This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Shopping Vintage || An Interview with Whiskey & Honey

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Shopping Vintage || An Interview with Whiskey & Honey

shirt via Whiskey & Honey

My love for thrifting started back in high school in the mid 90's--at first sort of ironically, usually just to score a great costume for some decade themed dance party. Quickly I started vintage shopping for real finding amazing one-of-a-kind pieces that I often wish I still had today.

The "pleather" jacket that looked like real leather that I found in a tiny shop on the North Shore of Oahu. The best broken in, perfectly hole-y jeans that I wore until they literally fell apart and even then I still tried to save them. The brown pea coat with the giant fur collar that was a honestly a show stopper. Or the cap sleeve, perfect white v-neck I found in some random military store that I wore almost daily my senior year of high school and my freshman year in college. It. was. perfect. 

As I've grown older I've added a significant number of home items to the list of my favorite vintage finds. In fact, I would say more than half of our major furniture pieces (maybe 60%?) are second hand: A couch, rugs, our dining set, china hutch, shelves, entry way dresser, a bed, and a handful of chairs.

I don't have as much time these days to go through rack after rack of clothes at my favorite thrift stores these days, but luckily I don't have to. I'd like to introduce you to Ariel and Justin, the owners of Whiskey&Honey, one of my favorite online retailers for amazing vintage finds. They do all the scouring, searching, and hunting for you finding the best and the coolest pieces out there, even styling them with other outfits so I can picture exactly how that piece would fit in with my wardrobe. They've even found some of my very favorite home decor items ever. Like ever. (See the wooden tray, black vases and that plate with the gorgeous veining pictured above? Yep--all from W&H). Their business is based mostly on Instagram and they support their family of 4 through their well curated, amazing vintage finds. I asked them some questions about their family, their business and how they make it all run and work together. (Also, just to be clear this is not a sponsored post. I will always let you know when I am getting paid for working with a brand. I just like these guys and what they do and I think you will too.)

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Welcome Ariel and Justin! First, can you introduce yourselves and your family to us? How did you two meet, when did your darling girls come along and what makes your family tick? 

My name is Ariel, my husband’s name is Justin, and we have two little girls (or feral monkeys as we lovingly refer to them on IG,) named Mathilda (age 9) and Lille (age 7.)

Justin and I have a weird story. We met back when I was just out of high school at an event in Austin that I was helping coordinate. He came with a friend. Eye contact was made. I was busy running the event and he was too nervous to introduce himself. We both thought the other was cute, but never connected. His friends say he agonized over that night for weeks. A year later, I had moved to a tiny university in Switzerland and he had moved back home to Kansas. There were only a couple dozen kids in my entire school. The first week of class, a girl came up to me and said something to the effect of “I know this is weird and we just met, but I swear you are the perfect match for one of my best friends. If I give you his email, would you make me super happy and send him a message?” I agreed. The guy and I got along really well and after exchanging many emails, we decided we would Skype. I can still hear that familiar electronic ring sound… I picked up and we immediately recognized each other, having met nearly a year prior to having our first real conversation- over the Internet. It just took moving across the world for us to find each other again.
We actually had a very tumultuous dating relationship. When we found out we were pregnant with our oldest, we weren’t even speaking to each other. Mathilda was like a beacon of light, shining the way through our juvenile, selfish bullsh*t. We tell her often that she is magic, and that it’s because of her we know how to really love.

We joke that Mathilda was created from anger and heartbreak and she came out glowy and loving and joyful. Our youngest was born of content and peace and came out screaming and full of sass.

Our life as a family is a crazy chaotic spinning top full of laughter and imagination and hurrying and making it up together as we go along and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


shirt via Whiskey & Honey

As you know I'm a huge fan of Whiskey & Honey, I've been a customer for quite a few years now and some of my all time favorite vintage pieces have come from your thoughtfully and carefully curated collection. How did W&H get started? What does running your business look like day-to-day? Does your name have special significance?

I am so honored that you consider your w&h pieces a special part of your home and closet. It is such an odd feeling to turn something over in your hands and wonder if someone else would hold it in theirs and love it as you do. We never tire of hearing when it works out that way and it fuels the little w&h engine that could.

