These Vintage Collectors Are Putting Today's Fast-Fashion Epidemic To Shame


It's a word now used as a phrase in its own right, or a qualifier for something done over and over again. Tom Brady winning Superbowls: vintage. The Kardashians bringing the world to a stand still with an Instagram post: vintage. The President tweeting about "crooked Hillary:" vintage. My use of popular culture to explain a word: vintage.

There are those however, for whom the word vintage means so much more. A vintage coat, owned by their great-grandmother in the 1900s and handed down because it was designed by John Redfern, or a Chanel bag, crafted in the same halls the illustrious designer once walked. Vintage, in these cases, is synonymous with special, unique, and means that whatever it is - earrings, a hat, or a coat - it has a story.

It's the history of the pieces that's fascinating. Knowing they weren't manufactured in a warehouse in India and sold at 5,000 outlets throughout the world means a lot in 2018. Fast fashion - the Zaras, H&Ms and Primarks of the world - all contribute to a dulling of identity, and a veritable nullification of uniqueness. The vintage revolution is here to abate such a crisis.

We recently stopped by a vintage trunk show at the Javits Center here in New York and met some women who shared tales of their journeys in the world of vintage: from the lengths they had gone to get a piece, to the stories they had heard from miscellaneous worldly clients. Their determination to keep their collections inspired and relevant was flooring. Each woman had her own specialty, be it Victorian jewelry or army bomber jackets from WWII, each, of course, as different as the other. Below, we chatted with 5 women in the vintage industry about what differentiates them from the fashion of today, and how for many, what once started as a passion project, became a full-time job.

Yardena Lulu of NY Lulu Vintage

Yardena Lulu

Yardena Lulu has been in the business of vintage for 17 years. Travelling city to city to collect and present at vintage trunk shows, she's the longest running of the collectors here, and specializes in the "eclectic, wild and special." Her collection spans all the way back to the 19th century, but it is fittingly the colorful, hippy 60's that is her favorite era. “I love it all, but love the 60's with all the colors and fun clothing," Lulu explains. Given her years on the scene, she recounts meeting some incredible people, whether they were buying from, or selling to her. She reminisces about the story of a woman she encountered on her hunts, who in 1964, personally brought a suit to Coco Chanel to get it tailored.

A worrying trend within the industry, Lulu recognizes however is the proclivity to buy cheap or inauthentic vintage from overseas. Given her experience in the industry, Yardena is quick to notice a fake vintage. “I have good instincts. When I see something that is fabulous, I know it's fabulous. When I find something that's a museum piece, I still get so excited." As for the more nefarious copies from overseas, she had this to say; “I absolutely get upset when I see that, the workmanship is so poor and it takes away from our industry with this cheap approach."

A Chanel suit from Lulu's collection

Vanessa Samet of Vanessa's Vintage

Vanessa Samet first discovered her love for vintage while playing with her grandmother as a child. "She [Samet's grandmother] would pull out her pieces and talk about each one - where she got it, who gave it to her, and where she would wear it," Samet recalls fondly. "I've always loved the decorative arts, because form has to follow function. I guess vintage jewelry is just an extension of that. I love the history and stories behind each piece."

Vanessa Samet

Since then, she has grown very fond of jewelry made in the 20's and 30's. "In the early 1920's, after the discovery of King Tut's tomb, jewelry and fashion reflected Egypto-mania," she explains. "I love old pieces that were designed in that style with the scarabs and turquoise, and then the revival in the 1960's, after the movie Cleopatra came out with Elizabeth Taylor."

And speaking of powerful women, we questioned Samet about female dominance in this niche industry. As we walked the aisles of the trunk show, it was eminently clear who the bosses were in this town, and it wasn't men. Of the female heavy percentage in the field, Samet believed it was especially prevalent in jewelry, because it was originally purposed to adorn, or decorate women, and the majority of it was female-focused. She also offers the idea that women, by nature are the more nostalgic creatures. "Perhaps it has to do with the fact that vintage is fashion combined with nostalgia," Samet comments. "I know when I was with my grandmother and we would talk about her jewelry, I felt like I was celebrating her life experiences as a woman."

