Before the flurry of the holidays, I decided I wanted to work on interviewing more people for my blog. I like sharing stories, whether they are mine or someone else’s, and I want by blog to be educational too, and I see interviews as a way to do that. I decided some of my first new round of interviews would be with local vintage shop owners here in Portland. And to kick off the series, I’m staring with Vanessa of Wanderlust.
When you arrive at Wanderlust, you immediately want to go in, that is if you can take your eyes away from her cute window display, which rotates throughout the year. Warm bright lights and cute script beckon you in and you are welcomed by the ever bubbly Vanessa. When I arrived, Vanessa was in the midst of working on her new window display, a colorful display featuring some of my favorite post-Christmas winter colors, blue and yellow.
Wanderlust started in September of 2010 in a small vintage travel trailer that Vanessa had retrofitted to act as a shop. After about a year and a half Vanessa realized that the trailer, while fun and cute, was just too small, “There was not enough room for people and inventory,” she shared. “There were a lot of different factors,” Vanessa said, when discussing why she wanted to shift to a permanent location, “I wanted to be established in a neighborhood.” And that’s when things began to shift, and Wanderlust found its new home just off of East Burnside in July of 2012. While the shop may be considered small, it packs a punch. The shop isn’t overcrowded and overwhelming, but instead sleek, clean and bright. Vanessa takes careful consideration when selecting the items to fill her store, “there’s a lot of accessible items, either financially or you can get a lot of wear out of,” Vanessa mentioned, when talking about the items in her shop.
Originally from Seattle, Vanessa said, “I’ve been wearing vintage since I was 13,” and after she and her husband moved to Portland, Vanessa starting going to estate sales and collecting more clothing. “I had started selling vintage housewares on-line, but was not selling clothes yet, but I was still wearing a lot of vintage then.” Over time Vanessa realized she wanted to open up a shop, “I wanted to open it in a trailer, I decided on a that after going to food carts here in Portland and I thought that people might want to buy more than food out of a trailer! And when I thought about what to sell, vintage clothing seemed like the thing I knew the most about. I like being surrounded by it. It seemed like the kind of thing I could do and I’d be happy to wake up and go to work everyday.”
One thing that really sets Wanderlust apart from other vintage clothing shops in Portland is the fact that she also includes an array of hand-made items in her shop as well. These additions to the vintage frocks are reflective of Vanessa and her personality. An avid sewer, Vanessa had been making items and selling them at Portland’s Crafty Wonderland, “So when I wanted to open a shop and was like ‘What do I know?’ [hand-made] was something I felt very passionately about. And I think it’s a a good addition to my store because it draws in people. You don’t just have to like vintage to shop at my store and sometimes I introduce to people to vintage who are coming in for the hand-made and viceversa and I think that’s really cool.”
One thing that I love about Vanessa’s shop is that you can see her personality and style come through in the shop. When selecting items to have in her shop, Vanessa says “I try to stay true to my style. I genuinely like everything in my store. I don’t buy things to buy things. I try to stay true to things that I am excited about.” I asked her how she would describe her style and she responded with a smile and “Cotton dresses,” and giggled, “I wear a lot of dresses. I like pastels. I think girly but with a modern sort of style. Like I’m not afraid to put on a pair of skinny jeans or whatever. My business neighbor calls it ‘Aggressively Cute’. I really love the 60s. A lot. Like my big style icon is Pattie Boyd, for sure. But after opening a shop and buying for the shop, my love of the 40s has grown a lot. Like the 40s is my favorite for formal wear. But the 60s is my day wear. I mean, the early 60s to late 60s, I love it all. I’m not afraid of a good double knit polyester. But I really do love all of the decades, and I have stuff that I wear regularly from the 30s up.”
I asked Vanessa what she likes most about owning and operating a vintage shop, and she responded with “Being surrounded by beautiful things everyday,” as she looked around her store, “I love that different kinds of people come in, I have new things coming in. I love that it’s different all the time. It keeps me motivated.” Vanessa’s hands continued to work on her brightly colored banner and added, “And being my own boss,” with a smile.
What draws people to vintage can be different for each person, but Vanessa loves all aspects of vintage, “I like how well made [the clothes] are. The quality. The prints. The fit.” But she also added the touching notion of “I like the idea of bringing something back to life. I like the idea that it had a whole other life before me. I like to think about who owned items before me. I also love knowing the story behind some of the garments. Like I’ve bought from the original owner or the daughter and maybe they have a picture of them in it.”
Wanderlust isn’t just for those in Portland, as she sells on Etsy as well, “I think Etsy is a fun part of my business, but I don’t utilize it as much, but that’s something I want to change in 2014, because I do get people inquiring about items that I have posted on-line, so it’s a nice way to offer items to people who don’t live in Portland.” Vanessa is an avid Instagramer too, “I use Instagram in a big way to let people know what’s new in my shop.” And it’s true! The first time I popped into Wanderlust was because she posted a spectacular purse on Instragram!
Before leaving, I had to take a turn about the store to see if there was anything I couldn’t live without, and smiled with delight as I laid my eyes upon a jackalope brooch from among some of the hand-made items. I’m sure you’ll see him in the near future!
Thank you, Vanessa for your time! For those of you in Portland, please visit Wanderlust! Not in Portland? Please check out the links below!