Austin’s Vintage Boom: Make Way For A New City Staple
By Andie Salazar –
The fact Austin is dubbed “Live Music Capital of the World” is warranted, but lately, new interests are popping up around town. An increase in vintage clothing and events has those in the fashion industry hoping to put the city on the map for more than just its musical offerings.
It’s no secret fashion has steadily gained attention in Austin the past few years. While events like Tribeza Style Week have been a staple in the city’s culture for nearly a decade, Austin Fashion Week only debuted three years ago and the Style X fashion portion of SXSW was introduced in March 2011. Accompanying this boom in large-scale events–overshadowing it in the minds of some–is the reputation Austin has gained as a treasure-trove of vintage fashion finds.
“I think Austin is unique because there’s so much of it here, so much good quality stuff here,” Theresa Kopecky, the owner and designer of Tess Designs, says of Austin’s vintage selection. “A lot of my friends say, ‘OK, everybody enjoys a good thrift,’ but when they come visit Austin they’re astonished because of the volume, but also the quality you can find.”
Kopecky explains her own line is composed of original designs inspired by vintage patterns and garments, with a focus on including traditional construction details to create a perfect tailored fit that shows off a woman’s body.
Her company represents one of a growing number of vintage-centered vendors based out of Austin. Such businesses, both brick-and-mortar locations and online-only stores have been materializing in multitudes, carefully collecting and curating pieces to sell.
Kopecky believes the surge of interest in vintage is largely due to the artistic character of this particular city, as well as its supportive nature when it comes to local companies. “I think it’s a very artistically rich city,” Kopecky says. “And because on the business side of things they do a lot to help entrepreneurs and it’s a very entrepreneur-friendly city, I think that helps companies spread their wings. I think that’s a big reason why fashion can succeed in Austin.”
Beyond the increasing number of vendors, events specifically intended to showcase vintage fashion in Austin have been cropping up. One of the most prominent among them is the American Icon 29th Street Yard Sale.
Jonathon Galyon, founder of the online vintage store, American Icon, says he created the event in an effort to unite Austin’s dispersed vintage vendors to help promote the local community. The monthly yard sale, held at the Spider House 29th Street Ballroom, always features a lengthy list of hand-selected vendors and musical acts.
He explains the events are intended to help business owners like him, who can’t afford physical stores, reach out to the Austin public in person. Participation in the yard sales has also helped form a community among the vintage vendors. “I’m trying to unite the community together and rise up so we can become a global force,” Gaylon says. “When people think vintage clothing, they will think of Austin, Texas first and foremost,” Galyon says. “And I believe Austin is No. 1 in the United States for vintage clothing, because there’s just so many great boutiques here and so many great people with such a spirit for pursuing a lost style.”
The 29th Street Yard Sale is part of the also-increasing trend of vintage-based events, such as the Fashion Freakout runway show organized by Prototype Vintage Design, and city-wide markets like Le Garage Sale that feature some vintage businesses.
Galyon says a Rock ‘n Roll Mall will take place from March 11-18 at Spiderhouse during this year’s SXSW. It will feature hand-picked vintage vendors from all over the country with hundreds of bands taking part in what he calls an “eight day vintage clothing experience.”
With all of the growth in the vintage community, as well as the increased attention the city has attracted through events like SXSW and Austin City Limits, both Galyon and Kopecky have high hopes for the future of Austin’s fashion industry. Galyon visualizes Austin becoming a cultural mecca that people come from near and far to see. “We’re already known for music as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ maybe we can also be known as the ‘Vintage Clothing Capital of the World,’” he says.