At Collectors Anonymous we love showcasing businesses that support and promote the sustainable economy. With the new garment manufacturing industry being the second-biggest consumer of water, generating around 20 percent of the world’s wastewater, releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibres into the ocean annually and being responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions, it's vital that shoppers start seeing vintage and 'new-to-you' clothing as an ethical and joyful alternative to the mainstream and making conscious fashion choices that don't harm people or the planet.
Stephanie King owns the beautiful vintage boutique Painted Bird in Milford on Auckland's North Shore. Painted Bird features a range of genuine vintage clothing from across the decades, along with current on-trend ethically made accessories, offering timeless style that can be incorporated into existing wardrobes.
We got advice from Steph on how to shop and care for vintage clothing (spoiler alert, it involves old pillowcases!), what Slow Fashion Season is and how you can take part!
Hi Steph, what led to you owning a vintage boutique and styling business?
I started a vintage boutique for many reasons. One of the main ones though, is this; the clothes of decades gone by were so often created with careful craftsmanship and fantastic fabrics. Together, they served as a way to teach style and taste between generations. I love that clothes were not just ‘clothes’ on your back. They were pieces of your grandmother's knowledge, your mother’s insights, or your auntie’s flair; as well as possibly being a part of another person's history, lives and loves. To me, all that provenance is important in a piece of clothing.
Everyone should be able to have wonderful clothing that suits them and things that make you smile when you open your wardrobe. Beautiful garments that are within personal budget and reflective of your personal style. As a Sustainable Stylist, I aim to offer my clients ‘the best of the best’ when it comes to unique looks that do not harm our environment.
Most of the trends and new clothes are based on the eras I stock in store. I go to Europe and handpick wearable pieces for my customers and inspect with an ‘eagle eye’ and a stylist’s perspective. I pick from vintage suppliers and even they will say the well is running dry for ‘good’ vintage. I bring only what I believe will sell, so as not to promote landfill or increase the footprint of my business. There are many differences between original vintage and secondhand - one of which is that vintage only increases in value over time and its burgeoning scarcity is a real issue. Twenty years ago this was certainly not the case!
For people who have never shopped vintage before, what advice would you give them?
Be open. I can not stress this enough. You will find things that you enjoy looking at as well as things you would wear. It is a hunt, a challenge and it should be fun! You will need to try things on and they will ‘fit’ you - skimming the sides and providing shape. The loose, blousant nature of a lot of current fashion (for the most part), does absolutely nothing to flatter form or figure. This will be a key difference when shopping for vintage.
Women are the same when it comes to shape and colouring - as we always have been. Numbers on garments are often just numbers and having someone at your disposal to direct you to a piece that will flatter your figure and fit, is an absolute bonus.Vintage is classic style and continually repeats. Wearing vintage can be absolutely ‘current’ when it comes to trends. All the frills, florals, sleeves and hemlines etc. are always similar to those found in original vintage. This is where designers take their cues! My advice is this: don’t think, “Oh, I don’t normally wear vintage, I am not a vintage person”. It isn’t really a particular ‘style’ - I believe it IS ‘style’ and that is why it is continually repeated. I am absolutely confident you will be delighted (and possibly addicted) once you start.
Have you got any handy vintage wardrobe hacks that you can share?
Don’t store anything in plastic! If you have anything dry cleaned or you want your treasured pieces protected - whatever you do, don’t put them/store them in plastic. Besides the odour it will create on the piece, the fabric will not breathe. I take an old cotton pillowcase and cut a hanger hole in the top and use that to cover and protect instead. It helps to keep the shoulders protected in a walk-in wardrobe and guards from light damage. If you don't have an old pillowcase, go secondhand shopping!
Why should people consider shopping 'new to you' rather than new clothing?
I am a maximalist and feel no guilt in having a lot of clothes if they are ‘good’ fashion. Buy as much vintage and secondhand / new-to-you (some are still new!) as you like and hold on to the really good pieces forever. Shopping is a part of our world economy and keeps things turning but, it is WHAT you buy that I feel is a choice that can be adapted.
I believe we have created enough clothing to have a world amnesty on production. Let the designers go back to short runs and exclusive lines. Where designing goes back to art rather than ‘trend’ and fast, fast, fast. If you visit a vintage store, you will see ‘one-off’ pieces as you would have seen in designer ateliers in the past. This is one of the reasons I believe New Zealand’s vintage sellers could think about trying to raise the bar to meet the rest of the world's value proposition. If you visit a secondhand store or charity, you will see they are filled with fast fashion, both new and used. They are a haven for online mistakes, clearouts of store ‘overs’ and a mass of poorly constructed garments. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are ‘gems’ but you really have to ‘kiss’ a few toads to find the prince (or princess) of garments!
You’re taking part in Slow Fashion Season as a Slow Fashion Ambassador. Could you please tell us more about this global movement and how people can take part? What does slow fashion mean to you?
Slow Fashion Season 2020 is an action to incite 25,000 people committing to making only conscious fashion choices from June 21st to September 21st. As our New Zealand Ambassador, I hope to encourage more people to take part in this movement.
Slow Fashion Season aims to raise awareness about the fashion industry and how consumers play a role in it, while providing concrete action that has real impact and brings participants into a community. If 25,000 people participate, we will save the equivalent of up to 750 million litres of water and 2.5 million kilograms of CO2 emissions* - best of all, the fashion industry will begin to take notice.
I love this initiative. I absolutely support any slow fashion movement that promotes making conscious fashion choices. While I have always done it (like a lot of vintage and secondhand wearers) this little ‘ripple for change’ is a commitment of action for a 3 month period. I think this is easy! Having come out of lockdown, there are many people who’ve had what I call ‘lockdown epiphanies’, reflecting on their actual needs. This movement promotes avoiding buying anything newly made. It promotes trading, upcycling or DIY clothing, It supports the purchasing of vintage and secondhand and vintage. The movement suggests supporting sustainable, local, small fashion labels who may be struggling due to COVID-19. This absolutely resonates with my personal view and my store brand. I talk to people every day in the store helping them to make a pledge. I’m also working with a nearby school’s eco students - hoping to ‘be the change’.
My store is also a brand signatory for the 2020 Circular Fashion Pledge - fashion brands committed to a mission to change the industry. I have pledged to provide options to resale, upcycle, repair, donate, or recycle items to give our treasured clothes new life and keep them out of landfill. At Painted Bird we aim to walk the talk, and talk the walk.
What do you love about owning a vintage boutique?
Oh let me count the ways! The glee on my customers' faces when they come into my store which is awash with colour. The camaraderie that anyone who walks in feels; it’s a shop where everyone is your new friend. I love the offering of honest and genuine styling advice to help customers on their way to a new mode of shopping. The conversations around style, construction and fabrics that the store incites. The ‘safe’ haven I have for my customers to try things they have never tried and would never choose for themselves. The discussions about body shapes, colours and dress shapes and how to make it work for the individual. Every day I meet new and wonderful people opening up to the world of vintage and secondhand as their first fashion options, embracing change and the results of having visited my store.
Are you ready to bring more vintage into your wardrobe and reduce your impact on the planet? Click here to visit Painted Bird online or pop in to Stephanie's store at 164 Kitchener Rd, Milford.