At first glance, Fairbanks-based Arrogantly Shabby seems like a lot of other fashion blogs: Cool kids in cool clothes, modeling in obscure, offbeat locations. But there's something a little different about the clothes and accessories featured on this blog: They were found at the dump. And they probably haven't been washed.
Anyone who has lived in Fairbanks knows that dumpster diving is a popular pastime for many, and a way of life for some. Hopeful scavengers descend on the transfer stations scattered around town, where residents take their throw-aways to be trucked to the city landfill on the outskirts of town. These transfer stations, known colloquially as the "dump," feature both garbage bins and reuse stations, and are swarming grounds for treasure-seekers of all kinds.
Friends Trista Crass and Katie Robb, two Fairbanks girls with a creative streak and self-proclaimed "cheap" side, have taken that beloved local tradition online with Arrogantly Shabby. With upwards of 10,000 views a month from all over the world, the fashion blog is now approaching its three-year anniversary.
The blog started as a "joke" says Crass, "but when we went and did it, we realized how fun it was." The idea was born one night after a weekly sauna party: Crass had complimented Robb's scarf, who replied "it's actually a pillow case," snagged from the dump and then cut up into pieces. They slowly realized that pretty much everything they were wearing had come from the dump. Arrogantly Shabby had begun.
The premise of the blog is simple: "Just two girls in Fairbanks, Alaska, digging through the trash, looking for the next big score. We dumpster dive for used clothing, shoes, accessories and goodies: As a creative outlet, because we're cheap, and to take a stand against consuming shit we don't need. How's that for recycling, suckah?"
Over the years, friends have joined in, partially because "we aren't good at modeling," Crass says. Their basic strategy is to pile the clothes in heaping mounds and let their models pick out whatever combinations they prefer. They try to wear tank-tops and leggings under the dump finds, but Crass admits that they'll often just "throw things on."
Clothes must meet their standards, and that means no stinky or dirty clothes. If it reeks of cigarettes or garbage, it's out. But high standards don't hinder them. Crass will often find clothes that have been washed and folded, and she says it's "really common" to find clothes caringly placed into a Nordstrom's bag, which she makes a bee-line for every time.
The girls stockpile clothes over several trips to different transfer stations in town. Each dump is different; one has more furniture and books, another is "off the beaten track," and one has such a "high turnover rate" that Crass can go twice a day and find a completely new stock of items.
The blog runs year-round, even during the winter months. "Winter (photo) shoots go a lot faster," Crass says, noting that one of their first shoots was done at temperatures around 40 below. On summer days, the sessions can take three hours, but there's no dawdling during a fashion shoot in a notoriously frigid Fairbanks winter, when it "can be really cold changing in the car."
So what happens to the outfits after a shoot? While they "do keep a lot of stuff," a lot of it goes back to the dump, too. Crass says that the great thing about Dumpster-diving is there's "no commitment." She'll wear something a few times and then take it back.
"It's kind of like renting stuff from the dump," she says.
All in all, Crass estimates that 80 percent of her clothes, and 75 percent of Robb's, are dump-found. And she says they both have "way too many clothes."
Some treasures they find would make even the dump-averse jealous. Crass says that just a few weeks ago, she found a brand new pair of K2 snowboarding boots, with tags, in her size. Retail price? $300. Her sister found a vintage Coach bag that costs upwards of $1,000. She says "not a week goes by" that she doesn't find a pair of new Frye boots, an expensive leather brand. And sometimes they find priceless items, like the diary of a woman growing up in Fairbanks in the 1940s.
Finds like these are what fuel the diamond-in-the-rough dreams of so many dump-divers in Fairbanks.
Although Crass calls it a "weird hobby," it has also paid off. She's sold some items at a local consignment shop, and Robb has opened an Etsy shop, Teal Tub Vintage, where she sells vintage household goods unearthed at the dump.
The next step for Arrogantly Shabby? Updating the site more often, adding DIY posts, and branching out into sales of some of the more exquisite vintage clothes – the ones that aren't in their size, at least.
Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com