Citizen Vintage is one of our favourite haunts in Montreal—and not just because they act as our unofficial spokeswomen in the city, representing WORN at craft shows and hosting issue launch parties. More than just a shop (and a delightful shop filled with treasures at that), the store also brings fashion-friendly folks together for various events. Partners Brooke Doyle, Rebecca Emlaw, and Lara Kaluza talk to Worn about the value of vintage clothing, the importance of keeping a strong presence in their community, and Indiana Jones’s bow-tie.
Why is it important to shop vintage?
Rebecca: Vintage is a way of life for me now. Fashion is about individuality, and vintage selection can offer that. We never have two of the same pieces on the racks. Vintage is good quality for a good price. And substainability is important to me: vintage clothes practically have a zero carbon footprint, due to the fact that everything is already there.
Lara: Personally, I wear vintage because I find the clothing sold at big brand clothing stores is made so poorly that it falls apart in a few months. Plus, I hate showing up at a party wearing the same thing as someone else—I like that uniqueness vintage pieces give to my wardrobe.
Brooke: It’s pointless to spend your money (whether it’s $20 or $200) on something brand new, only to have it fade, stretch, peel or otherwise deteriorate within days of wear. Even “luxury” brands are just not as well made as they used to be. I trust vintage. I trust that if a leather bag, pair of boots, jacket or sweater has lasted 20 years, it will last another 20. The fact that it’s unlikely you’ll see someone wearing the same garment is just a bonus! It’s more likely you’ll see a cheaply produced newer garment replicating a vintage print or pattern, so why not buy the original?
Why is community involvement so important to you?
Brooke: We really make an effort to diversify our business by collaborating with musicians, artists, and other entrepreneurs.We work really hard to know our neighbors and be supportive of local businesses, the more we extend ourselves to others the more we learn! Citizen Vintage introduced the idea of a “vintage walking map” to the neighborhood, which includes several local vintage shops and so far has been really well received. It’s important to realize there’s strength in numbers.
Rebecca: Life and work is more interesting and fulfilling when you involve your friends and neighbours around you. There is so much great energy in this neighbourhood, it’s hard to resist involvement.
Describe each of your personal styles.
Brooke: I wear whatever I can bike in! I wear a lot of button ups, cardigans, printed dresses, Converse, and flat leather boots.
Lara: I suppose out of the three of us, I like the older vintage, ’50s and ’60s, the most. I like to mix older and newer pieces together. Though at the moment I’m really into the ’90s—I pretty much wear my chunky heel ankle boots and a rotation of little floral dresses everyday.
Rebecca: I love natural fibres and I love classic styles. I like clothing that is tailored and fits well. I’m a curvy girl and I want things to fit in all the right places. Frumpy is not a good look for my shape, so when I shop I look for darts that are well placed, and fabric that has a classic drape.
What strengths does each partner bring to the store?
Lara: The great thing about a partnership is that we do each bring different strengths to the table. Becky has never ending energy and is always positive and encouraging. Plus, she’s the only one of us who has experience running a business (she also co-owns L’Arterie Boutique), and was an invaluable resource when getting everything started. Brooke is a marketing mastermind, she has great ideas for promotions and events. She is also brilliant when it comes to merchandising—we all knew that we wanted to have our racks organized as cleanly as possible, which is really hard to achieve when every piece is different, but it comes naturally to Brooke.
Brooke: Lara has an impeccable eye. When we go sourcing for inventory, she has a knack for consistently pulling the most unique, beautiful pieces. Becky never says no to an opportunity, event, or idea. I would say they’re each completely inspirational and irreplaceable! We often say to each other, “I could never do this without you!”
Rebecca: Brooke loves bringing activity to our little shop. She is interested in the arts and fashion community and is incorporating that dynamic into the store daily. I think that Lara’s involvement with the costume and set design industry has indoctrinated her with the skill to spin straw into gold. In other words, she can create something unique with limited resources.
Have you ever grown attached to an item in the store and found it difficult to part with?
Lara: All the time. I’m terrible. There are a few items I’ve bought from the store ’cause I couldn’t let them go. I’m getting a bit better now though, I’ve learned that I need to go thrifting on my own time so I don’t end up taking half the clothes we find for the store.
Brooke: Never! I’ve moved so much in the past that I’ve gotten used to letting things go. I honestly get more excited about the prospect of a special garment going home with a happy customer than with the idea of wearing it myself.
Rebecca: We only select pieces for the store that we absolutely love, so sometimes it’s hard to not want to take everything home and put it in your closet. Brooke jokes that I have to try everything on. In fear of sounding sentimental, I think it’s my way of paying homage to the aesthetic and quality of vintage clothing. I just need to try it on at least once and bask in its prettiness.
If you could pick any fictional character to walk into the store, who would you choose? What would you dress them in?
Brooke: I would love to dress any female character from an Almodovar film.
Rebecca: Indiana Jones! He’s the best of both worlds. On one hand, as the prestigious and adored Dr. Henry Walton, he wears a three piece tweed suit with bow tie, round glasses and dress shoes. And on the other, his persona Indy, with the rugged leather lace-up boots and brown leather jacket with a classic fedora. Oh and don’t forget that famous satchel. I honestly can’t say which is my favouite.
Lara: Susie Bubble isn’t a fictional character, but I would love for her to visit the shop! She has such a creative outlook when it come to putting outfits together. We merchandise our clothing by theme or colour, we have a black rack, a natural rack, a denim rack, etc. I would love to dress her in items from our rainbow rack, we have some beautiful bright silk shirts and some loud print pants that I think Susie could totally rock!
Who are some of your fashion crushes?
Lara: I really love the style of the French New Wave starlets: Anna Karina, Jean Seberg, and Jane Birkin.
Brooke: I’m constantly inspired by our customers! One thing I love about the shop is the virtual parade of interesting, stylish men and women walking through the door. I see amazing personal style incorporating vintage, handmade, and designer clothing on our customers and it informs the choices I make in my wardrobe and what we stock.
Rebecca: Xavier Dolan. Hair and glasses can make or break a look, and he’s spot on.
How is Citizen Vintage different from other vintage shops?
Brooke: We’re the only vintage store in Montreal to blog daily, produce our own editorial photo shoots and short films, and host live music and vernissages for artists. We also work actively with stylists and bloggers and frequently loan vintage pieces from our collections for photo shoots, runway shows, and student projects. We recently held a workshop on copyright laws for fashion bloggers, and a music sharing website launch for local radio station CKUT. I think with all this, we’ve really raised the bar and are poised to keep growing in many directions.
Lara: I think what really makes us stand out is our inventory. Every single piece in our shop is hand picked. We spend a lot of time searching for pieces that reflect our personal style and current trends, and we think it’s also important to carry timeless pieces that can be a staple in your wardrobe.
Rebecca: We are three equal partners and each one of us is as active and creative as the other. We are constantly bringing new ideas and concepts to the store and there is ongoing discourse among us about what will be next. It’s very exciting. In essence we are playing with the image of what a vintage store can be.
Citizen Vintage, 5330 St. Laurent Boulevard
interview by Jaclyn Irvine
photography by Yuli Sato