Gen Z thrifting icon Emma Rogue on ‘childhood nostalgia-core’ and the future of fashion
We’re hanging out at Emma Rogue’s thrifting dreamland in downtown Manhattan, the physical embodiment of her adoration of the last 30 years of style. A handful of young women in exquisitely curated outfits sift through clothing racks as the Pussycat Dolls and Backstreet Boys play in the background. Tees and trinkets from the early 2000s adorn the walls, making the shop feel more like Emma’s childhood bedroom than a booming thrift business.
Emma knows a thing or two about looking good. Her Instagram and TikTok videos celebrate New York street style, spotlighting the looks of strangers, celebs, and fellow creators alike. But today, she’s trying something completely new: wading into the waters of wearable tech.
Emma is one of a handful of creators tapped to bring Meta’s “It’s Your World” campaign to life by showing people how the nebulous (and sometimes confusing) world of AI and the metaverse can be put to use IRL. The company’s new Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses are her first piece of wearable tech. The shades can livestream, shoot photos and videos, play music, and offer assistance via Meta AI, and she’s already filmed a few clips on them for her Instagram.
Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses reviews are in
In between shots, Mashable asks Emma about her vision for the future and digital fashion.
Mashable: Thrifting can be an accessible form of fashion. How do you see tech making fashion more accessible?
Emma Rogue: Everything, in every way. With Rogue, we utilize Instagram Reels’ short-form videos a lot. It’s become integral to our business model. We do short-form interviews with customers who come to us organically through word of mouth or if they’ve seen us online. A lot of the time, they’re wearing thrifted outfits, [so] just being able to showcase that online and show our viewers that, yes, you can dress in an amazing fit and it all be from the thrift. That’s a great form of making it accessible to the masses.
A lot of times people are afraid of style, right? You might be scared to tap into that world. So when they see someone that looks similar to them or their age looking amazing, and they realize it’s all thrifted, it might spark a light in their head like, “Oh, maybe I could try doing that.” They’re gonna screenshot that outfit, then they’re gonna go to their local thrift and be like, “OK, I love her look, let me try to recreate it.”
So that’s one way we do it. Every day we post a video. Volume and consistency are key in the content game. It’s the Victoria Paris method, shout out [to] Victoria. I love her. She sold with me on my opening day.
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I think the first time I saw you online was in Caleb Simpson’s apartment tour series. You showed him your Pop-Tarts collab.
Oh yeah, right there! [points to a Pop-Tarts box in display case.] And our Guinness World Record is right over there, too. We built the world’s biggest Pop-Tarts throne, 8 feet!
Where is the throne now?
In my parent’s garage in New Jersey. A lot of my stuff has been removed from it, but the throne remains.
Are you into digital fashion at all? How do you dress in the digital world?
I don’t have a gaming avatar, but I would dress it in something I would not wear every day because it’s maybe a little uncomfortable. I would put myself in a peak Emma fit: big platforms — I just got my first ever Rick [Owens] shoes so I might do some crazy Rick heels — thigh highs, a cute mini skirt, maybe a cargo mini? That would be cute. A mesh long sleeve and a tank top on top of that, a strappy cami. Accessories everywhere. A lot of metal rings, pigtails, with two strands of hair in front. And arm warmers and leg warmers.
I’m so excited for the day Rogue exists in the metaverse and customers all over the world can shop our stuff there.
Have you been talking about opening a Rogue in the metaverse?
I have a friend who’s really into the metaverse. He’s like “Emma, you gotta get on, buy some land, and build Rogue!” I’m not that deep into it. I haven’t bought land yet because I’m kind of nervous. But I’m excited for when it comes.
The thing is, we have such a big audience. It pains me when they say like, “Build a Rogue in London!” or “Come make a Rogue in Italy!” or I’ll get a DM from some kid in Germany, and they’ll say, “Can you come to this little town in the middle of nowhere?” So if Rogue was in the metaverse and existed there, it’d be so cool for these kids to just like tap in and visit. It would be cool if we could update it with all our new drops and then they could dress their avatars in them.
What does Rogue in the metaverse look like?
Childhood nostalgia-core bonanza. Foam pits, trampolines everywhere, giant slides into fluffy mattresses. Remember in Princess Diaries 2 when they slid down the slide? Stuff like that. Everything you wanted to do as a kid in one place. Everywhere your parents wouldn’t take you in one place. Disney World. All the best parts of your childhood.
I get so happy thinking about my childhood, thinking back to the times when I had no worries. I think everyone can relate to that in some sort of way. As you get older, it’s amazing, right? We’re growing, and learning more every day. But you’ve got bills to pay and it’s like, “I don’t want to do taxes!” Like, come on! There will be no taxes in Rogue World.
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I would love to have a zoo in there. You know, ride the elephants or something. Literally your wildest imagination. The NeverEnding Story is one of my favorite movies of all time, so there’s going to be Falkor in there. Maybe different themed rooms, or zones. There’d be a room [that] anyone could walk into and it’d become their favorite dream. I think cooler than a room would be like a dome. Many different domes, so it doesn’t look like a ceiling.
Like in “Club Penguin.”
I’m more of a Webkinz girl.
I love the way that Gen Z has repurposed and revived Y2K tech. Why is your generation so drawn to those items and aesthetics?
They never experienced it. It’s exciting to them because it was never part of their day-to-day, but maybe they heard their mom talk about it or their brother talk about it. Maybe they saw it in their favorite movie. Those pieces of technology have become ephemeral. [Gen Z] never got to experience that but [they’ll see it on] old online mood boards or certain aesthetic pages on Instagram. In music videos on YouTube [from the 2000s] they held Sidekick phones. [Gen Z] never had that experience. They’re experiencing something they never got to, they’re transporting back in time.
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You mentioned mood boards and Instagram accounts dedicated to a particular aesthetic. Where do you find inspiration online?
I like Instagram’s Explore page and Reels a lot to find inspiration and to find new talent — maybe to find emerging brands that we want to have a drop with here [at Rogue]. Or someone we want to collaborate with or a designer I want to commission to design a piece for me in my new collection. Instagram is part of my daily life and also for connecting with people. Sending a DM is the best thing that we could have access to. I posted Diplo on my story yesterday because I was at his concert, and he reposted me and DM’d me back! And I was like, “Perfect, pull up to the shop and we’ll get a fit check.” There’s no limit to what we have access to.