Introducing "Vintage Talks", a new series showcasing vintage and ethical fashion creatives, entrepreneurs and advocates from all around the globe.
Through these different portraits you will meet and get inspired by fascinating driving forces of the industry.
For this first talk, I am beyond excited to introduce Vanessa Chambers, the talented beauty behind the instagram account @ohheyvanessa. She has the most perfect versatile style and truly an eye for scoring the edgiest vintage finds.
But enough chit chat from me, read her interview below and get to know more about her.
- Hey Vanessa, so thrilled to have you here with us today! Can’t wait to discover more about you and your universe! So please introduce yourself.
Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview with you!
So a bit about me, I'm currently 26 years old, living in Brampton Ontario, a city outside of Toronto, Canada.
I am an interior designer, primarily of office furniture and commercial spaces. On the side, I run a sustainable home decor business called "Personal Space Living" where I curate second hand and small-batch home decor items to give my customers the opportunity to shop for their homes sustainably.
Outside of sustainable home curating, I have a great passion for sustainable fashion (lol cheesy I know) and post all about it on my Instagram @ohheyvanessa. I pride myself on having a major second-hand wardrobe (still a few fast-fashion pieces sprinkled in here and there because I'm not perfect, far from it), I love thrifting, it's probably my favourite hobby because I love the hunt!
- Tell us a bit more about your relationship to vintage and second-hand. For how long have you been shopping vintage and why?
My love for secondhand didn't start as love, it was quite embarrassing for me at the time.
I was a new immigrate* to Canada, I was broke and needed clothing for college and to get me through the winters.
I was embarrassed because I couldn't afford something as basic and necessary as clothing not to mention the love I've always had for clothes and being unable to even consider buying something trendy.
At that age, I thought fast fashion was for normal people and that I was too poor to even be normal. Even when I did start to grow an affinity for thrifted clothing and was able to find my style through it; whenever I got asked where something I was wearing was from I would say I don't remember or that it was from the mall even if I remembered the exact time and date I got it.
I didn't want to be seen as even more of an outsider so I kept my thrifting on the low for years.
We all know the stigma of thrifted clothing being gross and dirty and only for the less fortunate, and even though now I know better, back then I was the less fortunate and didn't want to show it.
My journey started out of necessity then grew to be about ethics and sustainability and with that I was able to understand the importance of sharing why it is okay and important to shop thrifted.
(* I was born a citizen but didn't reside in Canada growing up)
- What pieces or era do you find yourself naturally gravitating towards?
I think my biggest secondhand collections are vintage tees, bags, corsets, and blazers! And currently, I've been really into collecting vintage occasion wear dresses even though with COVID-19 I'm not too sure what or when that occasion will be.
I don't have an era I love more than another; I would say my style is pretty fluid in that way. It can sway anywhere from the 1920s to 2020. I just like to be inspired and let that inspired lead my style choice of the day. And that way I get to switch it up as often as possible and be whatever version of myself I need to be that day.
I like to draw inspiration from everywhere; a colour scheme I might see in Architectural Digest, maybe a movie or tv series, sometimes an ad I randomly walk by. I think it makes my life a bit more interesting knowing that I have no clue what's around the corner that might inspire me.
I’m sure it sounds exhausting to most but it’s more of a creative exercise for me.
- What is the thrifted item you are the most proud of? Also, do you have a vintage/second-hand piece you’re dying to get your hands on?
This is so hard, they are all my babies! Um, if I had to narrow it down I would say a Vera Wang blush pink tulle bridesmaid dress I thrifted, a Christian Dior belt I got for $2, and the countless amount of Doc Marten boots I've found never in my size but was able to pass them on to friends and family over the years.
As I said earlier, vintage dresses have become my new focus and I love to get my hands on more heavily beaded bias-cut dresses that fit like a dream.
- How would you describe your personal style? What is your favorite outfit combo?
My style can be described as ever-changing, there is nothing constant about it.
I like being able to change my mind and dress according to my mood. Sometimes I don't want to be seen and sometimes I want to enter a room and turn heads and I use my outfits to depict that. However I’m feeling my posture changes, my walk, my interaction with the people around me and my style adapts to be the other piece of the puzzle.
For me, it would suck to not have my outside not coincide with how I feel on the inside.
- You really have an eye for discovering unique gems; what would be your number one tip for a newbie?
Create a “Pinterest Board” or an “Instagram Saved” folder!
I do at least one per season to help me see what pieces are inspiring me at that time. After a few saves, you’ll start to notice the pieces or colours or silhouettes that are repeating, and with that in mind, you can start to look out for them in thrift shops, your favourite Instagram vintage sellers or maybe Depop/PoshMark/eBay.
Even if the pieces you see yourself gravitating towards seems outside of your comfort zone the beauty of secondhand shopping is that you get to try it out for less than more retailers for a fraction of the price!
- You live in Brampton Ontario near Toronto, Canada. Tell us about the vintage scene over there; what are 3 of your favorite brick and mortar vintage shops?
I thrift mostly outside of the city, the prices are better and it’s less picked over.
My favourite places to head to on the weekend are Talize (I think this is a Canadian thing), Value Village and to find amazing home decor for my shop, Salvation Army.
When I do go into the city though I always head to Kensington Market close to Chinatown. Kensington has the best brick and mortar mom & pop shops in the city in my opinion. And after a day of vintage shopping, there are some of the BEST food spots around there too you will be spoilt for choice!
- What are your plans for the upcoming months?
I’ve been trying to take up more space as a Black woman in the sustainability movement and reminding myself that even though I may not be perfect that my voice and the lessons I’ve learned from the ancients and the Black community about sustainability are equally as important.
With that said I want to take the next few months to pivot my content from just cute clothing to cute clothing with a message. I don’t really see myself as an influencer but I do feel like it’s my duty to share with as many people as I can the importance of leading a more sustainable life.
Sadly this is a space that POC, in general, have been silenced in even though they have been practicing a more sustainable way of life for centuries and I would like us to be just as visible.
Et voilà! Hope you enjoyed this interview as much as we did!