Phoenix's Vintage Vogue

In a relatively young city paradoxically characterized by tradition, it takes no stretch of the imagination to see how vintage fashion could burgeon in a place like Phoenix.

Yet the surprising aspect of this development is that vintage thrift store hunting, both the exchange and search for vintage goods, is a sharing movement that’s frequently removed from the traditional wild-cat culture.

“As far as producing events or getting people together, it’s so spread out, and even though there are so many people excited,” says Courtney McEntire, founder of the Phoenix Style Collective, “it’s really hard to connect with anybody.”

As a connoisseur of vintage fashion, McEntire sees it as a return to the old facilitated by the emergence of fashion blogs.

“We’re not creative anymore. We’re going back to the old — to decades past,” McEntire says. “Flares are back, [and] big, wild Steven Tyler hair, '60s silhouettes. As fashion blogs have emerged, it’s just made people step out of their comfort zone and not take something so seriously and be willing to try each. It’s a lot easier to try something at a lower price.”

Shauna Thibault, owner of the vintage boutique and hair salon Mercantile, similarly relishes an appreciation for vintage fashion.

“I just liked the aesthetic of something that was timeless enough to carry on through all the different seasons” says Thibault.

On Jan. 27, vintage lovers converged on GROWop, a vintage store/artist collective that gets a lot of attention for its eclectic garden that hedges the outside of the property, for a kick-off event hosted by the Phoenix Style Collective.

The Phoenix Style Collective brings together local designers, fashion experts, photographers and bloggers in an effort to link, as their slogan states, “the tastemakers in Phoenix's style scene.”

With red wine, peanut butter and jelly cupcakes by Smeeks manager Brendan McCaskey, and a raffle highlighted by free tickets to an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros concert, the event provided an enthralling kick-start to a vision one year in the making and a vibrant mirroring of the diversity that the Collective hopes to manifest.

McEntire’s vision for the project began as she would travel back to her hometown of Phoenix from Los Angeles, where she worked in the fashion industry.

“The last couple of years when I came to visit, my brainchild started evolving and what I wanted to do,” McEntire says. “I knew I wanted to be involved in fashion and style on some capacity but wasn’t sure what, and I knew that I loved connecting people, getting artists in touch with designers and models in touch with makeup artists.”

McEntire eventually moved back to Phoenix with her heart set on creating a network of artists and having a stamp of approval proclaiming: “these artists are not flaky, that they’re legitimate and that you can use them for local projects, styling, commercially, or wardrobe styling, or hair and makeup for a fashion show.”

After connecting with some local artists that fit the mold, the Phoenix Style Collective began planning for their launch six months ago, and emerged early last January.

“We all just fell into place. It’s just so organic,” McEntire says. “It was originally my brainchild, something that I was always excited about. I knew I wanted to develop a network of talented, not flaky, artists and [help] build their portfolios here, so that they don’t need to move to L.A. or to New York.”

McEntire and the rest of the Phoenix Style Collective connected in January with other vintage lovers to swap shopping secrets and to talk trends.

“The launch party went really well. The Phoenix style collective needed a space to launch to present what they are, “ says Josh Hahn, member of the Phoenix Style Collective and co-owner of GROWop. “We decided to do it here at the GROWop because it’s newer, and it has become a staple in the community because of the garden, and because we just expanded the store.”

Arizona State University journalism freshman Stephanie Garcia attended the event.

“Before, I didn’t really think that Phoenix had a fashion scene,” Garcia says. “[But] the event changed my whole perspective because I saw so many people in the fashion industry from so many different backgrounds.”

Though not a member of the Phoenix Style Collective, Thibault attended the event and certainly seems like the archetype: the artist positioned sleekly between style and fashion.

Thibault, a long-time Arizona resident and graduate of the Carsten Institute of Hair & Beauty in Tempe, is the owner of the vintage store Mercantile, which offers the unique twist of being a hair salon along with providing a wide assortment of vintage merchandise.

The store originally opened four years ago as a salon, but, as Thibault explains, “after having the space for a while, it’s a large space I didn’t want to turn it into a salon, because I liked the idea of having a retail aspect to it, and it just made sense, to start curating it on my own with vintage goods for men and women.”

But Thibault is quick to say she doesn’t have any stringent aesthetic she's appealing to.

“I like to have a very wide curation,” says Thibault.  “I’m not really particularly picking and choosing for one particular type of downtown bohemian hipster. I want something that will broaden an individuals style.”


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