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Vintage Style in the Steel City

By Amanda Myers, Point Park News Service

Inside of Clothes Minded, a thrift shop in Bloomfield. Photo by Amanda Myers.

The racks of Avalon Exchange in Squirrel Hill are filled with vintage and prime second-hand clothes and young people looking for the best finds.

In recent years, younger demographics are buying older, vintage clothing, showing a shift in culture and consumerism. The definition of vintage varies, but it is most often a piece that represents an identifiable era. The Steel City is interpreting these time periods while adjusting for the increased need for vintage in their own way.

“There are so many options for people who love vintage, like I do, within our area,” said Alyssa Waldron, a student at Point Park University.

Waldron is one of the many young people who have turned to the niche area for its price and the number of unique items that can be found — and there’s a reason. ThredUp, an online second-hand clothes retailer, releases an annual resale report each year. Data from 2017 shows “millennials are 2.4 times more likely to be motivated by eco-conscious factors while shopping.”

There are about 15 vintage shops spread out across the area accessible by short commutes. The convenience and range of pieces, in value and style, are key components for the city’s continued success in the market.

Scott Johnson opened Three Rivers Vintage on the South Side in 2014 and said the area is a prime reason for his growing revenue.

“Our store needs to survive in a walking community where people don’t need to travel far,” Johnson said. “The South Side is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.”

While the online vintage market has obtained quite the following, it doesn’t beat the experience of “the hunt,” a term used to describe thrifting. Kate Colussy also owns Highway Robbery Vintage in the South Side and has come across customers of both buying options.

“Some people come in with a list or an agenda of what they want, but the hunt is a big part of thrifting and creating a vintage-inspired wardrobe,” she said.

Depending on what store you wander into, you are going to find an inventory based on seasonal and specific styles. Josh Fedorski owns Clothes Minded, a thrift shop in Bloomfield, that has an array of affordable clothes and accessories from multiple eras, straying from a specific type of shop was intentional.

Racks of vintage clothing at Clothes Minded. Photo by Amanda Myers.

“We wanted to offer a more diverse selection than what was currently available in the city and follow our passion for uniqueness in multiple genres of fashion,” he said. “We didn’t want to connect with only one small demographic.”

While locally owned shops and their inventory say a lot about the rise in vintage fashion, city-wide events honoring the interest show a larger scope. For example, the Neighborhood Flea is an organization that offers a curated shopping experience with vendors selling their collections in an urban setting. Their 2018 flea season kicks off this month with Vintage Pittsburgh, the sixth annual retro fair.

Morgan McCoy is a communications manager for the Fair and a junior public relations and advertising major at Point Park. She previously interned for the organization and has vendor experience.

McCoy started vending with her boyfriend in 2015 under the name Posthumous Clothing. They were inspired by Urban Outfitters and the appeal of sustainable fashion to make a profit while following a passion.

“We focus on basics that could be worn every day and still have integrity despite their age,” she said.

What she loves most about the process is seeing the life an article of clothing takes on when worn by different people. “When people try items on in our booth it’s so fun to see the character they bring to the garment,” McCoy said.

It’s not difficult to develop your character with the many vendors at Vintage Pittsburgh. Those who attended the event on March 24 at the Heinz History Center, had over 40 vendors to choose from with onsite food trucks and bakers available.

Vendors at the event were mainly local with shops or some sort of online presence. Local standouts included Three Pigs Vintage, an artsier store that mainly operates online by selling vintage items as well as their own label and Rather Ripped Records that sells used vinyl, furniture and decor provide diversity to the event.

Each year the vendor fair is accompanied by a historical exhibit to emphasize the tradition of Pittsburgh. This year, items sourced from surrounding areas told the story of the prohibition era.

After the Vintage Pittsburgh fair, things start to heat up come summer when Second Sundays takeover the Strip District. Every second Sunday of the month, from May to October, vendors and vintage vagabonds are reunited to continue the process once more.

McCoy said that these events aim to create a sense of community. Human connection is essential for business, especially with the exchange of personal pieces.

“We want people to find pieces that are great conversation starters and get to know the vendors,” McCoy said.

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