Vintage shopping goods have become a widely successful niche market in various sectors, however, many BIPOC-owned brands have trouble getting mainstream placements inside boutiques due to a lack of diversity. One Chicago-based woman decided to use the opportunity to create a new marketplace to help spotlight brands from women and entrepreneurs of color.
Shilla Kim-Parker is the owner of Thrilling, a digital marketplace for vintage goods sourced from local BIPOC and women-owned stores across the U.S. The Harvard Business graduate credits her interest in building her business from listening to stories from her grandparents from North Carolina. “My grandparents started the first Black-owned business in Kinston, North Carolina, a dry cleaner that served Black patrons [when] no other dry cleaners would serve Black customers,” said Kim-Parker in an email interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“This was the 1950s—and that dry cleaner became a refuge for the community, a second home for their Black neighbors. My grandparents were known to host impromptu social gatherings filled with music and love. At the same time, they faced an enormous amount of harassment, abuse, and threats of violence from the white residents of the community as well as the police. Despite all of that, they survived and thrived for 50 years. Vintage and secondhand small businesses have historically been underserved. There are more of them across the U.S. than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s combined—and yet 99% of them are completely offline.”
Kim-Parker’s goal with the innovative marketplace was to show how much diversity there was in vintage shopping despite the limited scope shown by mainstream boutiques and brands. “One of the perceptions I want to change is that this market is niche. Half of US consumers shop secondhand, and 75% of traditional retailers are already or have plans to offer secondhand in-store or online,” explained Kim-Parker.
“This is also an incredibly diverse industry—there are so many amazing Black, brown, and queer stores and sellers on our platform from across the US, as well as stores and sellers who specialize in plus-size vintage. I am very focused on making sure that that beautiful diversity is front and center so that we can change the narrative about vintage fashion as well as making sure that every shopper feels welcome in our community.”