We have known Ashley for a couple of years now and she is always perfectly dressed in the most most beautiful fabrics and silhouettes. As you can read below she is a natural collector of treasures and has loved hunting for the best vintage finds from an early age. A few years ago she started her own vintage clothing shop Yohara Vintage, and has also been involved in one of our favourite vintage spots Emporium of Wonders. We asked her a few questions on why she loves vintage so much and what the vintage clothing industry is really like.
As Ashley mentions as well, vintage clothing is a great alternative to fast fashion for numerous reasons. Firstly of course because there is so much clothing out there already which would just be burned or sent to landfills if it wasn’t given a second life. But there is also the fact that before fast fashion really started taking off in the late 90’s clothing was made with more quality and care and higher quality materials. We personally also like the originality of vintage clothes and the fact that you are unlikely to see someone else with the same item. We hope this interview offers some inspiration for a more sustainable wardrobe.
First of all, can you tell us about your love for vintage clothing - how did it start and how has it developed/changed over time?
I have been going to vintage shops and markets ever since I got pocket money and was old enough to buy my own clothes. What I like about vintage is that it comes with a story and a certain feeling. I studied art history and for me a beautiful piece of handmade vintage isn’t less interesting than a visual artwork in a museum, it takes a same sort of approach, even though a piece of clothing has a function whereas visual art mostly doesn’t it can both be admired for aesthetic reasons but can also tell you a lot about its maker and a certain era.
Do you have any particular ideology you live by when buying clothes for yourself and for your business?
I’m extremely picky when it comes to choosing items for myself and for the shop. I have a rule and that is that everything that I buy for the shop, I would like to wear myself. My friend always jokes about my particular style saying that I sell vintage for a niche, but really I’d rather sell vintage that is liked by a smaller group of people than by everybody. The world has enough mainstream stores already. I love vintage clothes that have classic, simple and elegant silhouettes and can easily be translated to the contemporary era without losing that certain vintage feel.
photo by Ashley Swagers
Which sustainable practices have you tried to implement in buying and selling vintage clothing - what are some of the challenges you have faced?
I buy vintage clothes made of natural fabrics, linen, wool, cotton, silk, as much as possible. Not only because I think these are the prettiest items, and they are most sustainable and comfortable on the skin, also because buying these fabrics new exhausts the earth’s raw materials and is either very expensive, or cheap and produced under terrible working circumstances. There is also a very big problem with a lot of wool that you’ll find in the new shops: did you ever hear about mulesing? Neither did I until a short while ago. It’s a very painful process that wool sheep undergo in order to keep their wool clean. Also synthetic fabrics, even though they are vintage, give of micro plastic fibers in the washing machine that ultimately end up in the oceans and in our drinking water. I keep these things in mind and try to be conscience about it and act upon it as much as possible and for me this doesn’t feel like a concession. Finding clothes in this manner doesn’t make things less easy or fun, it just takes a different mindset.
Can you tell us something about the vintage clothing industry - how do you source your finds and what is behind the beautiful selections you have made?
I learned a lot about the vintage industry since I started Yohara Vintage about a year ago. Before Yohara Vintage I imagined the vintage industry to be this serene world run by creatives and old souls that sort and pick their vintage by hand with a lot of sense of style. But instead I found it to be a harsh men-run industry where vintage is mostly bought in bulks that go by kilo and category. It was difficult to find wholesales that actually accept small vintage business owners to come by and handpick, luckily I found a small number of great addresses. I sometimes spend an entire day at a wholesale because it takes so much time to find items that I love and suit my concept. But this is no complaining, I always like the buying part, seeing what I can find and putting together a selection. Also some pieces when I find them are a little worn off and in some cases I can look through the damage and see the potential, then it takes a little extra time repairing and it always nice to see a piece coming to life again.
We personally struggle with the fact that we love fashion and nice clothes, but know that the fashion industry causes so much pollution and harm to workers and the environment. How do you feel about fashion as an industry and how do you deal with these difficult questions?My mother always told me that fashion is not what is in trend but what looks good on you. I had a hard time believing this when I was young and desperately wanted babyspice platform shoes but my mother wouldn’t let me have them. But nowadays I see what she meant, and I couldn’t agree more. When you found your own style and you know what looks good on you it’s easier to minimize and avoid hopping from one fashion trend to the other. I think we don’t need as much clothing as we sometimes think we do. For me a perfect closet is one that has beautiful essentials in it, made of natural and sustainable fabrics that last a lifetime. So personally I stay away from fast fashion and I think there are many great alternatives. For instance a lot of beautiful sustainable brands are popping up since people are getting more and more conscience about the polluting fast fashion industry. Next to sustainable brands also of course vintage is such a great solution when it comes to finding timeless fashion pieces. I enjoy going to the fleamarkets to find vintage clothes for myself and sometimes for the shop, also when I go on holidays to France for example I always make a list of all of the marchés aux puces ;)
What are some of the best treasures you have found?
I have little collections at home that consist of all of my favorite vintage items that I have found; I have a collection of beautiful vintage books that include my favorite female writers for example, Maya Angelou and Anaïs Nin. Also I have a little collection of vintage ceramic handmade coffee cups and a collection of very favorite vintage summer dresses and sisal bags. Also recently I’m very much into cotton or linen half collared men shirts, and I’m always very happy when I find these. Most of them are supposed to go the shop but my boyfriend often intercepts these.
You currently sell clothing under the name Yohara Vintage - what are your plans and dreams to develop this platform in the future?
I am currently selling vintage clothes via instagram and Etsy but I am working on a website at the moment. I want to turn Yohara Vintage into a platform where next to vintage clothing you can also find sustainable and fair contemporary fashion – and selfcare brands, interesting books and zines and handmade ceramic objects. This is my plan for the near future and I think my ultimate dream would be to turn this into an actual shop in a space with high ceilings, wooden floors and a lot of daylight where I can also organize events such as readings and small art exhibitions.