Why do we love vintage? “Because you don’t need new shit,” offers Russell Boyle, owner of Brooklyn furnishing mecca RePop. Alternately, it could be that it awakens our inner Iris Apfel (please tell me you’ve seen the film) — intoxicated by the thrill of the hunt and the resulting madcap spoils that set us apart from the retail chain gang. Regardless of the reason behind the passion, it is a commonality that many New Yorkers — specifically, those not content with off-the-rack, anonymous, easily accessible finds — share, whatever their zip code. Sure, it’s always nice to treat yourself to a brand-new, still-in-its-original-dust-bag purchase, but chancing upon the mint-condition 1960s Courrèges minidress of your dreams at a hole-in-the-wall boutique just seems so much more fulfilling. After all, will anything ever beat the rush that comes with scoring an ultra-rare first edition of your favorite book? Or snagging a one-of-a-kind antique mirror from your favorite flea market? Here, a listicle-meets–love letter to secondhand shopping, featuring the five vintage destinations that should be on every curious consumer’s radar:
770 Hart Street
Tucked away on an unassuming residential street in Bushwick, this secondhand bookstore-slash-bar-slash–coffee shop was born from the idea of creating a vibrant social space in which customers could linger. From its hand-painted planters to its seemingly haphazard shelving system, Molasses Books offers an experience not unlike exploring a good friend’s personal library, but with a twist: The hangout has become “an increasingly creative punk scene,” according to owner Matthew Winn. It’s also a literary hub with its own publishing branch. Either way you look at it, it’s just what the neighborhood needed.
252 Knickerbocker Avenue
What do you get when you take two art history majors with a shared penchant for vintage fashion and an oddball affinity for one-hit wonder Q Lazzarus’s 1988 tune “Goodbye Horses”? Why, Chess and the Sphinx, of course. A rifle through the racks at this intimate, intelligently curated women’s clothing and accessories shop — co-owned by Sarah Chess and Erika Perenic — is like a trippy voyage in a fashion time machine. “Our personalities have influenced the design of the space and our inventory,” says Perenic. Gaze upon delicately detailed garments from the 1930s, fast-forward to groovy ’70s prints, then cruise back to nifty ’50s circle skirts and leather jackets, all displayed alongside art from the family homes of Chess and Perenic.
117 Wilson Avenue
Sara Villard and Vashti Windish toured together in garage-punk band K-Holes for years before they opened Worship, a haven for vintage rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts and quirky fashion treasures for both men and women. Windish cites their shared “love of gathering people together to enjoy art, music, and the extraordinary” as the inspiration behind the Brooklyn shop. Worship is warm, welcoming, and surprisingly well organized for a vintage boutique (though in fact, the organization and painstaking displays are what make it a true boutique). We’re talking color-coordination, perfectly placed rows of shoes, and dozens of to-die-for sunglasses arranged just so on tabletops. Not surprising is the distinctive rock ‘n’ roll vibe of the threads, including gorgeous leather jackets and the aforementioned T-shirts. We give Worship extra points because, on most days, Villard’s dog Griffin works the floor as the unofficial ambassador.
143 Roebling Street
RePop owner Russell Boyle, famously quoted at the beginning of this article, founded this eclectic housewares store on a basis of sustainability with the goal of making interiors fun again. To that end, RePop offers doll heads and taxidermy pieces alongside midcentury furniture and art deco lighting fixtures — the majority of which are recycled or refurbished. The lofty space fuses old-world charm with Alice in Wonderland–esque organized chaos: Chairs teeter atop coffee tables on top of dining tables. Also in the magnificent mix are curiosities handpicked by Boyle on his cross-country travels, as well as works by local artists. “Maybe somebody will approach me about opening a bar decorated like RePop. I’d love that,” Boyle muses. Taxidermy and tequila? We’re in.
112 West 17th Street
Stephen and Rachel Cooper opened Pippin Vintage Jewelry on the Lower East Side in 2004, when the now-beyond-trendy neighborhood was the site of a burgeoning vintage scene. The literal and figurative jewel-box gem has since moved to Chelsea, where it retains the on-the-fringes spirit of the original shop: cozy, brimming with colorful baubles, gems, and myriad shiny fashion-crack everywhere you turn. “We look for the rare and unusual but also everyday, wearable vintage,” says Rachel. Much like a treasure hunt, browsing the boutique yields everything from an eighteen-carat Tiffany ring carved with green enamel from the 1920s to micro-mosaic and opal Egyptian revival drop earrings dating back to the 1840s to $8 costume jewelry.
[This is part of the winter 2015 edition of The Seen, a quarterly style supplement by the Village Voice devoted to exploring and sharing the most dynamic elements of New York City’s fashion and design worlds, from the iconic to the as yet undiscovered. Check out the rest of The Seen’s featured stories here.]