take screenshots to see how I’d look on a real [video] call and make sure my lighting is right as well. The good thing about it is that you only have to worry about the upper half of your body.
What trends are you most excited for in 2022?
KBB: Back in September 2021, I went to fashion week and the thing I like most is that people just want to be comfortable. Athleisure really is not going away. This is great because naturally, my style is very comfortable. I love sweatsuits and dressing them up and down. What I'm excited about is the continuation of trends like oversized denim, trench coats, and wedge boots. I’m a heel girl too so I love that I’ll be able to wear a comfortable heel and still feel sexy. I do feel like [everything] is still going to be very comfortable. That's exciting to me because all the trends that are coming out are all things that I naturally incorporate within my style.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.