By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd
Fashion trends often rotate with the seasons and come in and out of style like clockwork. Mom jeans, bell bottoms, chunky sneakers, bucket hats, hair scrunchies and even neon windbreaker jackets are all back in style. If you ask a vintage collector, however, vintage never goes out of style these days. As consumers learn more about the consequences that industrial fast fashion has on our planet, from the 2,700 gallons of water it takes to produce one cotton t-shirt to the average garment only being worn three to seven times before hitting the landfill, sustainability is a leading reason to shop vintage. The local vintage scene in Pensacola is sprawling, from the colloquial “antique alley” on Navy Boulevard to pop up vintage markets all over downtown Pensacola.
While vintage collectors are constantly tracking down new thrift stores, clothing exchanges, garage sales, estate sales and hidden gems they will take to their hoarder-esque graves, most of their businessnow happens on Instagram. The new vintage scene is influenced by 90s clothing now classified as vintage. Fueled by online shopping and social media, it is constantly driven towards nostalgia, giving clothing, furniture and home goods a second chance at life. Downtown Crowd spoke to some of the veteran vintage shops in Pensacola to learn more about their styles, niches and vintage hoards.
Like a true vintage clothing connoisseur, Van Smith, 34, recalls that her itch for vintage came from adolescence when she needed an outfit for a hippie- themed middle school dance and her sister took her to the now closed store, Years A Go-Go, to buy some bell bottom pants and a tie dye shirt. From that moment on, she was hooked and began to frequent that same vintage shop and gravitate toward late 60s and early 70s psychedelic hippie and disco-era clothing. Smith has always had an eccentric clothing taste, and the clothing she sells is filled with bright colors, funky patterns and plenty of vintage accessories to complete any look. Her business, Saturn Collection, previously had a storefront located inside Miles Antique Mall for four years before Hurricane Sally destroyed the building. Now she primarily sells online on Etsy and offers local pickup from her porch.
“I am drawn towards the particular patterns that came out during the 10-year period from 1963 to 1973,” she explained. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I can
actually tell the difference between a floral pattern from the 2000s and a floral pattern from the 1960s. I don’t have to physically flip through every shirt on the rack anymore. I can just slowly walk down the aisle and look at that sliver of fabric that is in between every single blouse and pull out the vintage material with my eyes.”
Saturn Collection sells everything from vintage denim shorts, leather jackets, 50s and 60s era velvet dresses, to disco jumpsuits, floral and psychedelic pattern dresses and 90s band tees and pins. Van Smith also runs the Pensacola Vintage Collective with Ryan Smith, owner of Obsolete Heat. Together they help coordinate and host vintage clothing markets in
Pensacola to provide locals with a diverse selection of vintage clothing all under one roof. Their next market is on October 9 at Odd Colony.
“I think I’m a bit of a vintage purist in the sense that I don’t want to walk into a mall and purchase a pair of bell bottom jeans off a rack,” she explained. “I would rather wear a pair of the 1940s military dungarees that created the bell bottom style. However, I’m not a purist when it comes to altering vintage. I think that if you buy a garment and it doesn’t fit you right,
you need to go straight to your tailor and get it to fit you correctly. But make sure your tailor is experienced in vintage fabrics because they’re different than modern fabrics. I constantly tell customers that I hope the garment I sell them is its last stop because I hope they wear it until it’s unwearable.”
Smith also explained that sizing is a huge learning curve in shopping vintage because there is no standardization in sizing, and vintage sizes are completely different than modern-day sizes. She laboriously measures every inch of her vintage clothing and each of her orders comes with a tape measurer to use for future orders. She also regularly posts tutorials on how to properly measure clothing instead of measuring your body.
“I really try to move the focus on measuring your favorite piece of clothing right now,” she explained. “If you like how it fits, measure it, and then compare those measurements to another piece of clothing that you’re interested in buying. Because your body is not meant to fit into clothes. Clothes are meant to fit onto you.”
