Updated March 15, 2021 - 7:43 pm
When she found herself at a low point, Taylor Rice embraced retail therapy.
Gymnastics is practically the family business, considering her grandmother Stacy Carrero and parents, Cassie and Michael Rice, own local gyms and train young tumblers. The Henderson native’s life had revolved around the sport from the age of 5, when she began competing, on up through her four years at Stanford University.
Then Rice spent a disappointing year on the road with Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo.”
The grind was intense. Two shows a night, five nights a week, one day off and then travel to another of what she calls “B-list” cities where she and her cast members would see only the arena, the hotel and, possibly, a strip mall.
“I just hated it,” Rice says. “And I was just kind of feeling lost, not knowing where to put my time and energy.”
She didn’t just need a job; she needed a purpose.
So Rice, 27, turned to her true passion: clothing. Specifically, the secondhand variety. The hand-me-downs. The musty sacks of discarded garments she loved as a child that, in less caring hands, could have ended up in landfills.
That’s the sort of fashion she curates at Alt Rebel, her vintage-inspired resale shop at 1409 S. Commerce St. in the Arts District.
The name, short for alternate rebellion — essentially a coping mechanism in which people find creative ways of acting out without harming themselves or others — came from a group therapy session.
“I always felt like thrifting was kind of that outlet for me,” Rice says. “To just go and do my own thing. Wear whatever I wanted to wear. Pick out those stinky clothes that everybody thought were disgusting.”
Now she’s providing that outlet for others — minus the stink.
Alt Rebel features some contemporary pieces, as well as fashion from the 1960s and ’70s. But the store, which opened in the heart of the pandemic, specializes in clothing from the 1980s through the early 2000s.
“We just get a lot of kids, late 20s, early 30s, who just like the reminiscing factor of finding a piece that existed when they were a kid,” Rice says.
In addition to the styles of those eras, her clients are drawn to the quality of the goods. Unlike the fast-fashion pieces she rails against — cheaply made, inexpensive clothing that often falls apart long before it goes out of style — those clothes were made to last.
“If you get a piece from the ’90s, the quality is likely going to be much better,” Rice explains. “I mean, think about it: If you got a shirt from Forever 21, do you think in 30 years it would still have the same integrity? Probably not. So the fact that you can get something that’s 30 years old, and it’s still wearable and in great shape, I think is amazing to some people.”
Alt Rebel also offers shoes, jewelry, bags and other accessories. Some of the more eye-catching pieces, though, are the works by local artists that line the walls. Dray, who painted the store’s mural of Black Panther organizer Kathleen Cleaver, was the first to hang a canvas. Others, excited to be on display in the Arts District, soon followed. Each of the works is for sale, with the artists keeping 100 percent of the proceeds.
Those paintings add to the flavor of Alt Rebel, as does Charlie, Rice’s 2-year-old mini Goldendoodle, who serves as the shop’s curious ambassador.
The atmosphere is a far cry from the stigma that once plagued the secondhand stores Rice loved in her youth.
“I remember when I was younger being very ashamed to go thrifting and tell people, ‘Yeah, I got this at Savers for a dollar.’ But now I feel like people boast about it, so that’s great,” she says.
“It’s just a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly model, and so I think it’s stupid that I ever felt ashamed of it in the first place.
When Taylor Rice opened the clothing resale shop Alt Rebel four months into the pandemic, the result of a lease she signed in January 2020, she didn’t know if anyone would come.
Even if they did, she wasn’t exactly sure what sort of clothes they’d be seeking.
Customers have come, all right, but Rice has had to tweak her inventory to meet their demands.
“Nobody’s buying going-out clothes. Nobody’s buying business clothes, business-casual clothes even, because there’s no business to attend to,” she says. “We have quite a few people who would come in (to sell) these gowns and blazers and button-up shirts, just like work attire or going-out attire, and I just have to politely decline.”
Instead, she says, comfort reigns. At least for now.
“I think people like to dress up and look nice and show off their bodies and all that kind of stuff. So I definitely think that will come back,” Rice says. “However, COVID has brought in a new style that is very in right now, and that’s just baggy, oversized stuff.
“When we first opened the shop, we had a lot of skinny jeans. Nobody’s buying skinny jeans anymore. Everybody’s looking for the baggy cargos or even low-waisted super-wide-leg jeans.”
The trend isn’t necessarily born out of the weight gain customers may have experienced from being stuck at home. It’s more of an extension of the comfiness they’ve been seeking during their quarantines.
“If you’re going to be lounging at home for most of the day, what’s really the point of wearing something that’s not comfortable?”