Going in style - second hand

  • 2010-08-04
  • By Larry Medenis

BACK IN FASHION: Shopping for vintage clothing provides a path to the past.

RIGA - The economic situation has caused many Latvians to make concessions; garaging their cars, downsizing their homes, but many are not compromising their style and elegance and are instead shopping second hand. New trendy establishments are enabling many to dress for a fraction of the cost, and are heightening the shopping experience by combining fashion with food, drink and music. Some shop owners have taken all the frustration out of rummaging through the hundreds of fetid-smelling, packed to the rafters “humpala” [Humanitarian Aid] stores littering most street corners, to give you the best in vintage minus the unfamiliar stains and odors.

Vintage clothing is a more stylish euphemism for “old” clothes, a generic label given to secondhand and even new garments originating from bygone eras. The word vintage was originally derived from terminology associated with wine. Clothing dating from the 1920s through the 1980s is considered vintage, and apparel dating back from the 1920s is tagged as Antique. Vintage is not to be confused with “retro,” short for retrospective, which imitates the style of a previous era.
The resurgence of Vintage can be attributed to many factors including a want for clothing that is unique and original, of good quality, stylish and with attention to detail. People also have an appreciation of history and, if you are lucky enough to come across an original designer label such as Chanel or Westwood, you have yourself a great investment.
The crisis has prompted a number of Latvian personalities to take advantage of the situation by launching chic vintage clothing operations. 

Bonera is an ultra stylish cafe and vintage boutique paying homage to Coco Chanel. Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur. Owned and operated by former LNT reporter and journalist, Greta Gorjucko, and lawyer turned interior  designer, Aija Lejina, Bonera serves coffee, wines and tasty homemade treats and has an opulent, cultured feel. At the back of the cafe all the garments and accessories dating from the ’60s and ’70s were hand picked by Greta and Aija and there are some real gems. “We sourced our items mainly from London, Paris and Denmark,” Aija tells me, “…and we have some friends in various European cities in tune with our philosophy that will find and send us clothing regularly.” The interior is super elegant where the owner’s impeccable taste and talent for design is evident. You can not help but feel rather genteel enjoying the refinement and sipping champagne from a crystal glass. Incidentally the French word Bonheur means happiness. Bonera can be found on Blaumana St. 12.

Moodroom, on Dzirnavu St. 15, is packed with tasteful items and an excellent selection of clothing, shoes and wares. Secondhand stores are now being run by people with marketing and fashion backgrounds and this is evident in the Moodroom. Moodroom is the conception of well known Latvian stylist Dana Dombrovska, who was a contestant on this year’s series of “Dejo ar Zvaigznem,” the Latvian equivalent of Dancing with the Stars. Everything is chosen by Dana herself, “I scour Riga’s op shops for beautiful things. I have a wonderful job, women love to shop and I get to shop almost everyday.” 

Here you will be sure to find only the best of vintage as Dana is a very classy lady and fills her shop with appealing things. Dana was the stylist for many local magazines including Santa and Marta, and she believes that the resurgence of vintage is not due to the crisis, but that people want quality and original, well made clothing. “Fashion is a form of art and a way of expressing oneself, how can this be done if everyone is wearing the same clothes from shopping centers? Everything of beauty can be found in past fashions and eras. The fashion of today is exhausted; designers create as if in a panic.” 

Moodroom is stocked with fashions, accessories and many items dating from the ’60s and ’70s. “It is rather difficult to source fashions from these eras here in Riga. Latvia was under Soviet occupation for a long time and during those times there was a real shortage of goods and especially clothing.” But Dana has plans to travel to extend her collection. The Moodroom also hosts parties and Dana and some of her wares travel to festivals around the country.  In the near future Dana intends to open another Moodroom closer to the city center that will incorporate a beauty salon and a cafe.

The very hip Perle, situated on Terbatas St. 65, sells mainly 1980s clothing, furniture and knick knacks. Perle’s name is inspired by the famous, or infamous, Puerto Rican slum “La Perla.” The store is more than just a fashion stop for your neon, punk or tracksuit fix. Perle is also a trendy cafe/bar and if you visit it at night the clothing racks levitate up into the ceiling and you can dance the night away. Perle was founded by Zanete Skarule ex Latvian MTV VJ and her boyfriend Edijs Vucens. This multipurpose venue has a creative atmosphere and an ambience of cool that will leave you feeling bright and hip. It’s time to get funky.

Reuse, recycle and repair are terms that are becoming increasingly fashionable and vintage clothing is experiencing a renaissance.