Christian Siriano On Secondhand Stigma, Fashion in Politics, and Cori Bush

As pop culture puts it, shopping in thrift stores can trigger painful memories (see: Marge Simpson reworking a Chanel-esque suit, Pen15‘s tween leads pawing over a secondhand Tommy Hilfiger shirt, or Jenny Humphrey’s entire character arc). But thanks to a growing resale market—with an expected value of $64 billion in the next five years—the firsthand shame of secondhand shopping is finally starting to fade.

In order to normalize the practice of buying used, thredUP, one of the top destinations for online consignment shopping, tapped Christian Siriano to create the first universal logo to represent gently worn clothes. Much like the symbol for recycling, thredUP’s hanger-shaped logo is intended to be worn as a badge of honor for your thrifted find.


Courtesy of thredUP

“I think it’s a very important thing happening in fashion, and I think this whole idea of sustainable fashion is something every brand and consumer can be a part of,” says Siriano. He envisions a world where thrifted pieces live harmoniously with high fashion: “I’m still a designer, I still make clothes, I still want people to buy them. The goal is not to get rid of that,” he says. “I just think it’s nice to be conscious. You can have a really cool thrifted piece and something new and exciting. That’s what having style is.”

2020 billboard music awards   backstage

Lizzo wearing Christian Siriano at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards on October 14, 2020.

Amy Sussman/BBMA2020Getty Images

Siriano has a track record for making style accessible. His inclusive runways campaign for progressive politics and he’s known for dressing stars like Lizzo emblazoned with the words “VOTE.” Earlier this year, he shifted his production line to create thousands of masks for New York State’s front line workers, and when Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush tweeted in November that she needed clothes for the Hill and was heading thrift shopping, Siriano instantly threw in a bid to help.

“Christian’s designs prove that fashion can be a force for good in the world,” says Erin Wallace, head of marketing at thredUP. “It would have been difficult to imagine partnering with an iconic designer to raise awareness about thrifting. Fast forward to today and millions of consumers are thrifting with pride, and the broader fashion industry is embracing reuse.”

Read on as Siriano discusses his goal to include everyone in the fashion conversation, what came to be of tweeting with Bush, and how he hopes to dress another politician (cough, we’re talking about Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris).

On the excitement of secondhand clothing:

I’ve dressed so many people [where] we’ve done a cool ballgown skirt with a thrifted tee. I’ve always loved that kind of style. That has continued and hopefully it will continue. With secondhand or third-hand or fourth-hand, people can get a little weary because you don’t know where things have been, but that’s the interesting part. The clothes have lived another life.

It helps that you’re not supporting a massive batch-fashion company, because I do think that’s getting a little hard. We don’t need a billion sweaters on a table at a store. That’s important to move past from and those days are kind of over.

His tips for first-time thrifting:

Find what you love. There are no rules anymore and if you run to a thrift store and there’s a big poufy dress and you want to wear it, who cares? That’s what’s cool about it. You can find anything and everything thrift shopping. That’s the exciting hunt.

How high fashion works in the secondhand narrative:

I’m a designer and we’re very custom. We’re not a big, mass-produced, fast-fashion brand. I think a lot of brands, definitely higher-end brands, have been moving in that direction that’s a little more tight, a little more special. And people are finding old vintage brands like Dior or Louis Vuitton. In a way, those pieces are even more fabulous and valuable than the new things. It’s a really interesting dynamic that has shifted. I know people are on the hunt for Chanel right now, thrifting [for stuff] from the ’90s. That’s kind of cool.

On the best place to thrift:

Camden Market has the best vintage in the world. It was something I did every weekend and I still have a lot of pieces I bought when I lived there.

Why he reached out to Cori Bush:

Nothing really came about after reaching Cori Bush, but I felt like it was important. I hate when people have a hard time finding clothes, because I think there’s so much out there that it can be frustrating. I’m always interested in wanting to help in any of those cases. It sometimes just takes the right person to help find it.

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Fashion should be the fun, exciting part of the day. It should be not what trips us up. It should be a form of making you feel good. That’s always what I’ve been thinking about. Obviously you can’t be everything for everybody, but I think you can lend a hand when you can.

new york, ny   september 08 a model walks the runway with a vote cynthia nixon tshirt at the christian siriano springsummer 2019 fashion show during new york fashion week on september 8, 2018 in new york city photo by victor virgilegamma rapho via getty images

A look from Christian Siriano’s spring-summer 2019 collection, supporting the election for Cynthia Nixon.

Victor VIRGILEGetty Images

On fashion’s role in politics:

Fashion is so visual. It’s the first thing everyone sees. It can make a long, lasting impression, and that could be good or bad. I think people underestimate the power of clothes sometimes, because they can be very emotional. I think that’s why Michelle Obama chose to wear me to the DNC a few years ago, because she knew I was a designer who stood up for women like her.

I think what’s been really important for me and my brand is supporting the people who support us. Me being a young, gay fashion designer who makes clothes for women, and all these different cultures and ethnicities shop our clothes—it wouldn’t make sense to not support those same people. That’s why I chose, even just recently, to put all the different vote pieces in the collection and put them on certain people, like Lizzo, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, and Billy Porter. They all meant something, because they’re all activists themselves.

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On his brand’s aid during the pandemic:

I think that was a really gut reaction, to tweet at Governor Cuomo and offer help. I had no idea he would respond. That was a quick, visceral reaction. Then when Cuomo did respond, I kind of felt like, oh no, I don’t want to let him down. I don’t want to let the New Yorkers I said I would help down. I think it also helped a lot of brands realize that you can shift your business and still survive and you can help people and keep your employees. It’s a win-win for everybody. We were super proud of what we did. It was hard. It was super hard, but I think it helped a lot of people.

On what he wants to see VP-elect Kamala Harris wear:

Oh, no, I’m not sure. I made a few dresses for Jill Biden, so that was exciting. It’s so funny, because I know [Harris] is such a suit lover. I love that about her. I obviously would want to do something in that world, but it would be fun to have her change it up and maybe wear a cool dress or a cool two-piece thing. I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s in the works. We’ll see how it goes.

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