W&h started when J and I made the decision to relocate to Seattle back in 2013. We made the move with only what we could fit in our Prius including a dog, a cat! I thought- I don’t know if I can bear to part with some of my favorite treasures for $3 at a garage sale. Maybe I’ll throw some things up on IG and see if any of our friends or their friends are interested. I created the w&h handle and loaded some items. Before I knew it, we had sold everything we had and had a following of 1k! People began asking when we would be listing more goods, and we needed money for the move, so I decided to risk it and try to flip some stuff. The rest is history.

J and I are working on creating a cookbook that reads more like a kind of novel about our life. It is not the life we ever thought we would have and no two days are the same. We try as hard as we can to provide stability for the girls. Every weekend, we have family day on Saturday and “date day” on Sunday, where we trade off alone time with each of the girls. During the week, it is all going going going, so we like to slow down and unplug at the end.

Typically during the week, I am out shopping for product or shooting it. J handles all customer relations and shipping. He is the real backbone of this crazy thing. He’s the one that cleans, mends, folds, fluffs, and gets everything out in time.

I get really excited when I get to be more creative with shooting product. My true ambition is to work full time as a stylist, but someone wise told me in the meantime to shoot the kind of work I’d like to be hired to do. So that’s what I’m doing for now.

Our name has no real significance, which truly makes my GROAN. It was sort of a place holder in the beginning but once we had built a decent following, we didn’t feel like we could just change it, so like it or not, we are WHISKEY AND HONEY, BABY!


When I first started shopping at thrift and second hand stores in high school (the late 90's), it was often seen as a little "out there" or even humorous--like I was being so crazy and edgy (and man, what I wouldn't give to go back in time and buy ALL the old orange tab Levi's!). Of course I was trying to make a fashion statement back then, but now it seems like there are so many great reasons to shop vintage besides timeless fashion that I wasn't even aware of. What are the reasons you two are drawn to buying and selling vintage items? What would you say to someone who has never dove into vintage wear and might feel a little strange about buying someone else's old clothes? (Ha!)

J and I are totally different when it comes to vintage. We have really sharpened each other in that way.

J comes from Kansas, and worked retail for many years. He has worked closely with big names in the fashion industry. Although in high school, he was known for dressing eccentric-cool, a la his inspiration Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt in Fight Club- think 70s Hawaiian tops and ratty old tees…) He now favors quality and concise design over novelty and trend.

I grew up a pastor’s kid, with a fashionable and creative mother. She taught me the value of shopping second hand- why should I care about buying something brand new when I can get five more things for the same amount used? She also showed me that your creativity is your only limit and taught me how to create new outfits using the same staple pieces, but different accessories and layers.

My personal relationship with vintage has changed as my vision of myself has also changed. I remember reading an article in one of my mom’s fashion magazine once that featured a handful of timeless fashion icons, and their evolution through the years. Every single one of them agreed that only in their later years had they found their truest sense of style, despite being in the spotlight early in their careers. They said that less is more, that trends come and go, but dressing like a lady never will. I have remembered that always. Only in the last few years have I really started to understand it more. My first vintage purchases appealed to me because they reminded me of Audrey Hepburn. Feminine, fun, distinctly vintage. I had so many vintage dresses that my closet door could never close.

I loved two things:
One- that no one else in any room I entered could possibly have on the same thing I did. As a young woman, searching desperately for self discovery, I could imagine myself as anyone in those dresses. I was not bound by the restraints of what was “in” or “out, because I was from a different time completely.

Two- When I walked into a room as a teenager in a vintage dress, people stopped and turned to look. I didn’t get the same “compliments” many of the girls around me did- Instead of hearing I was “hot,” I would hear that I was “captivating.” Instead of having guys whisper dirty words to me, they asked me what kind of music I listened to. I don’t know if I can credit the dresses with that or not, but it certainly made me feel special. Wearing vintage dresses does not make you a lady, nor does not wearing vintage dresses make you the opposite. But for me, my wardrobe was the perfect canvas on which to paint my hopes for the kind of woman I would someday be and project them like a force field around me.

