Interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari

We were been lucky enough to meet Grace, a woman of intelligence and dedication, deeply committed to her community and passionate about subjects close to her heart. In this exclusive interview, we explore her rise to TikTok fame, where she shares insights on trend forecasting, thrifting, and the art of slow fashion. In an industry often dominated by environmentally harmful fast fashion and fleeting trends, Grace stands as a leader at the forefront of Gen Z’s growing inclination toward sustainable consumerism. Discover our lovely conversation bellow.

Hello Grace. Could you introduce yourself and tell us where your passion for fashion comes from? What is your first memory of fashion? 

Hi! My name is Grace Brinkly. I never know how to introduce myself, but I guess vintage fashion enthusiast turned internet personality sums it up pretty well. 

I can’t recall my earliest memory of fashion. I just know I was always obsessed with clothes. I loved sifting through other people’s closets just to see what they had. We didn’t have much growing up, and my longing to dress a certain way consumed me. I’d imagine my friends’ wardrobes were mine, flip through my mom’s discarded shopping catalogs over and over again, and once I had access to the internet, I’d spend hours filling online shopping carts just for fun. I’d make sure I had seen every single thing on the site before moving on to the next. I approached thrifting the same way. 

You are of all passionate about vintage fashion. Can you tell us about a memorable vintage discovery? What drew you to this mode of consumption? 

My first job was at a fast food restaurant that shared a parking lot with a Salvation Army. I spent my first paycheck here. There really wasn’t anywhere to shop in my hometown, and where I’m from, American Eagle skinny jeans paired with a VS Pink hoodie was the pinnacle of fashion. I felt my first pair of vintage Levis in that Salvation Army, they looked just like the ones I was constantly reblogging on Tumblr. I remember feeling angry that they didn’t make clothes like that anymore. This is probably when my obsession began. The more I found, the less I could tolerate anything else. To be honest, It had nothing to do with sustainability at first. It had everything to do with money. I couldn’t afford to buy anything new, especially not anything that met my new-found standards. As time went on, I became more confused about why more people weren’t consuming like I was. I found that anything I wanted, and everything being made, already existed. Not only that, but it was cheaper and probably made better, and no one was going to have the same one. I no longer saw the point in buying new.

You’ve become a fan of sustainable consumerism. As an influencer, with partnerships and gifts of all kinds, it can be complicated to stay the course. How do you stay true to your values? 

Honestly, I don’t always feel like I’m staying on course. I’ve done partnerships that I’m not proud of, and I have boxes full of untouched cosmetics from the constant PR packages. I try to offset it by giving the extras to those around me and donating. But, this job requires a lot of cognitive dissonance from me. The way I see it, the money from those partnerships has allowed me to maintain my platform, where I’m able to continue hosting conversations about sustainability and conscious consumption. I hope these conversations are more impactful than the brand deals.

You insist that fashion is a form of personal expression. How do you think personal style helps to build self-confidence?

I think the first step to building true confidence is getting to know who you really are. When you stop following the trends and decide to listen to yourself, you get to know what you actually like and what you don’t. As your style develops, you become more certain of your taste, and you also become more certain of yourself. If you love yourself and what you’re wearing is an expression of you, it no longer matters what anyone else thinks.

Creating a large online community is unfortunately also accompanied by online scrutiny. How do you stay authentic and deal with online ‘trolls’? 

This one goes back to confidence. When I first started garnering an audience, I honestly had no idea who I was. I felt the need to respond to every hateful comment and clear up every misconception. I still feel this way from time to time, but now I know who I am, and as long as I live with integrity, which I plan to do, I’m untouchable.

Beyond fashion, you’ve used your platform to defend important causes such as abortion rights, safe sex education, women’s rights and, recently, the situation in Palestine. How do you reconcile your work as a fashion influencer with your commitment to social issues? And how do you deal with the hostile messages you may receive?

My career is so personal. I wouldn’t be here if not for a certain level of honesty and vulnerability, and I feel just as passionately about the world as I do fashion. I don’t think of my advocacy as a competitor to my fashion content. It’s all a part of me. I’ve always believed that those with a platform have a certain responsibility to speak when it matters. If I were more palatable, maybe I could preserve more followers, but I don’t want my platform to be built on people who can’t appreciate both sides of my content. As far as the hate messages. The only time it got really tough was when I became vocal in my support for Palestine. I had never received that kind of hate, but on the opposite spectrum, I had never received that kind of love. The community I have felt these past few weeks has been so encouraging. As always, love trumps hate.

Your journey from a small town in Idaho to becoming a leading digital creator is remarkable. Can you share with us a few key moments or decisions that you feel have played a defining role in your career?

The first thing that comes to mind is quitting my serving job. When I first started posting on TikTok I was a server at a seafood restaurant, and I hated it. I was also pursuing my career selling vintage on the side. My first TikToks were all showcasing inventory for an upcoming drop. I was shocked by the reach and response I was getting, so I decided that if my drop sold out in one night, I could quit my job. I had listed everything before my shift that night, and I remember sneaking to the back room to check how it was going. The last item had just sold. I never came back to that job. It was absurdly early on to take that leap, but from then on I focused all of my energy on selling vintage and making fashion content, and I’m so glad I did.

What advice would you give to aspiring youth? 

I believe karma is everything, you get from the universe what you give to it. Just be a good person and the rest will follow.  

You’ve spoken openly about the challenges of cognitive dissonance in the fashion industry. How have you dealt with the challenges of class, consumerism and exclusivity, and what advice would you give to others facing similar conflicts in their careers?

Don’t give up ! The creative industries are so filled up with people who don’t even bother to experience those feelings. We need more people who care in these spaces, that’s when we can really start to change things. 

In a saturated digital age, creating content that stands out is a challenge. How do you stay authentic and always offer meaningful content that resonates with your audience? Where do you find your inspiration? 

I take breaks when I don’t feel inspired. I used to be so committed to posting constantly, but it felt inauthentic, and I’m sure my audience could sense that. Not saying that every piece of content I put out is my best work. I respect my audience enough to be real with them. A great way I gauge my content and stay inspired is asking myself what my younger self would want to see. I think it’s easy to forget that, as influencers, we are role models for so many young people and we have the power to teach them so much. 

Is there a fun or interesting project you’d like to share with us to conclude this interview?

Actually yes! I’m in the process of relaunching my vintage business and should have the site up and running before the new year. Updates will be posted on my instagram @gbrinkly!