Craft Culture: Secondhand ethos, first-class fashion at Tandem Vintage

Amanda Baumann, the founder of Tandem Vintage, inside her store // Photo by Tj Turner

We humans are in dire need of an intervention—at the rate we’re going, there are simply too many of us creating too much waste for our earth to continue sustaining our buying habits. From our landfills to the flotillas of detritus in our oceans, we are virtually drowning in our own stuff. Rather than carrying on and praying the problem goes away, some individuals are stepping up to combat the proliferation of trash in acts seemingly small but potentially game-changing.

Amanda Baumann is one such individual. Amanda has shaped her business and lifestyle to minimize her impact on this crisis, and she’s taking mainstream fashion to task in the process—all while looking cute as hell doing it. Her solution? Vintage.

“Everything that people get rid of goes to thrift stores or goes in the garbage,” the founder of Tandem Vintage explains. “Unless there are people out there who are bringing that back into their homes and giving it a second life, it all ends up in the landfill.”

Over the last couple of years, Amanda and her wife have adopted an immersive secondhand lifestyle. “My boots, my jumpsuit, my cardigan, my ring, my bandana—every single thing I’m wearing is secondhand,” she says. “Everything my wife wears is secondhand. Our whole house—kitchen table, couch, art, all of our planters, our bedspread, our dishes—is secondhand. I try really, really hard to give things another life.” 

Amanda’s personal and professional philosophy mirror the same mission: to cut down on textile waste. In the United States, more than 30 billion pounds of textile waste is generated every year. This disturbing statistic is bolstered by the problematic practices of a “fast fashion” industry whose products are largely made from synthetic materials that take hundreds of years to decompose. One way to offset this unsettling reality, Amanda argues, is to resurrect and prolong the life of things that have already been made.

Some of the items for sale at findfurnish in Northeast Minneapolis // Photo by Tj Turner

For the last five years, Tandem Vintage has permanently resided in findfurnish, a collective of vintage vendors in Northeast Minneapolis, as well as appeared at pop-up events like the monthly Minneapolis Vintage Market. Amanda got into reselling vintage with her first pop-up, Mighty Swell, about seven years ago. But unlike many other vendors, her path to secondhand wasn’t sparked by trips to flea markets or antique stores as a kid. 

“[With] a lot of vintage sellers, their moms were thrifters, their moms were super into antiquing, or they went to garage sales with their grandmas. My parents were not thrifters, they did not shop secondhand. I thrifted a little bit in high school, but it was participating in Mighty Swell and meeting all the other vendors [that eventually led to Tandem],” she says. “Once I started doing it, I realized how much I loved it, and the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it. It eventually just became what I do all the time.”

Ever since Amanda first started thrifting, she’s been obsessed with the thrill of the search. “You literally never know what you’re going to find,” she says, her eyes alight with excitement. “When you’re at an estate sale and you’re digging through someone’s closet or looking through boxes in a basement of old magazines, or you’re at the thrift store and that next hanger, you never know what’s going to be on it. You never know what’s going to be around the next corner or the next aisle. It could be the perfect pink Pyrex that you’ve been looking for for 10 years. Or you could leave with nothing. But it’s always like a treasure hunt.”

Now, as a career thrifter, she’s out shopping every day, searching through secondhand stores, estate sales, and personal collections. She even admits that she plans many of her vacations around where she’ll find the best thrift, from Arizona for Western wear to Florida for mid-century florals.

Baumann dressing one of the mannequins in refurbished clothing // Photo by Tj Turner

Baumann dressing one of the mannequins in refurbished clothing // Photo by Tj Turner

In addition to its affordability and environmental benefits, Amanda simply likes vintage better than new. Her focus with Tandem is on items from the 1940s–80s, which she credits to both the styles and superior craftsmanship of the eras.

“Clothing construction was better, tailoring was better, they used more durable fabrics, [and], before the ’60s, they used metal zippers,” she points out. “Back in the day when things were getting made, they would leave extra fabric in the seam allowances so that you could take things in, take them out—they were meant to be worn over and over and over again. Now things are made to be worn a couple of times and then tossed.”