Now, when I reach into my closet for vintage, there are fewer dresses, and more basics. My absolute favorite things to wear are old ratty tees and denim, hoodies and sweats, coats and blouses. I do still have special pieces like dresses and accessories, but they don’t see daylight often. Maybe once the babies are gone, their day will come again.

Some people ask me how I can part with items that suit me or are so rare. The truth is- it’s not easy, but the feeling I get reading a message or seeing a photo we’ve been tagged in from a happy customer is worth letting go. I don’t allow myself a moment of attachment to our inventory, because I don’t see it as mine. Sometimes I will whisper sweet words to items as I pass them off to be shipped- I hope they bring our customers joy and luck and pride and love.

I made a video for earth day a year or two ago about why we sell vintage. Aside from the obvious ethical and environmental benefits to vintage, there is a more intimate perspective, which is this: Vintage items have an air of mystery to them. We don’t know what life they lived before they came to us. We don’t know whose heart broke in those shoes or if someone had their first kiss in that blouse. We don’t know if someone marched for women’s rights in those jeans or held their baby for the first time in that sweater. For that reason, I imagine that when we lace them up or pull them over our shoulders, they impart some kind of magic to us that came from before. Then we imprint ourselves on these items and perhaps pass them on again to live yet another life. Isn’t that kind of dreamy?
Lastly, these days it can be tough to find those good vintage scores! Do you have any tips for thrift shopping and getting the great finds?

If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend the basics- a good tee, a nice sweater… But most importantly, a good pair of vintage denim.
There is nowhere else that you can find the kind of wear that vintage denim provides. That wear is REAL, girl!

As far as thrifting goes, Try to look for textures and fibers that you are drawn to. I can scan an entire rack in just a few minutes because I know what quality material looks and feels like and it stands out to me- worn thin jersey, silk, linen, woven wool… they will stand out among cheaply made fast fashion pieces.

Always try things on- Never go by sizing. This is an important one. Obviously you know if something is going to be TINY and not fit, but other than that, don’t limit yourself! I only list items as oversized or fitted. If you are small, don’t be afraid to wear things big and loose! Its all about balance! A huge tee can look amazing tucked into tight high waisted jeans!
I have been (truly) overweight and also very little. I know how hard it can be to make yourself try things on if you don’t feel pretty. Put makeup on and do your hair. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are beautiful! Stop by Starbucks on the way and make it like a fun treasure hunt.

If you are bigger, look for items that give their own silhouette- larger sleeves, smaller waists (mine was only small just under my boobs, so I looked for items that could be fitted there), boxier chest... HUNT for the perfect pair of denim. I promise you it is worth trying on a million pairs of jeans that won’t button or zip or even go up past your calf when you finally find the ONE. : ) This is something J taught me, having worked in denim for years. Good vintage denim is thick and faded usually to a soft blue. It doesn’t have artificial wear like whiskers or a heavy grain. Don’t be scared if something looks super stained and torn up- my FAVORITE pieces, and the ones we sell the most of look pretty grody when we find them. Everything can be cleaned, and then the wear is what makes the item such a killer find!

Some people tell me- “The thrift stores near me suck. They never have good stuff." I have only had that experience a couple times in my entire life, and I have moved more times than I can count on both hands. The thing is- As long as they regularly put new items out, there is a chance that one day you will walk in and find something amazing. Find out how often they put out new inventory, and come back when there's new stuff to go through. Always try a thrift store at least three times.

Also, even having thrifted my entire adult life, I still spend HOURS at one stop. This is why I can mark my items up the way I do- I am digging through bin after bin and box after box and rack after rack so that my customers don’t have to. If this doesn’t sound fun to you, you’re not alone. The hunt is either in your blood or it ain't. Just don’t expect to race through the store in a matter of minutes and leave with a cart full of treasures. By the time I leave a thrift stop, I have touched nearly every item in there. It is crazy how close I have come to missing some of my all time favorite finds because I didn’t want to keep leafing through to the end. Some days I win big, sometimes I strike out.

Lastly- don’t look at the brand. I almost always cut the tag out of our items because seriously- who cares. A garment is what it is. I only sell vintage, but the brand is irrelevant. The fiber, the color, the fit, the wear… That’s all that matters. 
 
Be sure to check out W&H online and on Instagram.

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