Sibling duo Mike and Angie Dalla-Giustina have turned their lifelong passion for thrifting into a well-loved business; the two collectively own Upside Dive, a hidden East-end gem in the Toronto vintage scene. Mike and Angie share their tales of rural Toronto, their childhood idols, and their love affair with well-crafted clothing.
How did you two dress in elementary school? How has your look changed?
Angie: When we moved from Toronto to a small rural community (in the 80s) I dressed in stacked bangles and dolman sleeve tops. Let’s just say it wasn’t well received.
Mike: I remember being briefly obsessed with Chucks, peace signs, and vests. I think both of us have forgotten a lot from those early years, probably due to living in a little town and never really feeling like we fit in.
From an early age we were thrifting, usually out of necessity, as money was tight for a single mother with four children. Most of all we never felt parental pressure to dress a certain way, so we experimented when we wanted to. We’ve become more comfortable with who we are (could be that age thing) and we’re less concerned with defining gender roles. We have more of an appreciation of the piece in its form – material, cut, shape, quality – while setting aside who the design was intended for. That said, the shop takes priority so we often wear practical, comfortable clothing, saving the exciting fashion for our customers.
Being siblings, do you often disagree when it comes to the business? How about clothes? Do you ever share clothes?
Mike: Actually, all the Dalla-Giustina siblings get along. An important part to the business succeeding is our shared mentality and keeping it all level. We occasionally butt heads over ideas, but it definitely helps to flesh out ideas with one another. We also discuss with Elisa and Natasha, who act as great exterior moderators. Sometimes Ang and I can get so focused we get a bit blind-sided.
We don’t often share clothes, maybe a scarf or two. We definitely share a love for well-crafted pieces, and a good backstory is an added delight.
How do you think the rise of vintage inspiration in the fashion world over the past decade has affected sales at vintage stores? Does it make selling real vintage easier or more difficult?
Vintage and second-hand clothing has definitely become a major commodity in the last 20-30 years, and with its rise in the mainstream once again it perpetuates more vintage sellers, more vintage buyers, more creative minds musing on it, and an established business format. I think the real issue lies with the lack of value put on vintage and second-hand clothing. Fast fashion has offered an alternative to buying vintage by creating newly made vintage-inspired pieces, but the real power lies in the hands of the consumer. It would be one thing if corporate clothing manufacturers were responsibly producing well-made pieces that would retain value, but they don’t. The bottom line for them is money, and the consumer is happy to have the 15-minute look. We have faith that there will continue to be customers who value vintage, but fear that well-kept vintage will become scarce and deplete cherished vintage shops.