Written by Kelsey Duchesne
Interview conducted by Kelsey Duchesne and Emma Glassman-Hughes
When I stepped into the Dusty Rose Vintage store in Greenpoint Brooklyn, I was immediately teleported to my Nana’s 70’s inspired living room by way of an identical portrait that had graced her faux stone wall. I was taken aback by the sharp vividness of the memory, and surprised that one of Brooklyn’s favorite vintage shops could bring me back to the district smells and sounds of Nana's house, a childhood haven. Perhaps this is where the magic of Dusty Rose Vintage lies: the store itself feels fresh and inspired, but each piece, hand picked by owner Maresa Ponitch, has a past life and a story to tell.
Originally meant to be a warehouse, Maresa decided to open it to the public as the store after seeing “a lot of friendly faces, knocking on the window, asking to come in.” It is now serves as a warehouse/store combined, open to the public 4 days a week and available for personal appointments. The store is well organized and decorated with art and trinkets that you can take right off the walls and purchase- it’s kinda like going to your best friends house and being able to take whatever you want, except there is no promise to return. Before our shopping began, Emma and I chatted with Maresa about why she loves vintage, what inspired her to open up her warehouse to the public, and how fashion can be an outlet for young women.
Kelsey Duchesne: I find it so interesting that this originally wasn’t meant to be a store, I feel so welcomed here!
Maresa Ponitch: Oh good, thank you! I’ve always run Dusty Rose in a warehouse, and this was my first store- everything before was entirely online or by appointment. I was a bit apprehensive to open this place to the public. Every time a customer came in I wanted to explain “This is a warehouse! Please don’t have any expectations!” The original idea was to let people know about the warehouse, and we were going to do everything online.
KD: Did you find this place quickly? I feel like this location is such a gem.
MP: I had to move twice in one year, it was awful. I used to be on the ground floor of a warehouse, and it was a freezing winter, and I only saw private clients. There were no windows. It made me realize that I did want to be open to the public. In Greenpoint, you kinda need to be! They keep things interesting! I love working with private clients and buyers, but there there is certainly a business mentality and formula tied to that. With organic customers, you never know what your experience will be.
KD: I was watching you chat with customers when I came in, you seem to genuinely love helping them.
MP: I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. People come in and play, and I can watch people who are determined to find something special, or find a piece and play with it until they can make it work. I had never worked retail, I come from the buying world, so I feel lucky I’ve had a chance to experience this. Seeing people, the public customers, they’re having fun! I didn’t think I was ever going to see that.
KD: I’m sure it’s so wonderful to see a customer find something that you have selected to be in your store, and know that it’s made their day.
MP: Yeah, it’s special. When people are shopping for themselves, they're not here to resell it. They’re here to wear it. If I could bottle the feeling I get when I see that happen! Even though everything has been selected to be here, you still get to find it yourself. You get to decide how you’re going to wear it.
KD: Have you noticed any trends that people have been seeking out?
MP: Silhouettes seem to be changing lately, which I love. I see women in the men's plus size bin, wearing oversized sweaters as dresses. I just love it.
KD: I read that about 90% of your wardrobe in vintage, is that true?
MP: Yes! It’s definitely doable, you’ve just gotta make time and feel the fabric and decide how you’re going to be wearing it. I ultimately look for things that are comfortable, because this is still a warehouse! I’m doing a lot of moving and lifting and sorting. When people are interested in working here, I always ask “can you lift heavy boxes?” This job can be physical.
KD: I’m a little obsessed with pop culture, and heard you’ve been associated some film projects?
MP: Yes, I’ve provided clothes to stylists for films! It’s been fun. We’ve worked with Girls, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a little of The Americans.
KD: Oh my gosh, I’m swooning.
MP: (laughs) We’ve done some of Ray’s shirts, and Jenny Slate’s character, Tally. Super fun.
KD: Do you have any advice to any new vintage shoppers?
