She said, “Yes.”
I hear a sound like that of exhaust from a bus go by. I see applied pink lipstick resting beneath perfectly trimmed bangs. I sip a hot espresso based coffee drink while she drinks iced tea. I see flowers everywhere on the thrifted, Goodwill two-piece that she; Toni Walker of Fair Season Vintage wears. Its flowers are arranged like a Fibonacci sequence and for a moment I’m lost in its pattern. She’s composed with an eventual steady stream of shoulders raising, eyes popping and peaks of mountainous laughter.
At times she stirs her ice tea with intention of sipping that turns into a gesture that is an accompaniment of thoughtful yet quick reflection. She’s across from the table, but over the next hour to two even, its like she’s right next to me as she shares her ideas of thrifting, the decision to follow the lure of a State’s energy – California – to finding time to take drive way selfies for her online vintage brand.
As we begin conversing, gone are the hearts of Instagram life, and I’m free to just like her life, the one she shares with me that include my head nods and rambunctious fingers that type what follows herein.
CDE: Can you share your beginnings? Born in Pennsylvania. grew up in New Jersey. I lived in New York for nine years.
CDE: Where in New York were you?
TW: Spanish Harlem – 105th between first and second.
CDE: New York is a long way from Los Angeles. How did you come to being here?
TW: It’s been two years already that I’ve been here. But, I came out four years ago, had visited a bunch of times and I always loved it! I was selling wholesale to an Urban Outfitters buyer that was here. And I said, well, let me see.
Narrator: Wonder. The idea, of an idea was some centrifugal force for Toni, and it feels like it was a gentle but firm propeller leading her west.
CDE: What did you see?
TW: LA, smelled like jasmine. And there were fluorescent pinks everywhere. And, you know, there’s 300 days of sun a year, which I thought, this is amazing, its paradise!
Narrator: Ah, wooed by the temperate West.
TW: I was wowed. People had talked so much s%$ about L.A I was meeting all these girls and it was ‘sure let’s do that’, okay you’re ’in’ for this and do you want to do this market’ it was so much opportunity, people were so friendly and it was just….
Narrator: Is it the sun? Is it the palm trees? Is it the landlocked-less feeling of L.A. with a not too distant beach breeze that causes one to feel that it as a town is like a golden ticket?
Not to stardom, or to the idolized Hollywood, or even an echelon of a certain type of culture, but that its historical charm for being a magnet of connection, allows one with a precise vision to come and land on their personal gold mine.
TW: I was sold. And, I was leaving NY.
CDE: When I left L.A., it was two boxes, a guitar and a one-way planet ticket. How did you actually leave?
TW: I was working retail and for a company managing a couple of stores and I got laid off. It was really unexpected. I didn’t want to work for anyone else’s vision again.
Narrator: That decision is what one could and should call vision.
TW: I spent some time in Michigan for a couple of months to chill out. It was incredible. Then, everything I had was in my car. I packed it and drove west. It felt surreal, magical.
Narrator: She pauses.
TW: I love being in the car alone. There was screaming, crying and singing.
CDE: So, you came with…
TW: A tiny Italian table that I got from the Chelsea Flea ten years ago and a bunch of clothes. I had nothing, but I had everything.
CDE: Yes, Yes, Yes! So, then you’re here. What are you doing in your first months here?
TW: I always collected and thrifted clothes – I mean I’d done it forever. I launched the ETSY store, and I’ve been building it ever since. And then, you contacted me.
CDE: Yes! When I first started seeing your dailies on Instagram, I thought you were the most delightful real-life mannequin. The images were always you, just tilted differently. But, it was the simple sensibility of your style that drew me in. I wanted your clothes – all of them.
TW: Thank you. I love what I do; I want it to be easy and fun. I still have a part time job, stressing about money isn’t fun.
CDE: What is fun for you?
TW: I do the markets and that’s fun, having a space where people can come to and I can talk to them about what they feel. It’s so interesting. I’m making things now, and I’m feeling a response to that. So, this year feels pretty huge.
CDE: What else portends to it being huge? Do you see yourself having a store?
TW: Yes. I would love to have a space to always tell people to come. I would love for people to say I’m going to Coachella, I want to come by. And, there’s my space, that’s always there and they can come by.
CDE: I would be that girl.
TW: Yes. Come eat, shop and play dress up.
CDE: You speak my activities!
TW: Because, what else does a woman want to do? We have the gift to be able to wear whatever we want. I have friends who make things and I’d love to carry their stuff.
CDE: Lets talk about your ‘stuff’ for a moment. You, like me grew up thrifting. You make me feel like these clothes could all be mine. How did you find out what ‘stuff’ you liked?
TW: For me, this is all really personal. Growing up, I didn’t have the KEDS and that kind of stuff. I didn’t grow up rich. We always had to go to the sale rack and discount store. I got made fun of and people thought I was weird. In high school, I didn’t want to look like everyone else; I wanted my own things, things that were me.
