Lauren Ballentine graduated in the top 5% of her class at Birdville High School in 2018. She felt pressured to go to college and enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but quickly realized it wasn’t the right fit.
“I went down there and signed up for my courses and hated everybody there,” Ballentine said. “I didn’t meet a single person I liked during the registration and orientation.”
She decided to try a semester at Tarrant County College instead, but realized that college just wasn’t for her.
To make ends meet, she worked as a receptionist in an attorney’s office and waited tables.
Although she had a full plate, Ballentine had a passion for vintage women’s fashion, and set up an online store called Deep Dive Vintage on a popular resale app. She wanted to connect other women to vintage clothes.
Eventually, her online store became so profitable that she was able to quit her other jobs. Her account has made over 4,000 sales, allowing her to invest $10,000 into the shop’s first physical storefront in 2020.
Four years later, Deep Dive has a physical storefront in Hurst, and Ballentine, now 23, has used it to carve out a space for women’s fashion in the Fort Worth vintage scene.
Deep Dive Vintage’s first location was 800 square feet and had one employee. In two years, it grew into a retail space with two floors and now employs a staff of four to help source clothes.
Ballentine “has made a positive impact in the vintage community,” said Taylor Williamson, 26, owner of the online store tayloredinfashion. “You can really see that she is passionate about vintage clothing and the community through her work.”
The new, larger space allows Deep Dive to bring in other women-owned vintage businesses for pop-up shows, which is a priority for Ballentine.
“I always saw the other [pop-ups] events and wanted one for the girls,” she said.
When the pop-up events started in December of 2021 they were small with about five vendors, most of whom were Ballentine’s close friends. In a matter of six months, she was able to host the first of many block parties that included 30 women-owned businesses.
“Everybody really likes them. I have girls drive down from Austin,” Ballentine said, “They came [up] to me, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god. We’ve been seeing the ads. We’ve been saving up.’ I was literally going to cry.”
Creating a space for women and other minority groups in the vintage community is important to Ballentine, but she also values lessening clothing’s impact on the environment through reselling. Ballentine only shops at thrift stores. In addition to being more eco-friendly, Ballentine said she can immediately tell the difference between the quality of vintage and modern clothes.
“You could probably go with your eyes closed and tell what’s from Shein and what’s actually a quality piece of clothing. (Shein clothing) feel(s) like plastic,” she said.
Ballentine said she understands the criticism resellers have received for taking clothes options away from poor communities, but pointed out that thrift stores have a surplus of clothing that’s not being brought.
The EPA estimates that 9,070 tons of clothing and footwear were thrown into landfills in 2018, according to the agency’s most recent data.
“There’s definitely a fair share of online resellers (that) go to thrift stores and buy massive amounts of stuff,” she said. “But there’s so much clothing – so much clothing.”
She tries to make her selection affordable. Items that are common finds are the cheapest, while the expensive items are based on the rarity, age and material.
The store is known for its bold statement pieces, and has attracted the likes of online personality Emma Chamberlain and a costume designer for HBO. Now, Ballentine is focusing more on basics like denim jackets, jeans and graphic T-shirts. Researching the history of each component of clothing that comes to her shop is something that she enjoys.
“I mostly was doing it for like extra funds, like I never saw this coming of it,” Ballentine said. “It wasn’t my intention but I’m grateful for it. I love it”.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.