Photo Credit: Deondre @dresgallery
She looked at me said said “Kizzy, your current clientele, isn’t your clientele. You don’t change your price, you change your clients.” – JUNE AMBROSE to KIZZY EVAE
Modern Stitches: Where did your vintage fashion journey begin?
Kurated: As a kid growing up, in the South, I can remember as far back as my first memories, my first item of collecting, I was 7. I grew up in a church, and my grandmother sat on the deaconess board, the rainbow tea board, all these things, so I was always around the older women in church. And when you do stuff for them, as a young kid, they would give you stuff. They would give me gloves, they would give me hats, they would give me shirts – and they’d be like “Oh, you can’t wear the shirt now, but you’ll grow into it.” When I look back on it now…growing up you really don’t know that you’re poor, but for me, I was like “Dag, we poor.”, but we had a lot of love. Because we didn’t have a lot of money, we all had trunks. Every season, you had to get rid of the stuff in your trunk to prepare for next season. My cousins would keep their toys, and get rid of clothes, and I wouldn’t do that. I would get rid of all my toys. All of the items that I had got from church. Fast forward to 2013, I was government contracting, and the contract was over, I was looking for a job and I hadn’t found one; I was unemployed for maybe about 8/9 months at the time. One of my sisters (there were 4 of us) were like “Well, why don’t you sell some of that stuff that you got?” I said “What stuff?” “The stuff in your storage.” I was like (in a snooty tone) “I’m not selling that!” And she was like “Kizzy, you can’t wear it!” I said “Yeah, I can’t wear it, but that’s my personal collection. I’m not selling it.” And it dawned on me then, that I had literally been carrying around items from me being 7 years old…and I will be 40 in January. So, I have a personal collection, that is somewhat very difficult for me to part with because all of the people that I got those items from are deceased. There’s a lot of sentimental ties to certain things, but I am slowly learning that if I cannot enjoy the beauty of the item that I do need to let it go because there are people, true vintage lovers, that are going to actually give the piece a new home. My Great Aunt, who is really my mom’s first cousins, was our family historian. She’s a socialite, very debonair, AKA, Spellmanite, and she was a historian. With that, every summer I would go be with her. And, she was a photographer, so I learned so much from her. My love of history came from her. Learning the history of certain seamstress, and dressmakers in the South came from her and my mom, because my mom is a seamstress. So a lot of it was really natural, but I never even saw it until 2013, until I was put into a situation where I had to make some money. And I did. I went and looked at my storage, and I was like “Ok…I can get rid of this, I can get rid of this,” and did a pop-up shop. I did really, really well at the pop up shop. And from that, I was like “Oh! Maybe I could do this!” My sister said “You could be a personal stylist!”, but I don’t consider myself a personal stylist. I don’t consider myself a stylist period. Can I style? Absolutely. When you think curation, and in the [godly] term of it, you’re curating art, or history. And for me, I feel like I am curating that when I do the things that I do. Not only am I looking at the historical aspect of the garment, and the designer, or the house that it came from, or the seamstress, or the dressmaker, there’s also the history with the textiles. A lot of the natural fibers are not being used anymore. Everything is mass produced. I can get some Balmain today, but I can walk into a party, and 2 or 3 other people can have the same exact item on. But if I have Balmain from 1950, guess what? I don’t have to risk the chance of walking in somewhere with someone having the same exact item that I have on.
MS: Leading into that, what’s the difference, in your opinion, between thrift vintage, and shopping for quality vintage? Which one is your favorite?
K: It depends. I have been thrifting for a very long time. I thrift for my sisters. I do it all the time! I had a conversation with someone the other day and they said “So you did trunk before trunk was a thing?” I’ve been sending my sisters boxes every month, for as long as I can remember. And that’s why they always say “You’re a stylist.”, because when I look at my sisters, we’re all completely different. I’m very classy, and because of my build, I wear thing that are very form fitting.
MS: *interjecting* So you guys have a very good mixture!
K: Absolutely! Monthly, when you’re putting together boxes for that, it’s really easy to get a collection together. So like I said, I’ve been thrifting for quite some time, and I tell people: You can find vintage in thrift, but you’ll never find thrift in vintage. I’ve gone to thrift stores and got some amazing pieces – Valentino, Christian Dior, I get it all the time…but you’re not going to find – for example, if you look into my collection — thrift in there.
MS: What do you think is your favorite? Thrift, or classic vintage shopping?
K: For my clients, vintage. For myself, thrift. Because of my size, because of my hips, it’s really hard to find those classic pieces that would actually fit me. And if I do, I would have to get them put together. Or maybe get someone to put something in the back, add some more material… But I also look at that too when I tell people you get quality pieces, spending the money to get it customized to you is just only what you do. When you think about it, that’s what they did back in the day. I literally have these conversations with the older generations back home, and they dress up. Still, to this day, I know older women who get dressed up to go to the grocery store because it’s your presentation. My grandmother use to always tell me that when you walk out of the house, not only are you representing yourself, but you’re representing our entire family. So, your appearance is important. Your hair needs to be combed, you need to be pulled together. You can’t be looking a mess!
Photo Credit: Deondre @dresgallery
MS: So, do you think there is a shift in representation in the generation?
K: Absolutely. I do it now – I’ll run to the store with whatever on, instead of actually thinking that I need to pull myself together.
MS: Do you think that thrifting is a fad? Or, do you think it’s here to stay?
