Those who bemoan New York and L.A.’s lack of affordable vintage obviously haven’t met Shareen Mitchell. The actress and Vogue and Mademoiselle alum started her bi-coastal business, Shareen Vintage, out of a ten-by-ten-foot booth at the Melrose Trading Post. By her third week, girls were lining up to get first dibs on her carefully curated finds, and Shareen was forced to upgrade her space. “I found this funky warehouse in an area of L.A. where there’s nothing but abandoned buildings and train tracks,” she told us. “When I opened the first weekend, the parking lot was filled with Mercedes and BMWs.” Soon after, Shareen expanded her operation to New York, where her hungry following continued, thanks to her wallet-friendly prices (most items are between $34 and $58) and anything but intimidating demeanor. “My store is as much a community of women as it is a place to buy clothes,” she gushed. “Girls always say ‘I came here to buy a dress and I ended up getting therapy.’”
Starting this month, Shareen is partnering with Madewell to sell her coveted wares in the store’s Soho and Century City outposts. We caught up with the entrepreneur to talk about the grunge resurgence, corsets, and how she sources her amazing finds.
What can customers expect to see in Madewell stores?
Lots of reworked vintage that speaks to their brand and looks great with denim. We have a lovely selection of summery pieces, like cotton skirts and sundresses.
What sort of woman shops at Shareen Vintage?
My girl is the girl who goes to the party when all of the other girls are rock-star glam and shows up in a sheer, pale-pink, bias-cut dress that’s falling off her shoulder and every man and every woman turns their head.
What are your personal style signatures?
I wear bracelets every day. I wear corsets over my clothes, it’s a signature statement thing that I do. Even if you dress in a modern way, pick something from another time to add on.
How do you find vintage pieces for your stores?
Through private individuals and thrifting. I sort through a minimum of 3,000 garments a day, and I pick out what I consider useful. That might be useful as-is, or because it will permit a rework that will bring it to today.
What is your favorite decade, fashion-wise?
The thirties and forties. It’s a no-brainer. I think that’s happening in fashion in a big way. Anything bias-cut, beautiful shoulders, draping, that old Hollywood movie-star look.
What is selling best in your stores right now? What can’t you keep in stock?
Rompers, classic or bloomer-leg. My most forward vintage girls want grunge, but we restyle it, cut it mini. Girls are always going to want forties and they’re always going to want eighties if it’s not too over the top.
What’s the first designer item you bought?
A pair of Yves Saint Laurent black pleat-front high-waisted trousers. I bought them in Paris and I still have them and they still fit me and they’re still chic. They have a stovepipe leg and they’re super high-waisted, like past my belly button.
How would you describe your personal style?
Sophia Loren crossed with the queen of England. Meaning classic mixed with sort of a sassy Mediterranean feel.
What trends do you like right now?
These slim, chiffon, bias-cut dresses. Everything pale and nude. This is a reaction to that very heavily structured, hard-edge, rock-and-roll girl. This is what fashion is: A girl has been dressing a certain way, and suddenly she wants to see herself in a different way.
What trends do you hate?
Anything not flattering to the female form; I don’t like clothing as architecture. I like the female form to be revealed. I don’t like when it’s about the designer — I like when it’s about the woman.
What should every girl have in her closet?
A classic black pencil dress. It’s completely timeless. It can be worn 1,000 different ways.