I met Kristin Irine through Twitter and we instantly bonded over our love of Jersey Shore and clothing. Okay, maybe not the clothes they wore in the show but y’all get the point. Le Saispas Vintage is an Etsy shop with refreshingly priced vintage items. While Kristin promised to do this interview after knocking back a few margaritas a la Snooki I can’t promise any levels of sobriety.
1980s strapless floral dress
Tell us about how you got started selling vintage clothing.
Well, I’m 42 so thrifting and vintage clothing have been huge to me (and the bulk of my friends my age) for a loooooong time! I first seriously got into buying & wearing vintage in 1985, but started wearing 60’s clothing of my mom and aunt’s after seeing Peter Pan collars and pedal pushers in Archie Comics. I was ridiculed, but whatever. Cool hipsters, older than me in 1985, in local punk bands in Memphis were already wearing vintage, so I copied them. Back then you could go to an Amvets and regularly find 40’s gabardine suits or rayon print dresses for $2. No, I’m not exaggerating!
I started selling myself when I was hired in 1991 to work for The Wasteland in Berkeley, California. I moved to Oakland when I graduated from the University of TN and came with an already stellar vintage wardrobe and a particularly encyclopedic knowledge of 60’s-70’s clothing. Most of the women there were 40’s-50’s vintage experts, but a few of us weirdos were way into the crazier styles simply because we were odd-looking art students, more than likely!
When eBay started for me around 1997, I started buying more designer vintage (esp. Alley Cat by Betsey Johnson and Sonia Rykiel, both of whom I still collect) and selling too. I basically stopped thrifting a lot after 2000 when I moved to Portland and really threw myself into my career as a social worker/therapist. I’d thrift for me, but not to resell. That all changed this past April when I knew I needed some more $$$ and learned of what I call “hidden thrifts” that I can stock up on 80’s & 90’s gear that seems to be so popular now. I find it hard to see those eras as true vintage–esp. the 90’s–but I’m not averse to making money!
1980s saddle oxfords
What’s the fashion scene like in Memphis and what are the big trends there?
I love my hometown (just moved back in 2008) and hate to disparage in any way, but Memphis is about 10 years behind everywhere else. OK, maybe 5 years. Since thrifts often get picked over by vintage sellers, the normally hypercreative dressers (young, relatively poor college kids) don’t have a cheap resource to experiment with style. I suppose this sad truth is happening everywhere. I’m not one of those people who thinks that tossing together some cheap skirt some secretary wore in 1982 with a chambray work shirt and some oversized 1982 glasses frames speaks to possessing loads of style (see that young Tavi blogger for a reference). I feel for the kids of today. Vintage is so overpriced these days that fewer people can afford to experiment with style at the age when they can most afford to do so.
To make a long story short, Memphis is a mostly poor city and the thrifts are picked over. Even the shops with new clothes are basically boring chains for the most part. I’m hoping that even having an Urban Outfitters sometime soon can help light a spark with kids here…as sad as that is.
Mid-century modern cat pin
It seems like almost everyone is wearing some form of vintage, be it a complete look or just a piece of jewelry. How has the vintage “industry” changed since you first started out?
See above for some of this answer. I’d say the explosion in etsy vintage and ebay shops has created a craze for it. I’m hopeful that those who know and do best with reselling vintage will end up surviving and some that don’t even try that hard to get it end up failing and trying their hand at something else! I’m also really wishing there was not such a trend to overprice vintage. I saw a stellar Cavalli jumpsuit in a Nashville etsy vintage shop that was deadstock and yes, gorgeous. But she had it priced for $3600! WHAT???? People can buy a damn car for that. Ludicrous.
1970s bicycle espadrilles
What are your future plans for Le Saispas Vintage?
Well, I’m currently saving to buy a good dress form so I can shoot better shots of the cool non-shoe and accessory clothing I have boxes and boxes of just waiting for the site! I’m doing it on hangers now and it’s hideous, but I gotta list it so I’m not earning what I should on some of it. I plan to hit 100 items in the shop and keep it at that level. I also plan to keep my prices FAIR and appropriate. I’m refusing to get into that gross habit of selling what my boss at The Wasteland called “Mall Fabric” rompers for $50. When I see that I totally shake my head. It was crap when it was new and it’s still crap. Stop trying to make kids believe they look cool in some sage-colored poly/rayon romper with gold plastic buttons. And if you insist on helping kids look bad, sell it to them cheap.
1980s safari jumper
Define southern style.
Depends on the season and the area. The South is only a singular thing in a very few ways. Memphis style differs from NOLA style, but both NOLA and Memphis are more similar to each other than either is to Atlanta or Nashville. There is an appreciation overall in utility and function, especially in the ridiculously hot summer months. People stereotype Southern Style as over-the-top and frilly; while there is certainly that element, every Southern type knows how to layer better than anyone, even those Pacific Northwesterners. We also understand how to wear attractive hats and scarves/headwraps better than any other US woman and this is a direct result of needing these things to block sun and protect hair from humidity. I’d say Southern Girls wear the casual look better than any other US girl, hands down. We could probably take lessons from out grandmoms though b/c there are too many slobs running around these days, myself included!
If your wardrobe could use a dash of fun pay Le Saispas a visit on Etsy. Also be sure to check out her $3 sale section! It doesn’t get much cheaper than that.
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