During our trip to New York last September we met Liisa. A Finnish-born New York based entrepreneur, street style photographer and founder of Gem, a vintage search tool. Read all about her thoughts and experience on vintage.
What are you wearing?
L: A vintage Etro silk blouse from Omnia Vintage, a second hand Simone Rocha dress from Sell Your Sole in Vancouver, and Marques Almeida shoes. A very girly outfit for me!
Can you describe your style?
L: I hope it is fun and I would be flattered if someone described it as whimsical! I love colors – lately, I have been more into neutral colors like grey and chocolate brown but I will always love a hint of neon color in my outfit. I guess my style is a mix of Lady Diana romantics, granny vibes, and sport casual! I need to be comfortable and dressed up according to the current weather situation. I love Tabi boots, ruffles, ugly sneakers and oversized anything.
What is your relation with fashion?
L: It is complicated! I love to follow fashion and get inspired by new trends but at the same time our current fashion system makes me utterly sad because it is broken and destoying our planet and peoples’ lives. There are too many fashion brands, too many new clothes produced each year. When describing my street style photos I always use the term ‘style’ not ‘fashion’ as fashion is ephemeral but style is timeless. Anything can be stylish but only some things can be fashionable at a given time. That’s why I prefer the concept of ‘style’.
“Nowadays I love shopping vintage and second hand because of the excitement, uniqueness and sustainability. I love checking runway trends and creating my own versions of them by wearing second hand.”
When did your vintage journey begin and what initially made you so drawn to vintage clothing?
L: I have worn second hand all my life, since I was a baby. As a kid my mom would dress me in hand-me-downs from my big sister or our relatives. Then later on I would dress my dolls and teddy bears in my old baby clothes! I also had some of my mother’s old clothes and those I loved most. I loved how the old, nicely worn garment felt on the skin. I was also really proud to have unique clothes that no-one else had. I started thrifting when I was 13-14 years old to get unique pieces for cheap. There weren’t that many clothing stores where we lived and online shopping did not exist so I had to either make my clothes myself, thrift, or take the 4-hour train to Helsinki to get what I wanted. I made a lot of my clothes but at some point I realized I was actually generating quite a bit of waste as not all my DIY projects were so successful haha! So I started thrifting more and haven’t stopped since. Nowadays I love shopping vintage and second hand because of the excitement, uniqueness and sustainability. I love checking runway trends and creating my own versions of them by wearing second hand.
What is the most desirable vintage item you own?
L: Probably any item I have inherited from my grandmother. It is not designer or anything expensive but those pieces money can’t buy. I used to wear a lot of her old pieces when I was a university student in my early 20s.
“We need to take responsibility over our actions and think about the whole life cycle of each garment we buy: a garment does not disappear from the world after you recycle it.”
How do you think the future of vintage fashion will look like?
L: It does not look good if we don’t start to shop better. The current fast fashion will never be vintage. It does not last and I doubt anyone will want to buy it second hand 20 years from now. We need to take responsibility over our actions and think about the whole life cycle of each garment we buy: a garment does not disappear from the world after you recycle it. We also need to take better care of our clothes. Wash less, stop using the dryer, fix and mend, repurpose.
What are the latest vintage trends in NYC?
L: Black 80s and 90s leather coats and blazers, leather pants. vintage lingerie, 90s ankle boots.
Do New Yorkers think about sustainability when shopping slow fashion related garments or vintage?
L: I hope so! Most vintage vendors point that vintage is a sustainable choice in their marketing and there is more and more talk about the catastrophic effects of the fast fashion industry and climate change.
What is your best advice for shopping vintage?
L: Have fun! Follow your own instincts and shop pieces that you instantly love. There is not a right or wrong way of shopping vintage or dressing up.
What vintage item is on your wishlist and why?
L: At the moment I’m hunting for a really wide-legged pair of blue jeans, more 90s than 70s style. I think wide pants elevate any outfit and make an interesting silhouette. I’m also dreaming of some 80s Kenzo flower prints and a pair of Mary McFadden pleated pants to go with a dress from her recently. I love matching outfits and two-piece sets!