New Century, Old Clothes: Vintage Retail in the Digital Age with Catie Nienaber
SF Zine Fest has its roots in self-publishing but we also feature many artists exhibiting art, craft and other hand-made products created with a DIY ethic. This year Zine Fest is proud to host a speaking event with Catie Nienaber of
. Catie Nienaber started with zines, moved to blogging, has been published in WORN and 7x7, and now writes for the San Francisco Chronicle's Style section.
**Catie will be giving her presentation: New Century, Old Clothes: Vintage Retail in the Digital Age at SF Zine Fest on Sunday, Sept 2nd at 2:30pm**
How do you describe what you do?
Ha! I usually say "I'm a busy lady." But most of the time I tell people that I own an online vintage clothing store, and also occasionally write for the San Francisco Chronicle's Style section. But I also have a day job in an office, and a life outside of it.
You got your start in zines, how did that experience affect/inform your career?
I started doing zines because I enjoyed writing and drawing and because there was this built-in community of people who had similar interests. It was a fun way to get to know like-minded folks. When I was in graduate school I had a lot of homework and couldn't do it as much. But I still felt compelled to write as a means of sorting out my life and interacting with others. So I just started blogging instead. That, and the eventual transition to having this store, introduces you to this world of peers who are into the same things you are. It's very communal. Everyone is in it to help each other be better. There are people you admire because they do things a certain way and there are resources you return to because they've been helpful. Everyone has something positive to contribute to the conversation. And behind every storefront is a real actual human doing something they love to do.
This involves a lot of computer time, and sitting there for hours on end with an album on in the quietness of the house reminds me of when I'd spend hours at the kitchen table working on zines, just totally in the zone. And maybe I'd get fatigued after a while, but I'd just say to myself, 'This is going to look so cool when it's all done.' I have moments like that now with my store all the time.
Tell us about
It's a two-year old online store, on Etsy, that sells clothing and accessories from the 1930s to the 1970s, although occasionally there are pieces both older and younger than those eras.
What role does DIY play in your current work/business?
Dronning is a great example of DIY in a couple of ways. First off, I do everything myself, from beginning to end. I source all the garments, clean and mend them (if they need it), photograph them, store them, and then eventually package and ship them. I design all the stickers, business cards and do all the social media. But I'm also not living in this fog of hubris. This will contradict what I just said, but part of knowing yourself is knowing your limitations. I can do simple mends, like fixing holes in sweaters and sewing on buttons, but hemming a 1930s dress that has a tattered edge? I do not trust my sewing skills on that one, and the quality of the dress might be compromised if my hands got too involved. I pay someone at a local business to do something that is beyond my skills. Or I do a trade. I have a friend that I met through a sewing circle who is an attorney. She showed me how to do my taxes my first year out because it was difficult for me to wade through everything. To pay her, I sold some of her vintage dresses in my shop (she is a collector) and she took a cut of the profits.
What communities have contributed to your success?
This touches a bit on what I'm going to talk about in my workshop. If you feel the need for a community but you don't naturally find yourself immersed in one, it's really up to you to go out and seek out whatever it is you're looking for. There are a few books and online sources, like the Vintage Fashion Guild, that were of great help to me especially in my first year that I still return to all the time. You have to always be looking and watching. Educating your eyes is one of the best things you can do.
What can visitors expect at your SFZF event?
Besides a tall gal who is prone to talking with her hands.... it's going to be fun. I'm really into being honest about my experiences. So you'll get a portrait of someone who bumbled her way through her early days and ended up growing something that pays the bills yet never feels like work.
We are very excited to have Catie present at Zine Fest! Be sure to attend her panel and check out our other