Some of the region's top vintage purveyors are pooling their collective treasure-hunting talents and tastes for bygone decades at the newly opened Teleport Vintage + Co.
The shop, located just north of the downtown Spokane core in a historic building (many may remember it as the original home of Stella's Cafe), opened in early March and has already seen an outpouring of community support, says owner Paul Forster.
"I'm not sure if that is the hype of a new store, or the community being really thirsty for a store like this," Forster says, "but the reception has been completely and utterly humbling, and it feels good that people are enjoying and appreciating it. To me, it's just a store that I would like to go shop in."
Forster has been a figure in the local vintage scene for many years and long knew that if he ever opened his own shop he wanted to ditch the typical vendor-mall-style model of leasing designated floor space to other sellers. At Teleport, each partner instead agrees to a set split of their sales (the vendor keeps 70 percent, Teleport gets 30 percent), and each sellers' inventory is mixed together throughout the space, instead of in individual booths, to offer a more cohesive shopping experience.
"All these people have their own strengths, and they all bring something a little different to the store," Forster says. "The merchandise inside Teleport is highly curated by the team. All these people have a great eye and have a community outside Teleport that helps them find their stuff."
Teleport's clothing vendors include Fay Ripley of Red Leaf Vintage, Tony Brown of Vagabond Soundtrack and Mike Kay of Time Machine Workshop. A good chunk of the inventory is also from Forster's own vintage stock.
In addition to clothing, several sellers specialize in home goods like textiles, industrial fixtures and midcentury furniture, while others upcycle and customize vintage pieces. Teleport is also a storefront for the locally made natural skincare line Kani Botanicals and Spokane-based leather goods brand Westward Leather.
Forster says one of the major benefits of the shop's partnership model is that he can simply call up vendors when, say, inventory in cutoff denim shorts in certain sizes is low, or if vintage graphic tees are flying off the shelves.
"[Vendors] don't get that at other places they sell," he explains. "The ownership there isn't focused on people's spaces; they don't know how to go in and say, 'You're out of this, you need more of this.'"
Fortunately for both Teleport's vendors and customers, vintage fashion is experiencing a major surge in interest.
"I definitely know that vintage is the most popular it's ever been at this point in time. In the past five to seven years, vintage has exploded; and a lot of that, I think, is people are more aware that fast fashion is not good," Forster says. In the clothing industry, fast fashion describes inexpensively made, mass-produced, trend-driven pieces, often made by low-paid laborers in poor working conditions.
Yet with high demand for cool clothing from bygone days, there's also scarcity of goods — vintage sourcing in the Inland Northwest has become increasingly competitive — and higher prices for popular decades or rare, one-of-a-kind pieces.
Sourcing, Forster says, "is a never-ending process because it's not like a normal retail thing where you buy brand-new products and you can always buy that to fill your shelves." In vintage, "you never know when you're going to get that next thing."
Forster has worn and collected vintage fashion since he was a kid, having adopted the lifestyle and an appreciation of older, high-quality goods from his parents and grandparents.
"I grew up dumpster diving when I was a kid, and my mom and grandma dragged me to estate sales and thrift stores," he says. "My grandfather also knew the value of a dollar, and I learned that really quickly, and how to reuse and recycle and not be so wasteful."
While Teleport stocks rare items like 1950s leather motorcycle jackets and hard-to-find World War II-era workwear, there are also $15 T-shirts and denim below new retail prices. Thanks to its diverse mix of vendors, shoppers can find all kinds of clothing from most decades of the 20th century.
Compounding a growing desire among vintage seekers to boycott fast fashion's unsustainable practices and ethics, Forster says celebrity influence on younger generations has also helped spur vintage fashion's latest resurgence.
"Clothing — everyone needs clothing, and a lot of people now understand they can go out and find these pieces and almost turn your body into a canvas," he says.
"The clothing you put on your body is a statement, and there is a lot more nuance in vintage." ♦
Teleport Vintage + Co • 917 W. Broadway Ave. • Open Wed-Sun 12-6 pm (Mon/Tue by appt.) • Instagram.com/teleportvintageandco