Narrator: Isn’t that the case of every visionary, and one can declare that Fair Season is such.
TW: With fashion there are a lot of barriers in terms of cost. We should have access to things that are interesting, that are fashion forward and at a fair price that doesn’t come from H&M or Forever 21.
I’ve sold to these places, I think all of that stuff is out there [in thrifting] and you can get those looks, recycle and have it be one-of-a-kind and be cheaper and better quality.
To me, that’s a better way to shop, everything doesn’t have to be high fashion, it can be accessible and it’s important for me that I have accessibility.
CDE: What is accessible?
TW: It’s in your closet, and you wear it all the time.
Narrator: Amen! Because, doesn’t everyone where what they love, which is what they like to access all the time, all the time?
CDE: What is like when Toni shops?
TW: I’m keeping in mind what sells for me. I’m not buying any separates so no tops, no skirts. – its dresses, overalls, jumpers and jeans. Separates don’t sell for me, but maybe its because I don’t wear them.
Narrator: She laughs. Chérmelle laughs. They laugh.
TW: I’m always throwing on a dress or jumpsuit.
CDE: I love a dress. Its honestly one of the best inventions in life, I swear.
TW: You can layer a dress. I’m always in a dress. And, it sells. I’m also being a lot more focused with my shopping. I’m into natural fibers and colors. I love colors Hawaiian prints, African prints, feminine things and I like to touch everything.
CDE: You got me at the dress. But, you tipped me over with the African prints. How does Toni decide what to wear?
TW: It definitely depends on the season, but it’s usually a dress.
Narrator: Toni plays on her own theme. Love it!
TW: I’m always cold, I look at the weather, and I’m a little chilly most of the time. I have a couple of denim dress that I wear constantly with a shirt over it and a cardigan. And, I wear a lot of dresses.
CDE: And, I see a lot of that in your Instagram feed. Are you photographing yourself?
TW: Yes, I shoot in my driveway with a tripod and a timer. She laughs. My process isn’t scientific. Recently I started using other people as models. It’s convenient and quicker to shoot someone else. But, it’s convenient to shoot myself, because I’m always around.
CDE: So, you’re always in your clothes, always shooting your clothes. What should people know about vintage?
TW: I think it’s that vintage clothes are always better quality, they are just made better Sometimes for those who aren’t familiar with vintage, they don’t know that, or they are afraid of it because its old and used.
Narrator: This is the first time that Toni’s eyebrows furrow seriously.
TW: It’s made better and it last longer, longer than what one would buy at the Gap.
The other thing is fit, know your measurements, everything fits better when you know your body.
CDE: I feel that. It’s like knowing ones coffee. It can taste a whole lot better when you know what you’re drinking, that’s the beginning of understanding to me. Toni, do you drink coffee?
TW: Without a doubt. I use to drink Café Bustelo, you know in the yellow can, my mom too. You can get it at any bodega in N.Y. but not out here. Here, I have my Bialetti espresso pot and I drink a cup, with milk. I just pour the milk in, like an au lait.
CDE: Do you ever go out for coffee?
TW: My girlfriends and I meet on Thursday, we do this thing called ‘Coffee Talk’. We travel around, go to different places and we talk over coffee, you should come.
CDE: I’m already there. And, I’m probably wearing something from you. Ha! And, now, I have just a few questions for you, for the Toni that we might not get to hear.
CDE: What’s your best thrift?
TW: I have a collection of cable knit cardigans, cashmere and Irish fisherman sweaters.
CDE: Who are you listening to? TW: A$AP Rocky, ‘Problems’
CDE: Favorite Time of Day. TW: Afternoon, golden hour.
CDE: What’s your default food? TW: Arugula. I eat a lot of arugula.
CDE: What would you do on a day off?
TW: Stay home and clean. I’d buy flowers for my space, light candles and make food, yea that’s what feels good for me..
CDE: If you’re packing for a weekend, what are you bringing?
TW: Dresses, a couple of them and converse. My high top converse will take me everywhere. And probably a long skirt, or a jacket, underwear, and a motor tooth brush.
CDE: What has been wild for you about being on Instagram?
TW: How small the world is, like with you. Instagram is such a community.
CDE: What inspires you?
Narrator: Her shoulders rise, high.
TW: Wanting to be a better person everyday. I want to do good things and I want what I love to translate to something bigger.
Narrator: The birds are chirping. It is spring. But, perhaps its nature clapping approval her ambitions.
CDE: What are you reading?
TW: Jitterbug Perfume, its so good.
CDE: What’s your favorite feeling?
TW: Orgasms are the best. And well, being in love.
CDE: Coffee or Tea? TW: Coffee.
CDE: Dream thrift? TW: The perfect leather jacket.
CDE: Ah, Me too!
TW: And, oh you know what else I like, I like when people get something and they say, I wear it everyday – that’s life!
Narrator: Full circle, full season. The End.