How To Give New Life to Old Clothes for Profit

By: Henry Ma, CEO of Ricoma

Everyone knows a thrift store is a great place to get things on the cheap. If you need a gently used coffee maker or a 5-by-7 frame or a vase, Goodwill is your go-to. But wise entrepreneurs have discovered that the gently-used clothes that they find in thrift stores can help them launch a profitable fashion empire.

Joining the sustainable fashion industry

Thrifting clothes has grown in popularity with the sustainable fashion movement. The fashion industry takes a heavy toll on the environment, with some estimates saying it is responsible for 10 percent of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere annually. Sustainable fashion looks to improve fashion manufacturing’s impact by using materials and methods that are more friendly to the environment.

Levi’s, for example, has stepped into the sustainable fashion movement by employing processes that reduce the amount of water needed to make their clothing. Verloop is a company that uses fabric scraps from its manufacturing to make accessories, cutting down on the amount of waste it produces.

Taking thrifted clothes to the next level

Thrifting clothes provides another avenue to sustainability by extending the life cycle of clothes beyond their first owner. While sites like eBay and Etsy are packed with sellers offering thrifted fashions for cheaper than you will find them in stores, some entrepreneurs have taken it up a notch by using custom apparel decorating machines to make thrifted clothes more desirable to shoppers.

For those looking to establish their own fashion line, customizing thrifted clothes is a cost-effective way to get started quickly and be a part of the sustainable clothing market. A heat press, embroidery machine, or white toner transfer printer is all it takes to transform thrifted apparel into a unique brand.

The best tools for customization

Any design can be added to a T-shirt or other shirt or top with a white toner transfer  printer, converting it to a one-of-a-kind garment. Shorts, pants, or jackets can have designs added with an embroidery machine, boosting its uniqueness and its value.

White toner transfer printers were developed primarily for T-shirt printing, but are now being used for a wide range of printing jobs. For example, white toner printing allows for the customization of items like plates and mugs. With the help of a heat press, designs developed on a computer  can be transferred onto plates, mugs, and other surfaces.

Taking steps to launch your brand

Once someone has the equipment necessary for customization, the possibilities for applying it to thrifted items are truly endless. However, make sure that you have a business plan before committing to equipment.

If your goal is a cottage business that will customize a small number of pieces, an entry-level press or embroidery machine might be all that you need. However, if you have big dreams for your brand, you might want to explore machines that do more.

For fashion entrepreneurs, working with thrifted clothes addresses many of the issues  associated with starting a clothing line. By focusing on sustainable, thrifted clothing, your brand immediately has a niche that is sought after. The source for your materials is established; your local thrift stores will provide the raw materials.

If you are new to business, do not hesitate to seek the advice of an expert before launching your line. At Ricoma, we provide guidance and support to all of the customers who purchase and use our custom apparel equipment. Our website provides success stories, how-to guides, and explanations on the best way to use apparel tools to grow your business. You definitely want to demand that type of relationship with whoever you choose to buy your equipment from.


Apparel expert Henry Ma is the CEO of Ricoma International Corporation and the host of Ricoma’s Youtube show, Apparel Academy. Prior to being CEO, Henry graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Soon after, he found himself working in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs. Joining the Ricoma team in 2015, Ma grew into the CEO role after helping the company quintuple its revenue in five years as COO. Featured in industry publications, such as Impressions Magazine and Printwear, and on podcasts, including Entrepreneur’s Action & Ambition and the SocialPros podcast, Ma now resides in sunny Florida, where he helps apparel decorators everywhere start and grow their businesses.


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