@supertouch _ vintage
For Zachary Keaton, 30, owner of Supertouch Vintage on Navy Boulevard, thrifting and restoring furniture came out of necessity long before it became his passion. He grew up low income in Atlanta, GA helping his grandmother sort through donations at her thrift store and taking first picks of band t-shirts and secondhand clothing. He learned early on about the
sheer amount of waste in the world and began to live by a mend-and-make-do mentality to repair furniture, cars and clothing. In February 2020, he opened his store focused on restoring and repairing Danish modern and midcentury modern furniture back to their vintage
finishing using original manufacturing techniques.
“I started out using all of the wrong techniques at first,” Keaton explained. “Then I learned how to restore furniture properly and moved on to using an air compressor and spray gun like they used back in the 50s and 60s when they made this furniture. Most of the furniture only needs minor repairs for wood chips and scratches. But, if I do a full teardown restoration, I completely chemically strip the piece. Then, I do a color match to the same color that came out of the factory and refinish it with the same lacquer products they used to manufacture it. They used a lot of aerosol lacquers because the furniture is made out of different species of wood
like walnut and birch, so if you stain the entire thing, it will come out multiple colors. You have to color match all the different wood types on a piece.”
Keaton explained that running a vintage furniture restoration store by himself is a non-stop job. He spends a lot of time traveling across the South all the way to Texas and Tennessee to pick pieces, repairing furniture, delivering locally to customers and constantly posting finished pieces online, so his storefront is only open two days a week. Keaton also shares a great deal of his restoration process online through videos posted on social media stories so that customers can actually watch his process and know his work is genuine.
“I would say 70 percent of my business is online through Instagram and my website. I’m constantly shipping furniture to California, New York and South Korea through Instagram. If I post a rare $3,000 piece in my store, it’s going to take a really particular person to walk in here and buy it, but if I post it on Instagram, suddenly people all over the country are looking at it wanting to buy it and have it shipped to them,” he said.
Like many of the vintage clothing sellers that are adamant about fighting fast fashion, Keaton is passionate about restoring vintage furniture to fight the throwaway compressed particle board furniture that is filling up storefronts and landfills. While he can always spot the rare and profitable furniture worthy of 30 hours of his labor to repair and refinish, he’s also passionate about finding solid vintage pieces with little neglect that he can deep clean, touch up and sell for an affordable price.
“It’s important to me to have pieces that everyone can afford, because I didn’t grow up with much money,” Keaton said. “I meet a lot of low-income people in the vintage scene, and they also deserve to have a cool piece of furniture that’s going to last them another 60 years. I
make sure every piece of furniture I sell is professionally cleaned, repaired and ready to last 60+ years, no matter the price I sell it for. I have a console I just sold for $3,500 sitting next to a dresser for $250.”
Although she doesn't identify as a vintage clothing dealer, Nancy Butler, 26, often uses the vintage clothing that nobody wants. Digging through racks and bags of ripped and torn flannels, donated monogram t-shirts that no one will ever buy, or 90s clothing that her friends have kept since their adolescence and outgrown, Butler breathes life back into these garments to keep them out of the landfills. She has been collecting and selling vintage clothing since she was in high school, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the dream for her business, Lemonbright, came to fruition. Butler is a hairstylist at Cobalt Studio and an artist that lives in a Bluebird school bus that she converted into a tiny home and uses as a business base to create and sell her upcycled, handmade clothing.
“I was driving to a thrift store in Macon, GA to buy vintage clothes. It was a three-hour drive, and I was crying because my whole life was flipped upside down,” Butler explained. “My mother had just died, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was driving behind a school bus, and I realized buses are huge and that I could live in one of them. I pulled over to a rest stop and started Googling school bus homes, then I walked outside and saw a converted skoolie in the parking lot. When I finally got to the thrift store, I immediately saw a 1980s Bluebird bus hat sitting on a rack, and I knew it was fate. The bus came from a painful part of my life as a way of grieving and trying to create something sustainable for myself.”
