Cat Shanahan of Toronto, Canada. Cat is the owner of Aiseirigh
Aiseirigh tied for 7th place in the 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice Awards for Best Online Vintage Clothing Store
Please tell us a little about yourself. Hobbies, interests and work outside of the vintage world.
I am a former dancer, an art school drop-out, spent too many years as a corporate sell-out before I got sick of being a slave to money and consumption, and now am the mother of two tiny freespirits an online vintage retailer and fashion stylist for print.
What got you into vintage clothing? How long have you been collecting vintage clothing for?
I am the youngest born into a family of 5. My parents had me in their late 40s in 1981. I grew up watching classic old-hollywood movies, listening to 60s and 70s vinyl that had belonged to my much older siblings, reading Nancy Drew and thinking that Lawrence Welk was still in syndication! My parents had a very atomic era approach to child rearing and our turquoise blue 1940s bungalow by the lake looked and felt a bit like a time capsule. My mother was a model in the 50s and every picture of her was of this dreamy glam little bombshell draped in sparkley tulle. In the first grade she dressed me as Gretta Garbo for Halloween and in the second she constructed a habit and sent me off as the flying nun! We didn't have a whole lot of material means so in my teens I thrifted out of necessity. During this period I found myself gravitating towards vintage garments (which at the time in the 90s where much easier to find at charity and thrift shops). I wore Gunne Sax Maxi Dresses to school in the 9th grade with Doc Martins, I wore 70s white rabbit fur coats in the winter, and I wore 50s and 60s prom pretties to my semi-formals. I have been collecting vintage since I was 14 so going on 20 years!!!
How much do you incorporate vintage clothing and accessories into your everyday wardrobe?
Quite a bit! My outerwear is pretty exclusively vintage and I don't think I ever go out without at least one vintage piece on. Modern clothing make me a little sad for the most part. Now this is a generalisation but for the most part they tend to be shapeless and bland and poorly constructed and none of that appeals to how I want to look or feel!
Do you source most of your vintage locally or do you shop online or travel to other cities and states to do your shopping?
I mostly source locally from a network of collectors I have built over the years. That said I still thrift multiple times a week though the pickings get slimmer and slimmer each year. I have bought online a few times, I do estate sales every now and then and am starting to get into auctions. This summer I am planning a road trip to the States to see what I can find!
What do you feel differentiates your store from others?
I think my shop has an indulgent and dreamy feel to it. I don't do wallflower vintage. I like things that are bold, bright, sparkly, and feel special. Nothing about my personal style is very understated and I don't think my shop is either. I want to find people that one piece that makes them feel wonderful, that draws attention, that they can standout in and that shows the world a glimpse of who they are and the lives they have lived.
How do you feel the vintage selling market has evolved since you first began selling?
It is getting more and more saturated and the sellers are getting more and more professional in terms of product marketing, branding, and visuals. When I started there were a handful of people using models and studio lighting now it is pretty common for most sellers and the new shops are popping up with professional looking photography right off the bat. Gone is the day of a pretty dress tossed on the kitchen floor and photographed blurry and crooked!
How do you feel the vintage buying market has evolved since you first began selling?
Vintage is a finite resource and there is less of it around now. It is getting more expensive as a result of its rarity. I think this is changing the buying market quite a bit because both sellers and buyers are becoming more discerning about their purchases.
Do you have any advice that you would like to offer people just starting out selling vintage clothing online?
My advice is that it is in no way easy! I think a lot of people come into this with rose coloured glasses thinking they are going to go find gorgeous items and list them and get popular and sell them for top dollar and live happily ever after! It is more work than I have ever done in my life! Also it is an expensive business to get into. Some months after I have bought inventory, paid models,and replaced equipment I shudder at how much I have spent! But if it is their passion and they are willing to live it, to learn everything and anything they can, and to struggle through the dry spots then I can't think of anything better to dedicate ones professional life too.
Do you have any advice for people who are just starting out shopping for vintage clothing online?
My advise for those who are just starting out buying vintage online is to educate themselves as to what vintage is. Different era's will offer different styles, lines, cuts, condition, and price points. I think it is important that buyers understand what will flatter them, what the going price for those eras/styles are, and characteristic flaws that can be expected in garments that are decades old. Also, I think it is important that they understand that with vintage you are buying a one off and chances are you going to require a little tailoring to make a perfect fit. They should look for sellers who are responsive, knowledgeable and who have an established customer service track record.
What are your favorite eras of clothing for wearing? What are your favorite eras of clothing for admiring?
I love wearing mod 60s. In that it is when I came of age I have a soft spot for the 90s. 50s flatter my figure and are so so pretty!! I love anything edwardian and art deco but I find I am not lithe enough for those eras so those are the ones I love looking at.
What do you like about clothing from these eras?
I like how streamlined mod 60s garments are. There is a simplicity to them with the fun balance of interesting optic patterns and prints. The 90s referenced a whole lot of bygone eras. There were hints of victorian, a nod to the 70s, bits and bites of 60s. They were really an era where we as a youth generation referenced so many eclectic styles and cultural histories. Also, it is when I started to really see fashion as a form of self expression so it has a soft spot in my memories and in my heart. What's not to like about the 50s? The fabrications, the dreamy designs, the over the top feel of wearing that much tulle, or the way that a well tailored wiggle dress makes you feel so powerfully feminine. I think everyone's inner 4 year old looks at a 50s garments and swoons! Art Deco garments are just something to behold. I love the delicate but sturdy construction, the attention to detail, and the beadwork when present. Finally Edwardian garments literally blow my mind. The lace work is enough to make my heart race.
Who are some of your favorite vintage designers?
My favourite vintage designers would have to be Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Biba, Lanvin, Lilly Diamond, Missioni, Suzy Perette, Thierry Mugler, Ungaro, and Vivienne Westwood.
Who are some of your favorite modern designers?
My favourite modern designers at the moment would have to be Badgley Mischka, Zac Posen (his work references the style and construction of New Look so beautifully), Carolina Herrera, and I have to shout out my fellow Canadians Christian Siriano and Lucian Matis for their incredible contributions to modern fashion.
What would be your ultimate vintage fashion find?
If I found a Fortuny or a Zandra Rhodes I would be the happiest little girl in the whole wide world!
Who are some of your favorite style icons?
I love Bianca Jagger, Marisa Berenson, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline de Ribes, and Ali McGraw.
What are your favorite vintage movies, music and television programs?
Movie wise my 4 year old son and I love watching Steve McQueen in the Great Escape, I love the Red Shoes, Gypsy Rosalie, The Blue Bird of Happiness with Shirley Temple anything and everything with Cary Grant (he is my soul-mate), Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Where the Lilies Bloom and so many more I could go on for weeks! Music wise I love musicals, 60s folk music, Janis Joplin, Queen, Motown, Jazz you name it! I don't listen to much modern music and most of what I listen to is on vinyl. I have never been big into T.V. or T.V. shows episodic doesn't really do it for me.
Do you collect any other types of collectibles or antiques?
I collect vintage chairs, vinyl, and toys.
Thanks to Cat for participating in The Style Council! To check out my recent picks of favorite vintage clothing items from Aiseirigh check out this blog post: Lulu's Favorite Finds from Aiseirigh 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice Tie for # 7 Award Winner
Stay tuned for Style Council interviews with all of the winners of the 2014 Lulu's Vintage People's Choice Awards, as well as Style Council interviews with my 2014 Lulu's Online Vintage Clothing Store Recommendation winners.
If you are interested in participating in The Style Council please contact me at lulusvintagepdx (at) gmail.com
This post was originally published on March 25, 2014.