Why I Started Quinby Vintage
If I had to describe my personal style in one sentence, it would be a quote from the late and great Franco Moschino:
Case in point:
I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place where I most definitely stood out.
First of all, I was about a foot taller than everyone else, including the guys. Additionally, I always insisted -- and still do! -- on wearing heels whenever possible.
I was also a bit thicker than most of the other girls my age, my parents were older than everyone else's, I was an only child and therefore didn't have an older sibling's reputation to coast on or a younger one's to protect, and I was just kind of an odd duck. (Again, please see the above photo.)
As much as I wanted to, I knew there was no way I was ever going to be elegant.
So instead, I just focused on doing everything I could to stand out even more than I already did.
My everyday outfits ran the gambit between things that looked like they could have been worn by Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! (or more realistically, a Drag Queen playing the part of Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!) to the clothing of someone who looked like they were constantly one minute away from being placed under a 5250 hold.
I was always overdressed, always over-the-top and theatrical, and always experimenting with new styles and phases (some of these experiments were more successful than others.)
The local thrift stores were the perfect places for me to find things that no one else had, and I definitely loved the thrill of the hunt.
That trend continued through my college years and my 20s, when I became even more infatuated with vintage clothing. Nearly every weekend, I scoured New York City's flea and antique markets, thrift shops, and vintage boutiques, committing myself to finding the wildest possible pieces.
I was able to travel internationally more as my professional life took root, and always set aside a full day for finding pieces by local designers, from different eras of history, and especially traditional Ethno clothing for preservation. These are perhaps the pieces of clothing that are the most important to me.
What interested me the most, and still does, is the unique history and story behind each piece of vintage clothing. I wish we were able to somehow follow a piece through time and experience all the ups and downs it must have seen.
I also became interested in fashion history, and started collecting landmark and definitive pieces from famous designers and collections that caused scandal, made political statements, and shaped the way we dress today.
I see myself as a kind of "custodian" of these vital pieces of clothing, and I love having the chance to share them with other people who can enjoy them as opposed to allowing them to fade into fashion history. These pieces shouldn't spend their lives in a closet -- they were meant to be worn!
People started to ask me if I was "in the industry" more and more frequently when I was out shopping or wearing something weird.
Honestly, I never gave working in the fashion world much thought.
This was mainly because most of my friends already did, and gave me the inside scoop on the realities of the industry -- realities so very different than what's presented in a 200-paged magazine every month.
I was afraid that working in vintage clothing and fashion at large would make me hate it, and would take away the fun of it all.
So, I did what everyone else with no real sense of purpose and deep anxiety about the future does: I went to grad school to get my Master's in Creative Writing.
I spent some time living and researching in Austria, where I was able to travel even more extensively and deepen my understanding of fashion history and cultural representation through clothing.
While researching, I also started to learn more about the horrific human rights abuses and massive environmental impact of the garment industry as a whole.
Every year, each person throws out roughly 70 pounds of clothing.
Additionally, it takes about 713 gallons of water -- about how much one human drinks per year -- to manufacture a single cotton shirt.
Before the heartbreaking Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh, about 71 people were killed every year in either fires or building collapses within the garment industry. (Today, the number is closer to 17 people annually -- still far too many.)
From the devastating consequences of the Triangle Factory Fire to the horrific working conditions of the factories of many popular contemporary brands, the clothes that we choose to wear matter regardless of our interest level in fashion.
Additionally, I started to understand and appreciate the sense of not just nonconformity, but also of outright resistance, within the history of vintage fashion and countless individual pieces of clothing.
From anti-war statements and support of women's and queer liberation movements to anti-racist and anti-fascist slogans and graphics, vintage designers that chose to take a stand in their respective eras seemed to have a sincerity about their beliefs today's designers lack.
The commercialization of politics, body image, and diversity in fashion today comes across as pandering, out-of-touch, and even hilariously ironic more often than not. (In other words, no matter what their ad campaigns might tell you, don't expect today's brands to be joining you in the streets.)
Fashion, when used in the right way, has always been and will continue to be a way to make a statement about far more than just a personal sense of style.
But it's also about expressing our individuality and presenting our views to the public so that we have an easier time finding the kinds of people we'd like to spend our time with.
These are perhaps the biggest reasons why I decided to launch Quinby Vintage.
I want people to be able to express themselves in every way through the clothes they wear. I want people to consider what clothing and designers can teach us about history as a whole, not just fashion history. I also want to find ways to preserve that history, and propel us forward both environmentally and socially.
That's why a portion of the profits from Quinby Vintage's most statement-making pieces will benefit causes that our customers and we as a company care about and believe in.
Quinby Vintage is based around the ideas of excess, preservation, and expression. It's about treating yourself and looking good on a budget. It's about dressing in a way that's authentic to you, no matter the company or occasion.
It's also a chance for me to share the things I love with others, and for that, I am especially grateful.