Apart from being the Live Music Capital, Melbourne is certainly something of an Op-Shop Kingdom, with relics and fabrics of the past stretching before our eyes in sleepy, tasty shop windows, particularly in the inner North. At a time of various ecological and socio-economic recessions, of resources fading away by our own doing, recycling is a powerful sustainability reminder, asking us to be more imaginative with what already is rather than always aspiring for greater consumption.
With this in mind, the Melbourne Critique connected with several iconic vintage stores of the Inner North and, is running a multi-episodic feature on recycling, up-cycling, the ethics around fur and all other vintage matters, view and news. We are breaking the ice by talking with Marisa and Lisa, the dynamic duo behind the Vintage Garage store on Smith Street. The Future is Here. It is Unknown and also Vintage.
Tell us about yourselves, your beginnings and the trajectory that led you to the Vintage Garage as we know it now.
Marisa: I’ve had a long-standing love affair with fashion and vintage. I started hoarding at a young age and the beauty of buying and selling is that it allows you the opportunity to keep feeding the addiction. I took a stall at The Mill Market and started doing all the vintage fairs and markets where I met lots of like-minded people in the community. This gave me the opportunity to talk to people about my dream to start a marketplace with an edge – I carried around a scrap book with floor-plans and ideas for years.
Lisa: My gypsy travels snaked me round the Earth and led me to Melbourne in 2009, and I was ready to settle for a time and sink my teeth into a project. I also loved vintage from a young age, I bought vintage treasures from Glebe Markets at the age of 12, keeping them for when I ‘grow up’ (which I never did) but I did grow into my vintage.
Marisa: I showed Lisa my scrapbook and together we decided to embark on creating a Vintage store; our mission statement was that it would stock the most outrageous and unique things we could find from all over the globe. The Collingwood store has morphed from a 1940s & 50s rock’n’roll reveler to a sparkly disco festival bazaar with all the shiniest shinnies, like the crow’s nest in the sunshine.
Lisa: Since then we have opened a new store in Preston, a huge vintage warehouse that is covered in incredible art.
What are your ethics around fur and your overall view on recycling and up-cycling clothes, footwear and accessories?
Marisa: We both have strong views on the ethics of trading in animal skin of any nature. So, we only buy and sell second hand fur, preferably vintage, but our view is that the animal has already paid the price so, why send it to landfill? We also have a clothing label @shock_rock_ in the pipeline and we plan to work with repurposed leather and we are experimenting with vinyl and vegan leather. 90% of what is sold in-store would typically be pre-loved or dead stock. We also seek out and encourage stockists that specialize in up-cycled products to join us.
Lisa: Sustainability is on everyone’s minds these days and it’s encouraging to see more and more people embracing the old and interesting over the new and often boring, where everything seems to look the same. Unless you buy designer, new clothing has nothing on vintage in the quality department. Vintage often fulfills that part of us that reveres the care, thought and design of a garment that speaks of the artist who made it.
Marisa: It’s always so rewarding to dress the stylish youth who choose to wear vintage to their formals, or a bride that cleverly spends a fraction of the price of a new creation for a pre-loved gown with history.
It is always powerful to see artists and other public figures dressed in op-shop vintage and sharing the message of recycling. You’re a pretty popular destination for the local artists – who have you dressed and who would you like to dress?
Marisa: It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to work with and dress heaps of awesome artists both personally or via stylist collaborations, sometimes the artists don’t need our help but love to play with the insane stuff we’ve sourced. Ella Hooper recently did a piece on festival fashion for Groovin’ the Moo and featured our newest location at our Preston store, I would LOVE to dress Nick Cave.
Lisa: So many Melbourne stars have shone in our clothing like Stefania Ferrario, Client Liaison, Nai Palm, Katy Steele, Sampa the Great, Stella Angelico, Dean Ray, Carla Troiano. We recently kitted out the incredible ‘Sugar Fed Leopards’ and the amazing Skate Odessey crew for their off the planet performances at our recent 1st birthday roller Disco Party at Preston. Collingwood is a melting pot of talent and creative expression and it feels like the most interesting part of it comes and shops with us. It has certainly made the experience of our shop a crazy delicious fun one. I would DIE FOR AN OPPORTUNITY to dress the one and only Style Queen – Grace Jones.
Do you have a message to other collectors and vintage supporters?
Marisa: For the vintage supporters: it is getting harder to find desirable and wearable vintage these days, especially in Australia. We see a fraction of what is available overseas. Gone are the days when you could find fairly priced gems in your local op shops. Our collections are carefully curated; we travel far and wide to bring you a vintage smorgasbord that caters for all tastes at both ends of your budgets.
Lisa: And for the collectors: if you feel it is time to finally part with your treasures feel free to contact us, we often buy quality collections. And if you wanted to join our family of Vintage buyers & sellers and exit the Kingdom of Hoarding, it is a fun community & we do have stalls open up occasionally.