Lady-like blouses are a specialty at Vintalier, a carefully curated shop that recently opened in the Pearl District. The shop’s racks of office-ready vintage finds reflect the sensible taste of owner Ellen Hsu’s personal wardrobe.
“Honestly, I’m practical, a little bit fun, a little bit sophisticated,” Hsu said, laughing. “When I first came here [to Portland], I wore heels, but now I have to walk around everywhere.”
Vintalier is one of the latest in a spring crop of new boutique locations in Portland, joining the ranks of Trust Co., Eve in Eden and Bridge & Burn. Hsu spins a sophisticated take on the vintage clothing scene, with ladylike, floaty tops and secondhand dresses sophisticated enough for the corporate world.
Hsu knows the office scene well, having previously worked in international development and marketing. She wanted to wear outfits that were work-appropriate, but not stuffy.
Two years ago, she started to collect vintage clothing as a hobby. She soon amassed a full closet and sold pieces online. Even if a garment didn’t fit her figure, she kept it. At the time, she thought, “Somebody has to have this. It’s too cool not to sell it.”
It was such a success, she tried her hand at a pop up shop. Last summer, she set up a booth at Portland Flea, a venue showcasing local vendors at Union/Pine. The next step was obvious, Hsu said. In December 2012, she saw the Pearl retail spot. Within a month, she signed a lease. It was a lucky find, she said. Her boyfriend, Spencer Staley of The Good Mod furniture store, helped her with production and retail design. Everything was custom-made, including the furniture.
Hsu’s refined aesthetic serves a slightly older demographic, from professionals in their mid-30s to people in their 60s. She looks for classic styles that aren’t too quirky, trendy or costume-y, such as heels and floaty blouses. She often tinkers with clothing to give them a more modern cut and shape. Old capris became shorts. Dresses were hemmed. Seams were repaired.
This year, Hsu plans to collaborate with local artists to showcase more of their accessories, jewelry and scarves.
“I don’t want to be just a thrift store,” Hsu said.
Written By: Dominique Fong