Step into the world of vintage wonders with Zac Cowell, the mastermind behind Parks Project's curated collections. Zac's journey began with a serendipitous find—a 90's Patagonia fleece—that ignited his passion for all things vintage. As Parks Project's Vintage Curator, he meticulously selects pieces with rich histories, often featuring environmental themes and National Parks motifs. From state-specific treasures to wildlife-inspired designs, each piece in Zac's Vintage Collection's tells a unique story waiting to be discovered. Join us as we unravel the tales behind these timeless treasures, and get ready to add a touch of vintage flair to your outdoor escapades! Follow Zac @vintagezac for his daily vintage endeavors and keep up with the Parks Project Instagram @parksproject for collection drop dates.


Meet Zac Cowell! The incredible curator of Parks Project's vintage finds.

Q: Zac! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in vintage curation?

A: Hi my name is Zac Cowell and I am Parks Project’s Vintage Curator! I first partnered with Parks Project in 2019 to supply cool vintage clothes for each of their vintage drops, with most of the clothes featuring environmental themes, like animals and National Parks. Over the last 5 years I’ve gradually become more involved in the entire process, from sourcing to cleaning to taking pictures to shipping! My interest in vintage clothing began 10 years ago when I thrifted a Patagonia fleece from the 90s. This was really the first piece I thrifted that made me realize the quality of vintage clothes and the benefits of shopping secondhand, which intersected with my undergraduate studies in environmental sustainability. Vintage clothing is my life, and I have been selling vintage for 8 years now. Some followers may know me as VintageZac on Instagram and Tiktok where I post pictures of my finds and videos of my thrifting adventures. 

Q: What inspired you to begin curating vintage collections for brands?

A: I was first inspired to begin working with brands to curate vintage collections when I saw the power brands had to highlight individual creators and the potential environmental impact these collaborations could have. I consider myself a creative person, and one of the biggest benefits of working with brands is the opportunity to bring my own vision to the brand through personalized collections. Working with Parks Project was a great fit for me, not only do we share a love for National Parks (I love going on road trips to National Parks, and my favorite one I’ve visited is Rocky Mountain!) but the company as a whole has an appreciation for vintage clothing and many of their designs are vintage-inspired.

A collection of vintage finds.

Q: Are there any particular eras, styles or themes that you are drawn to when curating for Parks Project?

A: One of the best parts about vintage nature and outdoor clothing is that a lot of these pieces come from adventures that people have taken, such as collecting National Parks t-shirts in their travels or picking up a t-shirt at every state they visited. A lot of the clothing in the Vintage  Drops come from people’s personal collection and each piece has a great story of its own. Specifically for Parks Project, I look for items from National Parks and other popular outdoor destinations, state-specific pieces, animals, wildlife, and overall unique nature designs. 

An array of vintage finds for Parks Project.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you when you're sourcing vintage items? Are there any favorite vintage stores you can shout out in your area?

A: There is really no typical day for me when it comes to finding vintage clothes, everyday is an adventure! I love the freedom of being able to set my own schedule and the flexibility is really what allows me to find some great pieces. This past year, I purchased a 1986 Chevy Van that I not only use to find cool vintage clothes but it’s also a great way for me to travel and set up at vintage clothing events! While there is no typical daily routine I follow, there are a few categories of work that I do everyday. First, I am always sourcing new pieces - I never know when I will get a call from someone who wants to sell their collection or when I’ll stumble upon an awesome estate sale. After finding several pieces, I start to pull together drops which requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I do all the prep work for the pieces, including cleaning, steaming, taking measurements, photographing, and storing the items prior to selling. After this is finished, I upload the pictures and write descriptions for each piece so buyers can know exactly what they are buying. I try to film my day-to-day and post daily on social media as well! 

Q: How do you decide the pieces that are featured in a Parks Project Vintage Drop?

A: When creating a Vintage Collection Drop, I try to include a little bit of everything. Every drop includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, sweaters and more. My goal is to feature as many national parks clothing as I can and I like to try out new styles that have never been featured. For example, a few months ago I found a few Vintage Smokey Bear Bandanas at a local flea market that were a perfect fit for the drop! In general, I try to feature enough variety that anyone who goes onto the website can find something that they really enjoy. 


Zac Cowell surrounded by his vintage gems.

Q: Can you share some insights into the importance of upcycling and repurposing vintage items?

