a clothing and textile pile at a Texas warehouse

Texas Textile Warehouses – Hidden Trove and Trouble

Who knew that Laredo, TX, has over 30 clothing and textile warehouses and they each offer an abundance of gems just waiting to be discovered? Or transported to the landfill.

  • Liisa Jokinen

  • Feb 13, 2024

Cover photo Billy Hathorn, Wikipedia, extended. Other photos Heather Garcia.

“The city landfill is becoming a micro-version of Chile’s Atacama Desert due to the warehouses disposing of all the unsold textiles weekly”, says Heather Garcia who is now organizing thrifting tours to combat the growing waste problem in her hometown.

“I am trying to grab the attention of upcyclers, thrifters, and resellers from around the country to come here and do the tour at least once so that they know they have another sourcing resource.”

Garcia’s mission is to get more people to use the warehouses for their sourcing, while ultimately diverting a large number of textiles from going into the landfill.

“The clothing warehouses mainly sell to clients in Mexico, where vintage isn’t a trend there, so the ’outdated’, vintage, and ’less desirable’ clothing and textiles get tossed into large clothing mountains where the public can rifle through and get for under a dollar per pound. Whatever doesn’t sell after a certain time gets loaded onto a truck and tossed into the landfill. I’ve seen those piles and it’s horrifying,” Garcia says.

Laredo Thrifting Tours will run until April and begin again in September if there are enough interested people. During the summer months, the warehouses get too hot as there is no AC.

“If folks take my tour once and then go back to the warehouses on their own time, that’s great! I just want to be that bridge that connects them with new places to source. There are so many things that I pass on, like vintage afghans, fabrics, jeans, etc., that I would love to get, but don’t have room to store them for selling. It’s heartbreaking. So I know that bringing in more like-minded people that will appreciate this stuff will help ease that burden, and also help the warehouses by having fewer items to toss.”

Laredo has so many warehouses because it’s the #1 import/export city in the US and proximity to the Mexican border. “I feel like Laredo is unique in this sense, as I’ve never seen so many of them in one city. I usually hear about some in the larger cities, but they are more curated. The warehouses have been operating here at least since the early 2000s.”

Garcia says it is hard to estimate the exact amount of the items at the warehouses due to the language barrier and because the exact information is nowhere available.

“They get tons in and also take tons to the landfill. Landfill trips are made sometimes daily and/or weekly. Warehouse size I believe is at least 20k square feet.”

Heather Garcia looking at textile and clothing piles at a warehouse
massive clothing and textile piles at a warehouse in Texas

Garcia recommends participants equip themselves with a mask, gloves, bug spray (for mosquitos), water, IKEA-sized bags, and snacks.

“Warehouses can be grimy/smelly and you might see bugs – I’ve only seen ants, mosquitos, and a couple of roaches. I recommend wearing a T-shirt and either shorts or leggings and sturdy shoes, as you are allowed to ’climb the mountains’, plus, it’s a workout and you will break a sweat. You can either dig the piles yourself, or you can also ask the sorters if you have specific items you are looking for if you can speak Spanish. You just have to be patient and dig, because the good stuff can be right in front of you and also beneath the layers of clothes.”

The prices at the warehouses are very affordable: Generally, they range from $0.25 to $1 per pound. Garcia has made some amazing finds at the warehouses.

“Most recently, I found a vintage Schiaparelli fur coat (that’ll need to be fixed, BUT my lord, I couldn’t pass it up), a 60s dress with vibrant green and blue embroidery on the sleeves, vintage grandma square afghans, vintage tea towels with cat prints and they still had the original tags on them, a vintage cat face sweatshirt, a 60s psychedelic Miss Elaine dress, a maroon fur coat with incredible rainbow silk or satin lining (and original owner’s name embroidered in) from maybe the 40s or 50s, vintage tablecloths, vintage linens with embroidery, a vintage curtain panel with cat print, vintage aprons....”

Shockingly, a lot of garments have Goodwill or other store tags still on them. “The shops have been in NYC and Arizona so far. So clothing from all over the country makes its way down to south Texas. It’s made me afraid to donate to Goodwill (which I rarely do anyway) because it’ll eventually end up at the warehouses and then sadly the landfill...unless I do something about it.”

Texas warehouses show that vintage and secondhand clothing is not going to end any time soon. Resellers are not picking the stores empty if tons of unsold items end up from vintage stores back to the warehouses – and landfills.

“I keep hearing about my fellow vintage peers struggling with folks who have scolded them for ’stealing from the poor’ or ’taking EVERYTHING’ and it’s utterly ridiculous, especially after witnessing the huge piles of clothing that change weekly. Sadly, not enough people know about the Laredo warehouses because if they did, maybe more clothing/textiles could be saved. I’m only one person, and I try to save what I can, but hopefully, as I keep spreading the word, that more people will want to come and dig. I’ve seen other thrifters/resellers in the warehouses...some are willing to dig, while unfortunately, others are not. There is more than enough clothing for everyone and we don’t need to be producing anymore.”

Book your tour / contact Heather Garcia
Laredo Thrifting Tours