The act of thrifting has become a daily ritual for Amanda—she gets up, decides which city to explore, gets her coffee, packs a fanny pack with the essentials (earbuds, hand sanitizer, and a snack), and goes to town. As she describes her selection process, she demonstrates with her hands how she physically touches each and every item, swiftly picking out the quality fabrics of decades past from the sea of synthetic materials so often used today. If she finds a contender, she assesses how much repair the item would need; if the damage is mendable or the stains removable, she snatches it up. “The only gauge I use when I’m shopping is: Would I wear this? If I would wear it, then I put it in the shop,” she says.

Amanda’s unique taste is what sets her apart from other vintage vendors around town, a growing group who source their inventory from many of the same spots. Though it seems like this would present a problem, Amanda is quick to dismiss the notion.

“Even when I go shopping with other vintage vendors, we have different points of view,” she says. “Things that I’m grabbing might not be their cup of tea and vice versa. So even though it is more competitive and there’s a lot more of us out there looking, we all have our own niche that we’re trying to fill.”

As a vintage vendor, Amanda does all the hard, often dirty work for those who can’t stomach the stress of a store like Goodwill or Savers. In a mission to make vintage accessible for everyone, her carefully curated collection is high-quality, clean, fairly priced, and broadly sized. Her inventory falls in the low- to mid-range with prices, which she says is comparable to mass retailers like Target or H&M that charge around the same for cheaper materials.

Items on display at findfurnish // Photo by Tj Turner

Items on display at findfurnish // Photo by Tj Turner

One of Amanda’s frustrations with people making the choice to buy new is that, with a little more time and effort, the same style (likely of better quality) can be thrifted. “You can’t really ever not be on trend with vintage, because [fashion] is all actually backward-looking,” she says. “It’s trying to do it in a new way, trying to style an outfit in a way that hasn’t been done before, putting pieces together that haven’t been done before, creating a new feeling with it. But there are just classic looks and styles that I think people always come back to.”

With the rising popularity of vintage pop-ups like the Minneapolis Vintage Market, which now hosts more than 40 vendors each month, Amanda agrees that vintage is having a moment. Whether it’s the pieces’ affordability, quality, sustainability, or one-of-a-kind nature that has captured people’s attention, she’s eager to see everyone making more thoughtful, selective choices. “Hopefully, as vintage and secondhand shopping become more popular, larger retailers will just open their eyes to the fact that people care about where their clothes are coming from and how they’re made.”

Outside of findfurnish and her pop-ups, Amanda can be found around town preaching the gospel of vintage, from a thrifting class she co-taught with the founders of Kollektiv Vintage at Winsome Goods to speaking on a thrifting and sustainability panel at The Coven. Her message: cutting back on global waste starts with making intentional choices every day.

“I definitely think that people are moving toward quality over quantity. A lot of people that I know are trying to shop more local, trying to support local designers that are really thinking about their business practices, where they’re sourcing their fabrics, and they’re trying to be better stewards for the earth,” she says. “I think it’s really spreading, people trying to be more thoughtful and putting their money where their mouth is in terms of issues big and small. This is one small way that you can make a difference—just starting with your closet.”

Amanda’s Thrifting 101

  1. Be open-minded. Try not to go in with a set agenda. Have fun and see what jumps in your cart.
  2. Play. Thrifting is so affordable—take a risk and try something you might not usually wear.
  3. Bring headphones and a fanny pack. Wearing a fanny pack filled with your thrifting essentials—hand sanitizer, measuring tape, a snack—while listening to music makes it more fun and your hands will be free for digging and sifting through racks!
  4. Go often. You never know what you’re going to find. Going to local thrift stores several times a week will almost always result in finding some gems. The more you thrift, the better luck you’ll have.
  5. Sale days. Thrift on holidays, when items are usually half-off, and check to see when the store has sale days. Donate to get a coupon, and if they have a loyalty program, sign up! It’s free!
  6. Think ahead. Party decorations, candles, books, movies, craft supplies, birthday cards—you never know when you’ll need them!
  7. Dress for success. Wear clothing and shoes that are easy to get in and out of so you can get in and out of the dressing room quickly.
  8. Know your measurements. Always keep a measuring tape on hand. If you know your measurements, you can skip the dressing room altogether.
  9. Look for current trends. You read that ’70s florals, tie dye, bow blouses, and sheer animal prints are going to be on trend for spring? Thrift them!
  10. Edit. Before you check out, scan your items for stains, rips, and pieces that you don’t absolutely love. Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you need it or will wear it.