Ask any artistically bent fashionista what his or her favourite vintage store is in Vancouver and chances are the answer will be Used House of Vintage (831 Granville Street). So when owner Craig Doyle celebrated the opening of a much larger, flagship location on Robson Street on December 15, it was no big surprise that every hella-cool hipster was there in full effect. (P.S. Don’t worry Used puritans: the Granville location is still open for business.)
One look around the new digs and it was easy to see their enthusiasm was warranted. The carefully curated store, which includes affordable thrift as well as vintage couture, is gorgeous—not to mention exactly what Vancouver’s fashion scene has been hurting for for quite some time. (R.I.P. True Value Vintage.)
Of course, no clothing-store launch would be complete without a fashion show, and for this, Doyle enlisted the poster girl for Vancouver vintage eclecticism: the one and only Dandilion Wind Opaine (affectionately referred to as simply Dandi Wind these days). Many already know how awe-inspiring her personal style is from the wearable-art concoctions she rocks on-stage and in promo pics. But this year, the electronica singer decided to start reconstructing previously loved pieces for other people, which she sells through Etsy and eBay. For this show, she challenged herself to work almost exclusively with damaged pieces from Used’s discarded pile. But the self-confessed “hoarder” also incorporated some of her own flea-market finds, mint-condition vintage wear from the store, and even the odd family heirloom.
When it came to show time, a wall of velvet drapes dropped and the street-cred crowd gathered around the floor-to-ceiling windows. The dystopian outdoor set was floored with black garbage bags and decorated with only a few key alleyway props, including an old-school phone booth.
Inspired by a trip a Moscow as well as a couple of end-of-the-world films from the ’80s, Wind’s theme for the collection was postapocalyptic—that is if the apocalypse happened during the Cold War. Many despondent-looking models dragged a trail of vintage purses behind them like they were bringing some fresh kill home to eat. According to Wind, that idea came to her after checking out a Russian flea market set up on small-town train tracks. As she recalls, whenever a locomotive came barrelling down the tracks, all the venders would lift all their strung-together merchandise up in one fell swoop and set it aside temporarily.
One of the standout outfits was a beautiful aquatic-blue, superchic, woolly-mammoth dress that actually started out as a tacky-pink, tasselled rayon dress from the ’80s. But Wind would have none of that. She dyed it, shredded it, and then layered it over a longer black lace dress.
In some cases, she just pulled outfits together with little or no reconstruction. For example, she left the gorgeous royal-blue sequined ’80s dress as is and paired it with a mint-condition, black-velvet, faux-fur-trimmed jacket from the ’40s. She did, however, give it the Dandi treatment by accessorizing it with a bejewelled calf-skull necklace that she made from scratch.
Another showstopper was a warm-underwear ensemble that consisted of her grandpa’s long johns and a black-leather bust top with gold metal boobs.
As the woman of the hour, Wind herself didn’t disappoint in the wardrobe department. She rocked an ivory-silk antique blouse from the early 1900s, a sheer black mini-skirt underneath an orange ’70s crotchet craft piece. But the pièce de résistance was the leg warmers, which she makes from the sleeves of damaged Cowichan sweaters and keeps raised with the aid of a garter belt. And you know anyone who can make that combo look cute as hell has got some serious talent. Likewise, any storeowner that hires her to stylize its launch party has some serious business smarts. That is to say, the night will probably go down as one of the biggest fashion events of 2012.