At first glance, you might not notice that the popular online clothing brand Tunnel Vision is run entirely by two millennial roommates. A wide variety of bold, eccentric looks, made up of both new and recycled vintage clothing, defines the aesthetic that has made Tunnel Vision one of the most popular online fashion boutiques today, with an Instagram following of nearly 130,000 users.
The intimate nature of the business, founder Madeline Pendleton says, actually works more in its favor than the opposite. She believes that the "authenticity of the subculture experience" provided is a major contributor to the company's growing success.
"I think one of the cool things about our business is how insular it is," she said.
"It's very much a cottage industry. So it's me and my best friend, and we live together, and our business is in our garage. And we wake up in the morning and sit down with our computers and coordinate what we have for the day."
Isabel Hendrix, Pendleton's best friend and "unofficial partner," as she puts it, assists in daily tasks by answering emails and running social media accounts, which Pendleton says are vital to their business.
"Social media gives us a means to exist because we are a small business and we would not have the budget to advertise otherwise." She added, "It's great because it's kind of the democratization of advertising."
Aside from new T-shirts printed with feminist phrases like "My Name's Not Baby," Tunnel Vision's Instagram account @shoptunnelvision features a noticeably broad selection of vintage inner and outerwear, which aligns with the cultural, social and environmental causes for which Pendleton advocates.
"I've always been a secondhand person since I was a kid," she said. "I don't even think it was a priority in my mind to make the company eco-friendly—I think it was just second nature because that's how I live."
And luckily for the earth, Pendleton's not the only one who thinks this way. Secondhand fashion is a $16 billion industry, according to Racked, and one that is rising at a rate of 6 percent each year. Needless to say, the production of material goods like polyester takes a devastating toll on our climate, as it's a non-renewable resource and requires the use of fossil fuels.
Still, Pendleton proves that running a business and sparing the earth are not mutually exclusive. "You don't need money anymore," Pendleton said. "You just need a good message and a good product."
Reach staff reporter Madeline White here.