Fashion Designer Vara Ayanna Is the Thrift Queen

Vara Ayanna hates the mall, doesn't care about designer clothing, and doesn't like to shop with other people. However, the 22-year-old fashion designer is beyond "obsessed" with clothes.

There's a method to her madness. Ayanna, dubbed the "Thrift Queen" by her friends, knows how to do things right. "People think you have a spend a lot on clothing," the Mesa native says. "You don't!"

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Ayanna's title as "Thrift Queen" surpasses the scope of any normal nickname. When combined with her love of up-cycling clothes, a vision was born.

"Thrift Queened spawned out of a lot of things that happened in my life at that time," says Ayanna. "I was leaving to go to school in New York, but then I wasn't able to go and I had already quit my job. I thought, okay what am I going to do with my life?" Ayanna was always into fashion and had been sewing since she was little, so she thought she might as well start her own clothing line.

"I thought, what if people got thrift queened? I love up-cycling," she says, "But I think of it as remaking the whole garment, so that's what I decided to do."

Ayanna and her small team of creatives quickly put something together for her first editorial shoot just two short weeks after the brand's conception. Fast forward to several months later: Thrift Queened was featured in L.A. Fashion Week, has provided styling for multiple music videos, and hosted a party at Buffalo Exchange in Tempe. In March, the up-cycled line, full of custom hats, dresses, vests, shirts, and more, turns a year old.

At the root of all of her creations, Ayanna's inspiration comes from simply loving clothes. "That's the very bottom line: It's obsession."

In an ideal future, there will be Thrift Queened secret, invite-only shops all over the world. "I want it to become art more than something that you just wear. That's what fashion should be."

The way Ayanna sees it, to get where you want to be you have to be absolutely yourself, do everything you've ever wanted to do, and put all you've got into it. That means surrounding yourself with creative people, making friends, going out, and creating new experiences.

"Don't worry about what other people are thinking," she says. "They're not going to get you anywhere anyway."

What are you wearing right now? My grandma's jacket, a shirt I got for 25 cents at a thrift store, a Trina Turk necklace, an earring I made, and boots and pants I bought from a shop down the street.

What's the last item of clothing you bought? The other day I went to Buffalo Exchange in Tempe and bought a vintage jumper for $4.50. It's a full, black and white jumper with an opening in front and awesome gold detailing.

Where do you usually shop? I shop everywhere: thrift stores, vintage shops, the mall, Target. I have to for my clothing line. I believe you should be able to find clothes wherever. You shouldn't just find it all in one specific place.

Name five items every woman should have in her closet. 1) A bandeau (Preferably a glittery one) 2) One jacket you love wearing all the time with everything 3) At least one pair of awesome boots 4) Something high-waisted 5) A loving attitude toward yourself

What's one fashion trend you can't stand? As of right now, it would have to be T-shirt brands that put words like "swag" and "YOLO" in big letters on the front.

Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes. When I was 4 years old and in preschool, I was cast as the Swan Queen. My costume was my favorite thing to wear. It was a giant pink huge tutu, a sequin top I took from my mom (and told her she wasn't getting back), and a puffy vest. I loved being so shiny, and I wanted to wear that outfit everywhere.

What is your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix? I think a lot of people here want to enjoy fashion but don't know how. I feel like people should just wear what they like to wear. Don't worry about impressing other people, because at the end of the day, you're wearing it, they're not.

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Andie Flores