K: I don’t think that thrifting is a fad, I think that thrifting is here to stay. What I think is a fad, is all these pop up vintage dealers. Everybody is considering themselves a vintage dealer now. All on Instagram, you see it everywhere. There’s a difference between thrift, vintage and retro, and to take it a step further, there’s a difference between thrift, vintage, retro. There are people that are reproducing pieces that have the same look and feel on an actual vintage item.
MS: Would you consider the Gucci Fall 2017 collection reproducing?
K: Yes, that’s a reproduction. A lot of people say vintage is 20 years or older, which is true, but when you’re in the business, vintage is from the 70s, back. Retro is 80s and 90s. The fishnets, the color blocking – I don’t consider that to be vintage, but that’s just me. I don’t specialize in retro. Do I have some retro garments? Absolutely, I do, because I have clients that want retro, but it’s not a part of my overall collection.
MS: So most of your collection is which decade?
K: Most of my collection ranges from 1880s to 1970s. Some of my favorite pieces are the late 1800s, early 1900s. The attention to detail, the daintiness of it, the Edwardian, and the lace, the cotton, and seeing all of the difference you can do with it.
Photo Credit: Deondre @dresgallery
MS: What’s worth the money? How do you know when something is worth paying a little bit more for, or just the thrift prices?
K: The designer and the stitch. When I go thrifting, I look at the stitching, the feel of the material, whether or not it’s a natural fiber. For a regular shopper, I suggest to turn the item inside out. Look at the stitching, look at the seams. Are they even? Does it look tight and knit? Wearability? If I’m going thrifting, I’m willing to spend $30 on an item, if I’m able to get a lot of wear out if it. If I’m not, I’m not spending $30 on it.
MS: What about accessories and things like that?
K: You can find some amazing accessories at thrift stores too. The market is so saturated right now. They take all the good pieces out the store and put them online now. You can find Chrsitian Dior, some Monet pieces; they’ve gotten really savvy. Even to the vintage broaches, it’s really hard to find true vintage broaches, and if you do, they want $15, $20 for them, as opposed to when you were used to be able to get them for $3. There were people who were into it before, but now, everybody is there, and it makes it really, really hard.
MS: Do you think vintage dealers should lower their prices?
K: No. You don’t want to offend anyone, but it’s the reality of it all. June Ambrose told me during the Black History Month celebration photo op, “If you stay here every time they change the person to take the photo, I’ll come over here and talk to you.” For an hour and a half, I stood there. I asked her, “As a vintage dealer, what do I do when I know what I have, but the price point is a higher price point, and my current clientele wants a discount?” She looked at me said said “Kizzy, your current clientele, isn’t your clientele. You don’t change your price, you change your clients.”
MS: How often do you shop for your garments?
K: There was a time when I was still hitting up the thrift stores for stuff. I would go on Wednesdays, and shop from Wednesday to Sunday. Now, I may go to an estate sale once a month or so. One of the things I try to get are pieces that are bigger sized, so that its more of a variety for my current clients as well as my future clients.
MS: So you don’t shop as much as you used to?
K: No. It’s a little bit more sparing, because of the expensive collection that I already have, and needing to sell it all. And see, I’m a bit different than other people. If an estate sale starts at 10 am, people are there by 8 am. I’m there by 3 am. I’ve slept overnight several times at an estate sale. Because, if there’s something there that I want, I don’t want to risk the chance of other vintage dealers coming there and getting in line before me. I want to be one of the first 10 people in the house; If I’m one of the first 10 people, I’m guaranteed to get what I want. Going to an estate sale is another animal within itself. As an African American woman, there’s not many of us that go to estate sales. And, there’s not many of us that have the lasting relationships that our counterparts already have.
MS: Do you feel like you’ve built any relationships since then?
K: I’ve definitely built relationships since then based on the fact that I would go to estate sales and drop six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred dollars. Now, I’m a little more stern [with my spending].
MS: How much do you think you’ve spent over the years? If you can give a grand total, how much do you think you’ve dropped on all of these items?
K: Oooh (chuckling) a rough number…last year I spent $10,000, easy.
MS: That’s a lot, but you do make it back in your sales?
K: It’s really not, when you think about it. For example, I have an extensive fur collection. When you’re spending $125, $200 a pop, it adds up. And, that where some of the prices come in too. You’re looking at the quality of the item.
MS: How many estate sales have you been to?
K: Over 200. I started going in 2014—
MS: And you’ve been to 200 since then?
K: *proudly*: Mhm.
MS: What are some tips you would give to first time shoppers at an estate sale?
K: Get there early. If there’s something particular, have a partner so you can divide and conquer. Knowing the price points are going to be completely different. You’re paying for the fact that you can actually get history on the items. So, just be prepared.
MS: What’s next for the brand? For you?
K: When I originally started, it was called ‘Before Kizzy Evae’, and we just rebranded to ‘Kurated’. We’ve never done an official launce, so the next for the brand would be a launch.
MS: Why’d did you switch the brand name?
K: I didn’t like the logo, but I liked the story behind it. Before Kizzy Evae, I specialize in everything before I was born, and that’s how the name came about. But, Kurated stood out more to me because I am curating an experience. I am preserving history through fashion, art, and science. Some people think, Why do you want that old item?!, or they see something and they’re like That’s old, we’ll send that to Kizzy. And then I have conversations with the items: Well, where was she going?, What was she doing with you? If it’s a stole, How did you make her feel when she wrapped you around her neck? To actually find a photo of the person with the item on, you know it’s real.
MS: Where can we find you on social media?
K: The website is kuratedke.com, on social media is kuratedbyke, but we’re just known as Kurated.|