MP: It's all about tailoring. If I could be an advocate for vintage wearers- tailor it! You could buy a shirt for 8 dollars have it completely tailored for 12 dollars, and then you have a 20 dollar well made shirt that is 30 years old and in great condition! You can get dresses taken out or be made into a v neck, or whatever.
Emma Glassman-Hughes: I very recently decided to sell the majority of my clothes because I want to start buying all of my clothes as reused, and been going through Instagram. I want to support local business and be more sustainable. Do you have any advice on the best way to approach this project?
MP: One of my favorite things about vintage is, that like everything else, you have to research what's going on with your clothing. Where is it being made? What materials are being used? What is nice about vintage is you are often supporting a small business and you’re continuing to a sustainable culture. The clothes that you're buying are also often super durable too! I just love the materials I find and put into my warehouse.
KD: What do you consider thrift vs. vintage stores, currently? I sometimes get confused, honestly.
MP: To me, thrift will always be a classic definition- like a salvation army- where you can find great vintage pieces but it is not entirely made up of vintage. My definition is that if everything is donated or mostly donated, it's often a thrift store- but that's not really what everyone defines it anymore. Sometimes people call my store a thrift store, and who am I to say no? The definition changes, and I’m really okay with that. Someone loves it, and it's a piece that has validity in its own right.
EGH: Do you have anything to say about women in the vintage fashion industry?
MP: When i created this warehouse, it was important to me that as a female run company and that the language and experience we’re giving our customers is authentic. Like, beach body ready? We’re not going to use terms like that. That’s not our thing.
KD: We just talked about that yesterday! Like, is it that you get skinner?
EGH: Yeah, beachbody is just our normal body. At the beach.
MP: For me, I see a lot of improvement from when i was a teenage girl in the 80’s and 90’s. It makes me happy.
EGH: If you are a girl who has shopped at fast fashion places with their goal to look like everyone else, how do you think they should start?
MP: I think a lot of it can stem from creativity. We all have to get dressed everyday, so it's amazing to not be afraid. I have a personal relationship to that- I grew up poor and we shopped at thrift stores. I grew up in a rich neighborhood, and I was teased mercilessly. Kids were mean! And it was the 80s, everything was able labels. I was crafty, and would try to replicate the styles from thrift stores, but wasn't successful. So i did a 180 and decided to dress differently, to show that I’m not trying, that's my only way to win. By the time I was 9, I was wearing vintage and just trying to be weird.
I sold lemonade in my wagon to buy converse, and everyone made fun of me because they were boys color. And I was like, forget it! It was an internal switch.
EGH: That's very empowering, to take control.
KD: That's how I felt, too. I wore a back brace in high school-- it was the most cliche form of high school nerd. And I was tall and awkward and thought “Okay, I physically can't dress exactly the way everyone else does, so i'm going to have fun and creative."
MP: Yes, I love that. I also just get bored easily. Everyone needs to get dressed every morning- why not be creative? Why not try something new?
EGH: Does it feel good doing work that creates positive impact, and promotes sustainability?
MP: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t initially realize how much the customer's interactions it would effect me. When they’re happy, I’m ecstatic, and the 1% of people that are rude do affect me. I really focused on that when training my employees, because I didn’t want them to take it to heart. Sometimes the clothes can feel personal because I've selected them to be there, and I genuinely want to please my customer.
EGH: People seemed pretty pleased, overall.
MP: Yeah! Like, look at the people in here right now! People are working it out! It's fun to have something that no one else has. A women just bought a blue and yellow floral dress. Right now so many things are general neutral color or bold abstract color, so that's probably not a color that you'll see often in a store right now.
EGH: And it looks great on her.
MP: Exactly! Providing people with clothes that may not be in big stores right now is important to me. Stores often tell their story and create their story and you have to! But I don't do that, I want people to create their own story- I’m just here to help.
This article has been edited and condensed.