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Gabriela Strinban and Well Used: Transforming Fashion and Sustainability

Photos courtesy Well Used - @_wellused

In the fashion world, where creativity and sustainability intersect, Gabriela Strinban is a notable figure who is revolutionizing how we view and use clothing. At 26 years old, Gabriela is the founder of Well Used, an online thrift store that goes beyond offering high-quality vintage clothing and also creates new pieces from garments with imperfections that would be discarded.

Well Used had its beginnings in 2017 when Gabriela opened her mother's closet and discovered a treasure trove of vintage clothing, all manufactured before the 2000s and in perfect condition. It was the starting point for a journey that led her to create Well Used Thrift Shop at a time when online thrift stores were rare. The first 50 pieces sold came directly from her mother's wardrobe, but Gabriela soon ventured into hunting for items in thrift stores, charity bazaars, and markets.

However, the true turning point came in 2020 when the online thrift store trend began to spread. Gabriela didn't want to be just another one among many. Her authenticity drove her to go beyond, and that's how she discovered "rework," a process of recreating clothing from existing pieces that may have minor defects but are still of quality. She didn't know this method had a name, but she quickly found out it was an international trend aimed at reducing textile waste.

Brazil generates approximately 170,000 tons of textile waste each year, with only 20% of this material being recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, causing serious environmental damage. Gabriela saw an opportunity to make a difference, and thus, Well Used was born, dedicated to creating fashion sustainably.

The process of recreating clothing is at the heart of Well Used. Gabriela transforms garments with minor "flaws" into stylish and unique new pieces. Since the first piece she created, a pair of tailored jeans, her creativity has flourished. Nowadays, she sees potential in almost everything she looks at, finding new lives for clothing that would have been discarded.

In addition to offering sustainable fashion, Gabriela strives to raise awareness about the importance of upcycling and rework. She believes that everyone can do their part to reduce textile waste and preserve the environment. Well Used is not just a business but a mission for Gabriela.

Check out an exclusive interview with Gabriela Strinban:

1. How did the idea of creating Well Used Thrift Shop come about, and what was the beginning of this venture like?

The idea of creating Well Used Thrift Shop came about in 2017 when I stumbled upon my mother's wardrobe filled with vintage pieces. These were impeccable, unique clothes of exceptional quality. They had been stored there for over 20 years. It was quite challenging for my mother to let go of so many clothes that had been a part of her life's history. However, I managed to convince her that these clothes needed a new story and couldn't just sit there for another 20 or 30 years. So, I created the Instagram page "Well Used Thrift Shop," and I remember that there were hardly any online thrift shops at the time. Surprisingly, people still had, and some still do have, reservations about second-hand items. When I created the page, I started with different ideas, photographing the clothes on the streets with a model, giving it an urban and unconventional vibe for a thrift shop.
I can say that the beginning was quite smooth. I had no grand expectations, and I couldn't have imagined that it would become everything it is today for me. For a long time, I only sold the pieces that belonged to my mother until I started exploring thrift shops in my city and even beyond Brazil in search of unique finds.

2. What was the moment when you realized that Well Used was becoming more than just a source of extra income?

Without a doubt, it was when the pandemic hit. I was already living in another city and had a stable job, but I lost my job due to the pandemic and had to focus 100% on Well Used to sustain myself in my new location. And then, it exploded. Many influential people started following and buying from us. I was making in a week what I used to make in a whole month, working several hours a day.

3. The process of recreating clothing through rework is an innovative approach. How did you start exploring this technique, and what motivated you to adopt it?

Amidst many thrift shop finds, I came across some incredible pieces that had some damage, tears, stains... Details that I couldn't overlook in my curation for resale. So, I began to question what I could really do with these pieces so they wouldn't be ignored or discarded. That's when I created a pair of pants that was half jeans and half tailoring, and it turned out amazing! I was completely thrilled with the creation, the discovery, and the feedback, which motivated me immensely. Any clothing, fabric, or scrap I saw in front of me, I could already envision something new for it. It took me a while to discover that this work already had a name and was a trend outside of Brazil. I never studied fashion, and I have no sewing courses; everything I learned was literally the result of my desire and curiosity.

4. Upcycling and patchwork are important trends in sustainable fashion. How do you see Well Used's role in terms of reducing textile waste and raising environmental awareness?

I always say that I'm doing my part, but unfortunately, it's still very small compared to what I hope it will be someday. Well Used is a very solid, small, and organic brand. We want to impact people through fashion, to remove the obvious from their minds. You can reuse, repurpose, reinvent, create new ideas for sustainability. People don't realize they can save the world, let alone create a garment from a curtain! The environment is ours; we live in it, and we must avoid the frantic production of new clothing.

5. Brazil faces a significant challenge with improper disposal of textile waste. How do you see Well Used's impact in mitigating this issue?

One of my goals with Well Used is to further raise people's awareness of how to properly dispose of textiles, to make it something that interests them in learning more about textile waste. I want to generate enough knowledge for them about Upcycling/rework so that Well Used doesn't just make it an internal job.

6. Over time, how has your creativity evolved and influenced Well Used's creations? What are your sources of inspiration when transforming discarded pieces into new fashion creations?

I think the fact that I am a very authentic and curious person has greatly influenced the evolution and creations. Going beyond the obvious has always been clear to me; we can do anything, but it depends on our creativity. I have many sources of inspiration; my mind is a vast source... Everything comes naturally from it. Sometimes, my imagination overwhelms me. But I think something that truly inspires me is seeing people's reactions when I tell them about Well Used. They express so much surprise, so many questions, so much curiosity, and they find the process amazing.


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