October 25, 2012

The Hunt for Vintage October

I twirled and laughed through the street last spring after striking a barter at my new favorite vintage store. I had scored two fabulous handbags and another great sundress, and could not wait to continue sifting through the countless treasures for many seasons to come.

Despite some September rain, I forged ahead to regain my "haggle high" in the winding corridors of the tacky secondhand shop simply called "VINTAGE." My creative sense of direction guided me down the street I was so sure had been my point of celebration a few months before...and I walked around for another 45 minutes up and down the side streets to no avail. I blamed the limitations of my inner compass, gave up, and hopped onto the train home. On a drier day, I would rediscover my gold mine.

That sunny day finally came, and I racked my brain for image recollection and insisted upon retracing my steps from the rainy day. I knew it was this same street. I remembered the widened area that opened to bike racks and cafes. I remembered the corner shop, the tan walls, the large lettering shouting promises only a thrifter understands...I was standing right in front of it. I had had the right street all along. I had missed it on the rainy day. How?

It was gone. The building was still there, but all the signs were down, and strewn about the empty inside, just waiting for the next renter to come in and clean it up. I slightly believe they went out of business because of their willingness to bargain, so I now publicly take 5 euros worth of the responsibility. I am so sorry.

But there is always a new day in Paris, and after some ridiculous Google homework, I compiled a new list of hopefuls. I didn't even necessarily plan on buying anything; it was more of a quest to interview potential vintage hosts for the shopping moments that always eventually pop up. I ended up feeling like one of those secret shoppers because I kept writing all these notes about each store so I wouldn't mix them up.

Today I sought out 8 shops generally in the same chunk of Paris on the Right Bank. I have another round waiting for me in the Montmartre district, but I am fairly certain those stores will be very dirty and messy. I need to really be in the mood for that kind of "adventure." Only one of the stores didn't seem to exist (unless it really was behind the creepy curtains at the address, and in that case, they can keep to themselves), so finding seven new stores was exciting and fun, especially since it was not raining.

I ask myself 4 questions at every store. (I've been doing this since I was 16.)

1. Wearability: would most people wear these clothes?
I hate "Hippie Markets," and I hate sorting through costumes. Is there a rack of dark colored jackets? Rows of boots and heels? A collection of neutral-tone purses? Any place with wigs is code for "leave right now."

2. Accessibility: did the owner organize the arrangement?
I'm okay with a few dig-in bins. But when the whole store is one giant cave of unfolded clothing, I panic and end up at H&M again to simply enjoy hangers. If the workers hang up most of the clothes in some kind of theme (color, size, style, item, whatever), it is a workable location for me.

3. Affordability: are most of the items under 20 euros?
I shamelessly check price tags and remain completely expressionless as if I have a thousand euro note waiting to jump out of my wallet. But what I'm really looking for is some price baselines that I've discovered to be decent deals in Paris, like 10 euro dresses, 5 euro accessories, 20 euro coats, etc.

4. Popularity: Who else is shopping/working here?
The worker at Omaya Vintage was a gal with a neon blue mohawk. This is actually a good thing. Then some hipsters strolled in, and confirmed that Omaya is a super cool place to be. At Vintage Desire, it was very crowded, everyone was under 30, and all of them definitely own a mirror that they use to put themselves together each morning.

Maybe I should be secret shopper for real.

Two out of the seven stores fit my bill, listed above, Omaya Vintage and Vintage Desire. Neither of these places stole my heart like the shop that shut down, but they will help fill the void until the right one comes along. The other five shops can be broken down like this: 2 were higher prices for the same used items, and the other 3 were INSANELY expensive because they had legitimately "gently used" clothing from the likes of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and so forth. One place had designer clothes from the 1960s, so I treated that one more like a museum than a store.

To complete my vintage rebound, I snagged an icy blue winter coat and scarf for 15 euros from Vintage Desire on rue des Rosiers in the Jewish Quarter.

Speaking of rebounds, have any of you seen the new Taylor Swift music video? "Begin Again" is another one of her frothy romance songs, but it works for me because it was filmed entirely on location in...Paris. I'm still deciding about her new album (how many times can you tell the same story?), but we can at least enjoy the backdrop. If you are anti-Swifty, just mute the thing and watch, because it really is as beautiful as it appears. Actually, it's usually more beautiful, but they did a pretty good job.

Pet peeve: when people wear brand new "vintage" clothing as their signature style. I promise TSwift did not come shopping with me today.

I'll let y'all know how the second round of shop search goes in November.