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Plain Jain: local, affordable and eco-friendly fashion

Carlson student Jane Ahmann thrifts, tailors and sells vintage clothes on Instagram.
Courtesy of Jane Ahmann.

For Jane Ahmann, style doesn’t come from online retailers or the fast fashion trends of the season. 

It’s found in bins at local thrift stores. 

Ahmann is the second year University of Minnesota student behind Plain Jain, an online Instagram resale store. She has spent many patient hours curating a selection of thrifted items and a uniquely creative vision for how they can be worn or altered. 

Plain Jain originally launched in February 2019 as a handmade scrunchie store. Just over a year later, it has expanded to offer thrifted finds and handmade items which range from $5 to $30. 

“I love thrifting so much. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid … and wanted a way to have an excuse to go thrifting all the time,” she said. 

Ahmann has found inspiration from other Instagram resellers, particularly Urban Outthrifters, a popular seller. 

Her favorite place to hunt for inventory is the Goodwill Store on Fairview Avenue in St. Paul. 

Ahmann often shops with specific brands in mind. She said Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren and Champion are guaranteed sellers. Oversized men’s clothing such as t-shirts and sweatshirts, vintage denim and silk items are also best sellers.

When it comes to her own sense of style, Ahmann said her taste is unique. 

“Every time I go shopping, I let myself just have one really weird piece… just to fulfill that part of me,” she said. 

Ahmann regularly dedicates her entire Fridays to thrifting and says the key to success is patience. 

“You just can’t get discouraged,” she said. “You need to know there will always be a good piece behind some random gross sweater.”

Ahmann’s longtime friend Joanna Chen has seen the business grow since its founding. 

“[Ahmann] wanted to be more sustainable,” Chen said. “She always talks about how bad fast fashion is and how much environmental strain the fashion industry puts on the Earth.”

Another customer, Rachel Holzem, admires that Ahmann’s business ideals are backed up by her personal ideals. When Ahmann buys fabric, she uses every scrap she can. 

“She’ll take a single shirt and make multiple tube tops out of it,” Holzem said. “She absolutely practices what she preaches about being sustainable.” 

Visitors to Plain Jain’s Instagram page are greeted with images of Lee brand denim, handmade tube tops and sweaters galore. During the winter months, holiday-themed sweaters and turtlenecks dominate the store’s Instagram feed. 

Ahmann regularly updates cropped tops by adding a scalloped edge. In a custom order for Chen, she repurposed a purple, silk Victoria’s Secret tank top in this fashion. 

Though Ahmann has suspended shipping orders while away from school, she is still hard at work building her business. On Thursday she released a cabin-inspired look book, after staying at her cabin in Northern Wisconsin. 

As an alternative to working in finance, Ahmann hopes to make a career of her creative and thrifting passions. 

“I realized if I can make this sustainable enough for myself — especially while I’m young — I think this would be a lot more rewarding for me,” she said.

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