Have you heard? Vintage fashion curator and stylist Sammy Davis joining us at Philly Swap! Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until next Sunday to hear her story, and learn more about how she hopes to help her audience take steps to become practical environmentalists… through the pillar of fashion.
Philly Swap: Give us some background. How did you get into DIY work?
Sammy Davis: My DIY trade is in vintage fashion and sustainable style. I started “thrifting” – the act of going to thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army to shop – as soon as I could drive. I grew up in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania where the options for alternative fashions were limited. So instead of succumbing to the mainstream, mass produced styles of the mall, I searched and seize my own unique style from the racks of my neighborhood thrift store.
I carried my penchant for thrifting into my early 20s as a student at Temple University. I shifted into the vintage arena after discovering that vintage was a shopping industry – I could go to a store like South Street’s Retrospect or Old City’s Sugarcube and immediately discover amazing vintage pieces. In other words: I didn’t have to dig!
Now, I am a curator and stylist of vintage fashions spanning the late ’60s to early ’90s. I acquire the best, most high-quality vintage pieces from thrift stores, estate sales, and the closets of women across the northeast US and present them in an accessible way to the contemporary woman through my company, Sammy Davis Vintage. [link: http://www.sammydvintage.com%5D
PS: What do you like about Philly? Is it a good place to do what you do?
SD: My home-away-from home is Philadelphia. I lived here four years for college at Temple, and if New York City hadn’t pulled me away, I would probably still be living here today.
Philadelphia is a wonderful middle ground for the rising entrepreneur: You have the support of brilliant, creative and business-savvy people around you, without the financial pressure of having to start something that becomes financially successful right away.
I plan on someday opening a vintage store and eco-conscious clothing boutique and juice bar in Philadelphia. Thanks to lower overhead and higher opportunity for investment, Philadelphia is a great breeding ground for DIY-ers to take their trade and create a permanent brick-and-mortar fixture for customers new and old.
PS: DIY projects have never been more relevant than they are right now. Whether the motivation is to minimize one’s carbon footprint or maximize what’s in the bank, people are showing an interest in reusable materials, local goods and creative projects to do at home. What are some simple steps we can take to be more financially-sound and environmentally-friendly in our creative projects?
SD: Part of learning how to incorporate financially-sound and environmentally-friendly materials in your creative projects is learning to see the world through a different lens.
For example: The other day, I was washing a salsa container before placing it into my recycling bin when I began to admire the design of the glass.
I then thought, “I wonder if I could use this for something else?” So, I removed the jar’s wrapper and placed it in my cupboard for the day I’d be inspired to use it. Wouldn’t you know that a few days later, I was inspired to use the jar for help positioning bracelets in a creative, aesthetically-pleasing way.
We move quickly in life. Slow down and allow your environment and its belongings to sink in, and your peripheral vision will grow and allow you to naturally utilize your surroundings in an environmentally-sound, creative way.
PS: What recycled materials do you use in your work and where do you find them?
SD: The beauty of vintage and thrift: it is recycled clothing!
Vintage is not only about dressing for style, it’s about dressing for sustainable style with substance. This the platform of Sammy Davis Vintage: to invest in pieces that stand the test of time and trends and lessen the carbon footprint of your retail spending power by purchasing what is essentially recycled clothing.
Buying vintage from boutiques or a local thrift store and refraining from buying mass produced, poorly made pieces will influence the supply chain to adopt sustainable practices and maintain socially ethical business practices. Right now, sustainable living is about being a practical environmentalist. It’s about small steps that incorporate sustainable practices seamlessly and painlessly into your daily regiment and personal consumption.
PS: How do you think about the audience for your work? Who is it you want to reach?
SD: Sammy Davis Vintage is the platform for women (and men!) to become inspired by sustainable style. I exist to help my audience learn how they can take steps to become practical environmentalists through the pillar of fashion.
Style is what makes you feel great. It’s what I like to call “feel-good fashion” – no matter the print, the color, the size, the fit, the material – if it makes you feel good for whatever reason, then that’s your personal style. Stick to the style that makes you feel best, and your confidence will take you anywhere you dream.
PS: What’s your take on the recent proliferation of the DIY/craft sales online, such as Etsy? Do see this more as a network of support, or as competition for your sales?
SD: Online markets such as Etsy, and the online vintage marketplace Market Publique [link: http://www.marketpublique.com%5D, are wonderful outlets of support and most importantly for our customers: offer validation and legitimacy of our brands.
The online marketplaces of today that are recognized by the average consumer give your business credibility without actually having a brick-and-mortar store. The overhead is whatever you want to make it, and your audience has unlimited access to your brand thanks to the 24/7 power of the digital space.
It’s wonderful for artisans and DIY-ers to connect with customers and fans in the flesh, and then have an online space to direct them for future purchases and contact. There’s never been a better time to “experiment” with your product thanks to the proliferation of risk-free online marketplaces.
PS: What comes first, the material or the project? Are you inspired by a specific material and develop a project around it, or do you first envision a project and seek out the materials to suit it?
SD: My “projects” are probably best defined as the photo shoots I produce using vintage and thrifted fashion. What always inspires me and inspires me most: how fashion can empower women to gain confidence and trust in themselves and others. I call this “feel-good” fashion – the understanding that by investing in a product that makes you feel good and also does good for the environment and its people, that you are investing in the style AND substance of yourself.
I create projects – whether it is the product itself, a photo shoot, an event, a newsletter – with the intention to make my audience feel good. The materials come naturally thereafter, as inspired by what’s available in the thrift store and my subconscious absorption of current and future trends that look great and feel great on women of all types and backgrounds.
PS: Do you work out of your home, or in a separate studio space?
SD: I work out of my Spanish Harlem apartment when using my computer to manage my web site www.sammydvintage.com, facebook fan page www.facebook.com/sammydavisvintage, twitter account www.twitter.com/sammyd22] and Vimeo page [http://www.vimeo.com/sammydvintage]. I’m also a co-producer and co-host of television show RoadHug http://www.roadhugusa.com which keeps me chair-bound for at least a few hours of the day.
My vintage collection is currently housed in a showroom space at my local Manhattan Mini Storage unit. It’s here that I host private sales, showings and fittings. I’m currently working toward having SDV collections in various boutiques around NYC and (hopefully!) Philadelphia as I begin to promote the SDV name in brick-and-mortar stores.
PS: Many of us are not as good with tools as we’d like to be. What are some tips and tricks to fake it till your skills make it?
SD: When it comes to “thrifting,” my number one bit of advice: Come armed with a plan! You know when you walk into a grocery store, and you immediately head for the food section where you’d like to buy an item from your grocery list? The same tactic works well for thrift stores – they are not for the casual, first-time shopper.
I often hear people say they “get overwhelmed” upon entering a thrift store. But if you come armed with some ideas on your “shopping list,” – think what kind of piece or color – then you can search and seize to find the best piece for you.
Thanks, Sammy! For more tips of the thrifting trade, check out Sammy’s interview with HerCampus. http://hercampus.com/style/rocking-80s-all-over-again-how-be-smart-vintage-shopper?page=show