The conversion took a year and half, and Butler learned everything along the way from YouTube University. In late 2019, she made a switch in her business niche and sold off most of her valuable vintage clothing. She taught herself how to sew on YouTube and began cutting apart and creating hybrid upcycled clothing that allowed her to focus on sustainability, creativity, and fighting fast fashion. Lemonbright sells clothing geared toward punk, skater, and streetwear styles with inclusive sizing and fully androgynous aesthetics.
“As a nonbinary person, I wanted all of my clothing to be gender-neutral because I don’t believe clothing or hair styles need to be gendered” she said. “I also design all of my clothing to be worn baggy and oversized to help people feel comfortable in their bodies and gender presentation. Upcycling clothing allows me to actually shop in sizes that don’t fit me and tailor clothing to more inclusive sizes. Clothing is such an individual and personal thing. I think making your own clothes is a big part of queer culture because nothing ever fits your identity off a rack.”
Butler’s clothing uses a combination of 80s and 90s band tees, flannels, and old t-shirts sewn back together with a modern twist. She begins by finding similar sized fabrics and often combines and exchanges up to five elements from different garments. She often finds school sports team or monogram shirts at thrift stores and sews a patch over the nameplate so the garment can be used again by another person. She even creates hair scrunchies out of childhood bed sheets and scrap fabric. You can find her set up at numerous markets around town or shop her Etsy store online.
“The whole meaning of Lemonbright and what I believe in is based on the quote, ‘a life lived for art is never a life wasted.’ There are so many times I could have given up and chosen a different path in life, but this is what I wake up for in the morning and what gives my life meaning,” Butler said.
Garden Street Vintage
The co-owners of Garden Street Vintage, Dallas Wayne, 26, Adam Ynfaante, 28, and Cody Potter, 28, are some of the newest faces in the vintage scene and long-time thrifting companions. The trio began setting up at vintage markets with their individual vintage shops and quickly became good friends. After three years of thrifting together and slinging clothing next to each other at markets, they set out to combine their niche clothing tastes and open the first vintage streetwear boutique in downtown Pensacola. Garden Street Vintage, located at 100 S Jefferson Street, is expected to open within the next month.
“We always had friendly competition running into each other thrifting,” Wayne explained. “But we each have our individual styles. Cody is a total sneaker fanatic and has one of the best Nike collections on the Gulf Coast. Adam and I have similar tastes in wrestling, sports and concert shirts, but he is really knowledgeable about hardcore music like Black Flag. I just love 90s hip hop, which pioneered 90s streetwear and culture. I love that we can sell the authentic vintage styles that modern clothing manufactures are trying to recreate right now. If you walk into a mall, you’ll see most stores are recreating the vintage looks that we are curating for our customers.”
Garden Street Vintage is curating streetwear from the 90s to early Y2K, including hip hop, rap, grunge and hardcore band tees and concert shirts to vintage Levi’s and Guess jeans, sports hats and sneakers. While a majority of their clothing is men’s streetwear, Wayne explained that all of their clothing is unisex, and that there is a growing market for women shopping for baggy style shirts and jeans. In addition to the vintage streetwear, Garden Street Vintage will also stock a small selection of modern streetwear like Supreme, Vape and other skateboard brands that can be hard to find in Pensacola.
The store will also have a hat and sneaker wall with some rare vintage sneakers on display. “Most vintage sneakers are collector’s items only because they will literally disintegrate on your feet,” Wayne explained. “We will have some rare OG Jordan and Nike sneakers on display that were released in 1985 and the early 90s and can’t be touched. But people can come in and see the original leather, fabric and craftsmanship that you can’t usually see in person unless you go to Atlanta, Los Angeles or some of the thrift and vintage capitols. Any of the vintage sneakers with a foam insole will literally crumble in your hands, so the sneakers for sale in the store will be from the 2000s and really help complete the look when styling vintage streetwear.”
