Fay Ripley knows how to make vintage fashion look really good.
By using models of diverse sizes and body types to style her latest finds in mini photoshoots around town, Ripley's Red Leaf Vintage brand shows existing and would-be customers that donning vintage clothing is fun and, most importantly, fashionably timeless.
A scroll through the Spokane reseller's Instagram feed (@redleafvintage) may also make fellow vintage enthusiasts a bit envious — especially if they see a one-of-a-kind piece not in their size or that's since sold — but also itching to shop Ripley's current inventory at two Spokane shops, Chosen Vintage and Boulevard Mercantile.
"What I say on my Instagram is unique, bold, timeless, colorful — that is what I'm going for," Ripley says, seated on a midcentury sofa inside her 1954 North Spokane rancher's living room, entirely decorated in '50s, '60s and '70s furnishings. She's sporting a favorite piece from her personal vintage collection, a late '60s/early '70s green polyester dress with a large, pointed collar and an orange and chartreuse circular pattern running its length.
"Something that you're going to stand out in, which is hard because not everyone wants to stand out," she continues. "That's why I push a lot of vintage mixing. You can still wear a cool '60s, '70s top and modern jeans and shoes. There's no rules."
Ripley got her start in vintage fashion by way of studying photography and discovering an appreciation for 1920s fashion and portrait photography. Before launching Red Leaf, she collected textiles and clothing from the '20s, yet found it difficult to showcase the delicate pieces on models because of the fabrics' age and often deteriorating condition.
Eventually Ripley transitioned to buying, selling and collecting longer-lasting and wearable clothing from the latter half of the 20th century. She's been selling women's vintage pieces at Chosen Vintage for three years, and added a second large space in the basement of Boulevard Mercantile in January. At Chosen, her inventory is tucked away in a cozy back room, and encompasses the 1950s through the '90s. She stocks her higher-end pieces, like vintage wedding gowns, formalwear and higher-end labels, at Boulevard.
While other vintage resellers may buy and sell as a side gig or hobby, Red Leaf Vintage is full time for Ripley.
"I couldn't do this as a hobby," she asserts. "I've gone out at midnight to meet clients. I've seen the craziest things. With this, you see a lot of hoarding and it's really sad. When I do meet people, I make sure that they know I'm appreciative and everything they give me is going to go to good homes. Part of the reason is that I'm saving vintage from going into the trash."
Rather than scouring thrift store racks in the increasingly competitive vintage market, Ripley maintains lots of local connections who alert her to estate sales and other sources looking to offload stashes of old clothing. Even though the work is often mentally and physically exhausting, Ripley always enjoys connecting with people she buys from, and the people who buy from her.
"It's rewarding when someone finds something that is really unique and they're super happy, and people send me pictures and repost it, and get so many compliments on their outfit because it was unique and stood out." ♦
Shop Red Leaf Vintage at Boulevard Mercantile, 1905 N. Monroe; Chosen Vintage, 7 W. Main