A: By upcycling and repurposing items, we can reduce the demand for new resources in the fashion industry. This directly lessens the environmental strain associated with manufacturing clothing. Many vintage pieces are made from higher quality materials as well, which allows people to own them for longer/wear them more often without having to replace them. Upcycling and repurposing gives older items a chance for new purpose and value. Vintage has continually inspired modern fashion, and many brands that are popular now use styles, shapes and designs that were popular many years ago. I think it’s important to keep that connection to older fashions alive, and doing this allows us to put our own modern spin on classic pieces. Last but not least - it’s often cheaper than buying new! 

Q: What has been one of your favorite vintage pieces that Parks Project has featured, what’s the story behind it?

A: I mentioned before that each piece I find has a story of its own. One of my favorite stories behind several vintage pieces that Parks Project has featured started with a random yard sale. When I first walked in, I saw a mountain of clothing, none of which were really styles or graphics I would typically look for at sales. However, after some digging, I found several dozen National Parks shirts - many seemed like they had never been worn! When I brought them up to the seller, I asked if she had visited all of these parks in her travels. It turned out that she had been traveling with her partner for 40 years to National Parks, with the goal of visiting at least 1 new Park every year. They bought multiple shirts at each park with the intention of having matching shirts and eventually making a memory quilt. After several decades of never making a quilt, they decided to sell the shirts and put the yard sale proceeds towards their next adventure! 

Q: Where do you see the future of vintage curation heading, especially in the context of sustainable fashion?

A: I see vintage curation and vintage fashion only becoming more popular in the future. When I first got into vintage, it wasn’t super common to see people out wearing vintage clothes. Now, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing someone rocking a vintage outfit. People are realizing the benefits of shopping secondhand and there are so many high quality vintage pieces that, with proper care, could last a lifetime without needing to purchase a replacement. It would be amazing if more companies focused on producing less and selling more vintage pieces that connected with their brand. Over the past few years I’ve seen more and more companies embracing vintage clothing which is definitely a great way to introduce people to this side of fashion! 

Fleece finds! One of our favorite's at Parks Project.

Q: Where do you find your curation inspo from? Is it person to person focused or historically inspired?

A: ​​One place I find inspiration from is vintage magazines. I was lucky enough to find a stack at the flea market last year that had everything from outdoor to pop-culture to biker magazines. Looking through all these is like taking a glimpse into the past and you get to see so many outfits and styles in photos that you can’t find anywhere online. Plus, a lot of magazines actually sold clothing back in the day via mail-in order catalogs so there are images of t-shirt designs that are incredibly hard to find. I’m also chronically on Youtube, and I find a lot of random inspiration from videos on vintage clothing, fashion, and modern trends on there. 

Q: For those interested in pursuing a career in vintage curation, how does one jump into it?

A: My advice for those looking to get into this field is to first be consistent in their search for finding vintage clothes. It may seem hard to find interesting/fun clothing but if you stay consistent, the good finds will follow. It’s also important to find and sell items that you are truly passionate about! It doesn’t matter what brand, style, era, gender, etc. what matters is that you personally connect with the items. People can tell when you are really passionate about what you’re selling and this will help build a customer base. It’s important to remember though that this industry is not just about the clothes, its about the people! Some of my best finds have happened as a result of just talking with people at events, flea markets, and even the grocery store and making connections with others about clothing. It’s also important to pay people fairly for their clothing so that the connection is mutually beneficial.

Hats on hats on hats, Zac Cowell carrying his vintage hat finds to and from the van.

Q: How would you say you’re leaving it better in the fashion industry?

A: I think one of the main ways I’m making a meaningful contribution in the fashion industry is by encouraging sustainable fashion. I also am a huge supporter of individuality in clothing, and I encourage others to embrace their personal style and rethink fashion in line with conventional norms. Another fun thing that I do is create Reels and Tiktoks that not only share my thrifting adventures but a lot of the videos share things I’ve learned over the years of working in this industry. I try to pay it forward to others by sharing tips and tricks - whether it's advice on launching a business, editing videos, reading clothing tags, or just sharing uncommon or rare items that collectors look for.

Stay up to date with our most recent vintage finds curated by Zac through our Vintage Collection page HERE. Tag us and Zac in your next vintage post and don't forget to leave it better than you found it. 

Explore more from: In Park

Shopping Cart

Your cart is empty

Let's find something like you

{% assign product = active_story.product %} {% assign prev_product = prev_story.product %} {% assign next_product = next_story.product %}
{% if prev_product %}
{% endif %} {% if next_product %}
{% endif %}
{% for image in product.images %}
{% if forloop.index == 2 %} {% for project in projects %} {% if product.tags contains project.tag %}
{{ project.description }}
{% break %} {% endif %} {% endfor %} {% endif %} {% endfor %}
{{ product.body_html }}

{{ product.title }}