The co-owners of Garden Street Vintage also travel around the country to different thrift conventions and have contacts with vintage dealers across the country. Wayne explained that they are excited to build and diversify the vintage scene in Pensacola after being one of the first groups of people to embark on selling both men’s vintage clothing and streetwear here. He said they even dream of hosting a thrift con in Pensacola to bring other big city vintage dealers to this area and show off the bustling vintage scene here.
“We have clientele that want the same clothing that we want, but don’t necessarily know how to get it or what to look for in thrift stores, because it takes a lot of years to build up the knowledge and make sure you’re not just wasting your money,” Wayne said. “We have hand-picked everything for you, so the only thing you have to do is come into the store and pick out your favorite shirt and pair of pants and you’re set.”
Funky Yet Groovy
Marri Salt, 39, recalls thrift-store hopping as a child with her mother and grandmother as a competition to find the best score of the day. The three of them would hold up their vintage picks in the car like treasure out of a chest, and her mother would constantly say, “Oooh, that’s funky yet groovy!” Salt used this memory as the namesake for her shop that focuses on 60s and 70s clothing with bright, bold and funky patterns. She explained that she loves vintage clothing because it stands the test of time and lasts forever. “Vintage can be your friend for life. I have polyester blouses in my closet that I’ve worn since I was 14 years old,” Salt said. Funky Yet Groovy started out in Miles Antique Mall more than two years ago and is now a traveling shop, following Salt along to markets, including the Pensacola Arts Market that she hosts. You can also shop her collection on her Instagram.
Rocket Anyway Vintage
Valorie Taylor, 36, has been thrifting since she was in middle school. After she collected more than 500 vintage dresses by college, she started selling vintage clothing on Etsy in 2011. She has always been drawn toward vintage clothing to create one-of-a-kind outfits and can often be seen sporting cowboy boots, a bolo tie and a variety of vintage Western wear. She actually plans to launch an exclusive vintage Western collection in the fall. Her sister shops, Rocket Anyway Vintage and Vintage on the Rocks, are located in Blue Moon Antique Mall. Taylor describes her style as “eccentric, eclectic and versatile to mix and match eras to make your wardrobe fun and specialized towards your unique personality.” Rocket Anyway Vintage primarily sells 80s and early 90s items but has some items as early as 50s in the shop. Vintage on the Rocks specializes in vintage lounge wear, slips and lingerie.
Hana Frenette, 33, launched her Instagram shop in October 2016 and is addicted to hunting down the perfect vintage picks and digging through bins with zero expectations on what she might find. When she isn’t slinging vintage, she works as a writer and editor. Frenette came into the vintage scene as a loyal customer, shopping from other local vintage businesses before she amassed her own private collection. While she doesn’t have a particular era or style that she curates, she sells a lot of 70s and 90s clothing, and she explained that she is constantly looking for items that will always be in style like silk blouses, good-fitting jeans and a perfectly worn t-shirt. She ships her items to customers online and offers free local delivery. “I really appreciate the sustainable aspect of buying vintage. It feels nice to think about giving new life to old pieces,” Frenette said.
Ryan Smith, 42, is a regular vendor at the 200 South Markets and a co-host of the Pensacola Vintage Collective. His business, Obsolete Heat, specializes in streetwear from the 70s through the 90s like sports and concert t-shirts, hats and outerwear. He also collects local memorabilia like hurricane and unique event shirts, old bar and business shirts and local sports team clothing for customers looking for a hint of nostalgic Pensacola. Smith explained that vintage graphic t-shirts are by far the biggest demand in the vintage scene across the country right now because they’re unisex and fit a wide variety of body shapes. “Everyone has a hint of nostalgia in them and wants to remember some aspect of their
youth, be that a band or a major event. Van, from Saturn Collection, and I founded the Pensacola Vintage Collective because we wanted a space for everyone, including private collectors and vintage clothing from the 1920s all the way to the 1990s,” he said.