"Vintage is fashion combined with nostalgia."

-Vanessa Samet

Lindsay Risk of Risk Gallery & Boutique

Lindsay Risk's journey into vintage collecting is incredibly moving. "Growing up as a child, my mom was a model and she was married four times," says Risk, the owner of a 2-year-old vintage boutique in Brooklyn. "Sometimes we would shop at Bergdorf Goodman, sometimes it was Salvation Army. I learned how to dig for treasures on any budget."

Risk's proclivities for the colorful (as captured in the picture of her store below), are symbiotic with her passion for the 1960's 'Peacock Era.' "Men were also able to show off their interest in fashion," she remarks of the time that became synonymous with psychedelic suits and bold male fashion statements, setting the tone for the next decade in menswear.

Risk's aesthetic, she summarizes, aims to be "an adult playground - a whimsical, unique, vintage experience as well as an art gallery." Through her store you have access to both her curation of vintage pieces, and her impressive artwork, so inevitably, if you have the time, stopping by the boutique is well worth a trip.

Muneca Mullins of Muneca Mullins Studios

For this young vintage collector, what began as emotional hoarding, ended up creating a lifestyle and business for herself that surpassed her expectations. Mullins, whose passion for vintage arose out of a culmination of creativity and being self-professedly broke, also believes women become involved with vintage because of nostalgia. “They'll hold onto certain pieces that are from certain highlights of their life," she says. "Think about it, how many women do you know that kept their wedding dresses? How many dudes do you know kept their tux?"

Mullins, who operates out of a studio in New Jersey, began spreading the word of her business through Instagram. She quickly discovered that inviting this new wave of influencers to her shop for a shoot adorned in vintage clothing, would create a buzz, and indeed it did. "I believe my success comes with being able to combine multiple time periods with a modern flare," says Mullins. "I take the time to help the customer to understand how to style vintage pieces in their everyday world."

Muneca Mullins

Mullins's collection is more modern leaning than the rest of the ladies here, with bashful 90s gear adorning her clothes rails, coupled with some older pieces she really had to work to acquire. Speaking to us at the show, she recounts an incident whereby she had tracked down a WWII fighter pilot's bomber jacket, only to find the owner quite reluctant to give it away without a struggle. Mullins however persisted and the jacket hangs in her collection now, a cool $600. She explains that while the price tags might deter some folks from buying, it's these struggles for acquisition and the uniqueness of the pieces that make its worth. "It's really my job to explain the history and the great quality of my vintage," she says. "I make sure they understand the investment they are making."

Lara Kornbluh of Icon Style

Kornbluh's background in metalsmithing makes her eye for vintage delicacies an enviable one. She is currently the owner of Icon style, a boutique on the Upper West Side.

“As a teen in the 80's, I didn't see things I liked in regular stores," remarks the collector. “I felt much more connected to things from the past - their craftsmanship, design, and fabrics seemed so much more interesting to me than anything I would find at the mall. I felt they were little pieces of history." And that they were. Upon meeting her, she introduced us to some of the pieces captured below. The Victorian brooch dates back to the 1860s, during which time, as a symbol of mourning, one would capture a piece of their loved ones hair in a locket or brooch.

“As an adult, one of my favorite parts of vintage is the green aspect. In truth, we do not need to produce anything. It already exists, and we just need to reclaim, preserve, and enjoy it." -Lara Kornbluh

Kornbluh, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years, is positively enamored by this type of jewelry. "Loaded with fascinating symbolism and unique techniques and materials, I could write for days about this topic," she says. "I have always loved and collected hair work jewelry (it should be noted it is not always mourning jewelry, it can also commemorate an occasion with a loved one). When I think of these memorial pieces, I think of a time where photographs of loved ones were not readily available and these beautifully braided and woven pieces, were a way to have a piece of your loved one with you...in remembrance."

Can a relationship 'gram really equate to this level of intimacy? I think not.

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.