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Davis, California

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Aggie Profile: Treehouse Vintage founder Kenny Gagni

Gagni talks shopping vintage, owning his own shop, shifts in modern fashion

The corners of 2nd and D St. in Downtown Davis boast a few restaurants, salons and bars, but as of October, this corner also became home to a new vintage shop. Small but charming, Treehouse Vintage seems to be Davis’ new spot to buy quality vintage clothing and accessories. When checking out, customers will most likely be assisted by the owner himself, Kenny Gagni.

Gagni, 31, is a California native and a fashion connoisseur, with a specific expertise in vintage clothing. He said the sustainability aspect of vintage clothing is what most intrigued him — thrift and vintage shopping gives customers the ability to buy chic, stylish clothing second-hand, at an affordable price and without contributing to the carbon footprint.  

“I’ve loved clothes my whole life,” Gagni said. “I was always into fashion as a kid.”

Gagni worked in retail for about 10 years and attributes much of his knowledge of unique vintage and fashion to working at other thrift shops like Buffalo Exchange and learning from vendors. 

After becoming a frequent thrifter and a manager at Buffalo Exchange, Gagni decided it was time to explore his retail options. He began small, selling a few of his clothing racks of curated vintage pieces at the Sacramento Antique Fair. From there, Gagni said, his career started to take off.

“People started recognizing what I was doing,” he said.

As more and more clothing vendors shuffled into the Antique Fair, Gagni got to know more and more vendors and felt inspired to bring vendors together in a store setting. He decided to set up shop in Davis, not far from his from his hometown of Elk Grove.

“Davis is a great city,” Gagni said. “I believe they’re about sustainability. I found this spot and I fell in love.”

Gagni said Davis’ younger demographic is especially responsive to second-hand, sustainable clothing. Where better for a second-hand clothing store than a college town? 

 “I think [vintage] is very youth-driven,” Gagni said. “Anyone of any age can appreciate vintage, but especially college kids.”

With an increased interest in saving money and being environmentally conscious, younger people are more interested in buying second-hand, according to an article by the online consignment company ThredUp. 

Just before Gagni’s store opened, Davis customers had to say goodbye to one of the largest retailers in women’s fashion, Forever 21, when it closed down last September. The company announced that it had filed for bankruptcy shortly after its Davis store shut down. 

“Fast fashion is phasing out,” Gagni said. “People don’t want to spend tons of money on things that are being produced in factories and are contributing to our landfills and causing all these carbon emissions we really don’t need. I just think it was symbolic that I opened the store at the same time that they closed. It’s just a shift — it’s a whole cultural shift in fashion.”

Besides changing consumer tastes and ethics, the rise of thrifting also indicates a shift in what thrifting looks like and who’s doing it.

“There used to be a stigma that thrifting was for people who didn’t have a lot of money, it was kinda grimy to go thrifting,” Gagni said. “Before it took off, I did it because I didn’t have a lot of money and I thought it was cool to have a piece that was individualistic and [that] no one else had. I think sustainable fashion is ‘cool’ now. It just became mainstream — it’s now okay to thrift.”

Gagni noted that, as thrifting has become more mainstream, cheaper and typically more affordable thrift shops like Goodwill have taken notice and have started to increase their prices. 

“It’s kind of unfortunate sometimes because now thrifting has become expensive,” Gagni said. “It’s changed a lot. They’ve caught on and the public has caught on and it’s reflected in consumerism. It’s reflected in the pricing, in the supply and demand.” 

Similarly, customers might walk into a vintage store like Treehouse Vintage and notice that some items are on the pricier side. In response, Gagni said the quality vintage pieces his store sells are on the affordable side compared to prices for similar items. When it comes to thrifting, he said, you get what you pay for.

“It’s the curation — the resellers […] do the digging for you,” Gagni said. “Sometimes I’ll tell them, ‘You know, if you wanted to pay a lower price, but you want good pieces, then go to Goodwill, put in the work. Here, we do the work for you. Vintage is so one of a kind, and it’s really well made back in the day, too. I think it’s worth the price to spend on a quality vintage piece that no one else has. It’s well-made, most likely made in the USA and it’s cool, you know? You don’t see that stuff anymore.”

This is what sets Treehouse Vintage apart from stores like Goodwill: Gagni’s store is a vintage vendor collective. Essentially, customers walk in almost guaranteed to find a unique piece that will last a long time. While curated, his store isn’t a buy-sell-trade. The selection is specific, so customers know what to expect.

For those interested in stepping-up their thrift game and buying more second-hand, Gagni said it just requires a little effort.

“It’s consistency, really,” he said. “You just gotta know where to look. Think outside the box. Go to the more mom-and-pop shops, go to the donation centers, the Christian stores, beause sometimes they have hidden gems in there. Go to your local flea market or fair. I think the difference between a good thrifter and a great thrifter is their knowledge of where to find things. Strengthen your eye, do your research.”

And Treehouse Vintage is a great place to start. According to Gagni, business is booming.

“It’s really awesome, honestly. It’s exceeded my expectations,” he said. “The reception I’ve gotten from everyone has been so awesome. Everyone’s so nice in Davis!”

While Buffalo Exchange and the Sacramento Antique Fair are nice, Gagni said his favorite places to thrift are from local vendors — just like him. 

This month, new and returning Treehouse Vintage customers can expect more of the best from Gagni and the store’s vendors — “a good rotation of more heat,” Gagni said.

Customers can check out the store’s instagram @thetreehousevtg or visit @kennythrifts to see Kenny Gagni’s personal collection of unique finds.

“I think it’s just gonna get better — the store’s gonna get stronger,” he said.

Written by: Alana Wikkeling — features@theaggie.org


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