Vintage is how I make my living and I've been in the business for over 15 years. Before that I was a custom dressmaker and milliner with a passion for the evolution of fashion. So you could say I've been immersed in this for most of my adult life. Over the years I have seen the business of vintage go through tremendous change. There was a time when brick and mortar shops were the backbone of retail vintage. Shops that established themselves in the 1970s stayed in business for decades, their merchandise was always eclectic...Victorian whites to psychedelic Mod. There was something for everyone and the vintage customer shopped with imagination.
Interest in styles from the past ebbed and flowed and each era enjoyed a heyday but there was always a demand for diversity. A good vintage shop made sure they delivered. In the later 1990s vintage hit the internet and caught the eye of mainstream fashion. By the early 2000s major fashion magazines were including it in their shopping spreads and announcing the various celebrities who were adding it to their wardrobes. The demand for vintage surged, which was exciting, but I remember feeling a twinge of uneasiness. Vintage, after all, was a place for inspiration. It covered over a century of eras and represented thousands of different looks. I worried what might happen to the business if it began to follow the dictates of trend.
Fast forward and retail vintage is no longer recognizable in comparison to it's earlier incarnations. Some of the changes have been wonderful and others I lament deeply. The internet has provided a platform to sell to an unlimited market. I send orders all over the world which is fantastic. However, the internet also dealt a lethal blow to many brick and mortar shops, especially the ones located in less populated areas. Some savvy shop owners turned to the web to supplement their businesses but that meant double the work and not necessarily double the income. For some it was a godsend for others the beginning of the end.
Then there is trend... vintage always had it's own form of trend...the 40s were the it era for 70s vintage, the 80s loved the 50s and so on. The big difference between now and then is the narrowing of trend and the pace at which it seems to change. Last summer my customers in the Boston area all seemed to want 80s Coach or Dooney and Bourke, my other vintage bags just sat. I had never seen anything quite like it. A micro focused trend eclipsed the unlimited choices that vintage had to offer. It was eerie.
Over the years I have watched the flow of customers at my shows and market venues and have witnessed an increasing homogenization of style. Up to just a few years ago I was blown away by the creative ways in which people were incorporating vintage into their wardrobes. This past year a number of my colleagues and I noticed how much less creativity we were seeing and how similar everyone dressed, even at our NYC shows (NY has always been a cauldron of fashion innovation). I can only hope this is as temporary as the other trends because vintage without creativity holds no interest for me.
My own business has seen tremendous change over the years. I went from solo Brick and Mortar...Web/Brick and Mortar...Web/B+M/Shows. Today I sell on the web along with a number of shows and markets. I closed my shop a little over three years ago. The most recent change has been relocating my merchandise from my old storefront to a large sunny studio. I plan to ramp up the internet side of the business and when the studio is finally organized to my liking I will make it available "by appointment". Change is exciting but also exhausting so here's hoping that the need to morph my business takes a break for a while!
Let me know what you think of my new studio!