There was a time when fashionable femmes wouldn’t be seen dead walking into a second hand clothing store or op shop, but fast track a few years and hip young things have gotten thrifty.
With the cyclical nature of fashion, girls have realised their local St Vinny’s offers much more than moth balls and grandpa knits, it can also be a valuable resource for tracking down today’s trends in their original form.
Remember the Mad Men 50s housewife craze that recently swept the high fashion runways? Louis Vuitton were charging thousands for their modern take on the poodle skirt and corseted dresses, but frugal fashionistas put their pretty thinking caps on and scoured Savers for the prototype.
It has also spawned the new wave of DIY style with many getting out the scissors and sewing kits to nip and tuck the older designs into a more modern and flattering fit.
To get an insight into this phenomenon, we spoke to active antiquarian and owner of online vintage boutique, Tenspeed and Brownshoes Rachel Wakefield on her personal vintage adventure, obsession with everything 70’s, and what’s hot in vintage fashion right now.
When did you first become interested in vintage clothing? Why?
It’s funny, because when I was at that impressionable age (from around 11) my Mum used to have to drag me into the op-shops in my home town. I used to be so worried that someone
from school would see me going in there and think we were poor! (god forbid) Once I got over that and started thinking for myself, my friends and I would mess with the local “jock” crowd and wear the craziest things we could find, just for a reaction. I also had some really amazing older friends who helped shape my love, there was a good music/surf/hippy scene out the coast road from my home town and I pretty much just copied what the older cool hippies were wearing! That’s why I think the 70’s are my favourite era!
How long have you been collecting vintage? Where did the collecting start and tell us about the journey?
Well I started collecting when I was around 15 and I was well known for always wearing long crazy 70’s dresses so people would often find them in oppies and give them to me.
I still have heaps from back then and am up to about 120 now (crammed into my three wardrobes at home and some still stored at my mums house).
My friend and I went on an adventure to the North Island, just hitch-hiking round (as you did when the world seemed like a much safer place).
We eventually ended up in Mount Mauganui but we had run out of cash, so it we decided to set up camp for a while.
We hunted for jobs and I started working for the most amazing lady who had the coolest vintage store in town (kitchkatch).
She fed my habit with a deal that suited me just fine – half clothes half money. This is where my love totally blossomed!
Since then I haven’t been able to walk past an op shop or vintage store without just a little taste.
I did have a hard time when I first came to Australia though as the culture here was so `surf’ driven, (which I found really boring). I actually copped a bit of abuse from randoms for my style too, so I am glad that times have changed.
One of my first jobs in the fashion/surf industry here was at a surf store on the Sunny Coast. They had to give me clothes because I didn’t see anything wrong with wearing flares and my vintage Hang Ten t-shirt. I played the game for a while, but my vintage habit creeped back in again.
I did have a great career in the industry though, from shop girl through to wholesale/repping and then eventually into design/brand management, but life took a turn for me and I’ve ended up back here with my first true love – Vintage and at a great time when the market is hungry for it.
Vintage has made a comeback in modern clothing with the return of fluoro, 50s-inspired cuts, and the 70s boot cut flares are on the rise – why do you think fashion continues to return to these eras for inspiration?
Well, like with any creative process, there comes a time when it feels like it’s all been done, so it’s back to the originals for inspiration I suppose!
I love the way designers creatively reinvent trends though, it makes it so accessible for the new generations and easier for us to slip back into those trusty flares (just not with the tie-dye inserts).
What is your personal favourite era? Why?
It’s pretty much an even tie between the 70’s and the 50’s. My body type is definitely more shaped for the 50’s, but my mindset is totally 70’s.
The 80s is constantly making a comeback – what are some of the more popular 80s styles you see on repeat time and time again?
I’m sure I have witnessed fluoro three times now, and this time it’s called neon just to trick us. But I do have a well-tested theory that whatever I hate right now I will love in 6 months, so picture me rollin’ in my neon’s come Jan 12.
Why do you think this era continues to be popular?
There were sooo many trends over this era, so there is a massive backlog to work from and they are fairly easy to reinvent with a modern twist. I also think whatever era you were born in you will always have a love for and maybe all the 80’s babies are in charge of design rooms right now.
What was your favourite 80s look?
I am a fan of black and white (monochromatic) I’m not so sure this was solely an 80’s trend but it’s always in with me. And I love the 80’s metal heads. Pure gold! (real metal, not hair metal).
Even the tragic 80s prom dress has made a comeback with a modern phrase `mini-prom’ – what is it about this style that people keep coming back for?
This is a tough one to work, only the brave can rock the “mini prom” I suppose it has a really happy vibe to it. It’s party time but I love it! Taffeta still kind of scares me, but keep in mind the six month love/hate theory I mentioned earlier.
You now have an online store called `Tenspeed and Brownshoes’ which you operate via Facebook, what have been the most popular styles?
On-trend styles such as cotton dresses, anything with studs/sparkle or sequins, tooled leather bags, original 50’s dresses, cute cardi’s.
How does vintage sell online? Have you found this is a better way to operate than through a bricks and mortar retail store?
We are really happy with how its gone so far. We have to be careful with shapes/styles because we sell online so its tricky with some older styles for fits. For example, leather shorts are so hot right now, but we found them tricky to sell online as they are a style that has to be tried on. But we are learning every week!
Online suits our life right now, with a new baby and my partner has had some health battles the last few years, so it’s important for me to be able to have a flexible work schedule. But like every new business we are currently in our building stage. We spend the time making sure the photos are great (which helps that my fiance is a great photographer), we use good models and source the best product, so the margins aren’t as amazing as some would think. There is also a great deal of behind-the-scenes work such as replying to queries, posting out everything and keeping track of payments etc, but we are in it for the love, so that makes it all worth while.
What are the most popular eras selling through your store right now?
We have better luck selling more on trend styles than “retro”, our customer wants to have a vintage feel but not feel like they are heading to a fancy dress.
To view more vintage visit, Tenspeed and Brownshoes