we make mistakes and call them coincidences

If we never have enough love, we have more than most.
We have lost dogs in our neighborhood and wild coyotes,
and sometimes we can’t tell them apart. Sometimes
we don’t want to. Once I brought home a coyote and told
my lover we had a new pet. Until it ate our chickens.
Until it ate our chickens, our ducks, and our cat. Sometimes
we make mistakes and call them coincidences. We hold open
the door then wonder how the stranger ended up in our home.
There is a woman on our block who thinks she is feeding bunnies,
but they are large rats without tails. Remember the farmer’s wife?
Remember the carving knife? We are all trying to change
what we fear into something beautiful. But even rats need to eat.
Even rats and coyotes and the bones on the trail could be the bones
on our plates. I ordered Cornish hen. I ordered duck. Sometimes
love hurts. Sometimes the lost dog doesn’t want to be found.

Hunger by Kelli Russel Agodon

 

Photo: Hard Club, Porto (2014)

Bizarre witnesses

If they asked me, I could probably write a book on my mistakes. Not that it would amount to a very interesting read. But then, I take a long time to admit mistakes and I am not ready to talk about most of them, let alone willing to write them down.

My “Closet of Errors” is an attempt to come to terms with some of those mistakes by honoring them as intentional, mostly because my closet is full of witnesses.

In the Summer of 1992, I went to León in Spain for a paid work placement wit immigrant communities. I used part of the money I got to buy this Junior Gaultier jacket on sale. It was a super sale. It cost me 2.500 pesetas, something like €15 today or, if you are to believe that some online vintage  listings are accurate, €500. This witness still lives in my closet. I think I bought it because it was an unmissable opportunity to own a Gaultier piece (even if it was a little too small and it makes raising my arms a tad impossible) and because, in some way, it resonated with a watching, and loving, “Little House on the Prairie” when I was a kid. I think I haven’t worn it for at least fifteen years but it is not going to be easy to let this one go.

Having grown out of “Little House on the Prairie” and after a few years studying in the UK, my next Gaultier was a nod to Punk aesthetics and an attempt to keep some kind of Britishness with me. It’s now the property of someone living in New York. I though I was ready to let it go because I was selling it someone who would love it as much as I did. I wasn’t and I have the feeling that I didn’t sell it to the right person. I never got any feedback apart from the one in my mind telling me that, even though my unworn wardrobe can be an investment with an interesting return, it’s really not about the money. It is always about the lives I have lived wearing a particular piece, the lives I planned on living when I bought some other.

I planned, or better yet, I daydreamed a lot, and, in the process, started to choose the wardrobe to go with all the fabulous things I would be and for the grandiose life I would live. I have always missed places in time that I didn’t know  and prepared for them. I dreamed of being an aristocratic bohemian in Marrakesh, a flaneur who spent the time reading books and being intellectually brilliant and aesthetically striking.

Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.

Adam Phillips


I prepared myself to go live in Ibiza and lounge by the sea in never ending parties.

 I was even ready to go dancing at Studio 54.

I got ready to be a rock star wearing silver leather jackets, or maybe be a bass player for Lenny Kravitz in fringed suede pants.

I got ready for all the fantasy going around in my mind. I prepared myself for a life of eccentricity and adventure. I groomed myself to be someone else. In the process, I forgot to get ready for real life.

The witnesses to my mistakes that still live in my closet are now stories written on small papers that accompany the items I’m ready to let go or in somewhat bigger posts when they tell the stories of a life that I can’t leave behind. They are the witnesses to whom I am becoming. As Adam Phillips wisely puts it, “we share our lives with the people we have failed to be.” There’s no escaping this, “we are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do. So when we are not thinking, like the characters in Randall Jarrell’s poem, that “The ways we miss our lives is life,” we are grieving or regretting or resenting our failure to be ourselves as we imagine we could be. “

Coming to terms with my unlived life(s) has not been an easy process. Sometimes I get the chance to perform one of those imaginary parts for a moment and live out real scenes exactly as I imagined they would turn out. In January 2014, I dragged myself through the polar vortex and went to the opera at the Met. As I should, wearing my, never worn before or again, opera coat. I will most probably keep repeating mistakes and collecting witnesses to those repetitions.

If the unexamined life is not worth living, it’s equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining.

Parker Palmer

References

Dinah Washington,  I could write a book

Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

New Order, Bizarre Love Triangle

Parker Palmer, Naropa University Commencement Address

 

 

Witness

 

A day at the market 

Little adventures and missteps in the real world

Last week I had my first experience as a seller at a “Vintage Market” in Porto. Although it felt as something completely out of my comfort zone, I thought it would be interesting and even kind of fun to meet potential local customers since most of my modest business is done online and to other continents.

Vintage and craft markets are plentiful in the new retro-cool life of Porto even if “vintage” (at least for clothing) seems to be a somewhat loosely used catch phrase for any item that has been used before and that, in the mind of most market visitors, should have a price range anywhere between €0.50 and €5.00.  Maybe vintage just has a nicer, more appealing ring to the vast majority who is actually interested in secondhand bargain hunting.

Originally used  to denote a year’s wine harvest, the term vintage has been adopted by the fashion world to define “a rare and authentic piece that represents the style of a particular couturier or era” (Gerval, 2008). The most common definition today is perhaps that advanced by J.E. Cornett, “most clothing considered vintage dates from the 1920s-early 1980s. Pre-1920s clothing is considered antique, while clothing newer than the mid-1980s has not reached vintage status – yet.” Even so, both Etsy and eBay classify as vintage items that are at least 20 years old thus making way to “90s vintage”. Of course, nowadays we are almost forced to agree with Pauline Weston Thomas of Fashion-Era , “there’s no doubt that whether or not an item is Vintage is in the eye of the beholder.”

The growing popularity of secondhand shopping mainly connected with consumers eco-consciousness and  sustainability concerns as well as with the rise of “slow” and/or ethical fashion movements, has led to the erosion of  the negative social stigma for buying secondhand while vintage has developed into a “mega trend in clothing since the last decade all over the world, leading to major fashion brands launching collections inspired by vintage pieces or luxury haute couture houses digging into their archives to revive past designs. A number of second hand stores surfing on the trends also rename their stores as vintage” ( Cervellon, 2012).

Although the labels secondhand and vintage are close to become synonymous in consumers’ minds (Cervellon, Carey, and Harms 2012), I still think it’s important to make a clear distinction between them specially if you intend to keep some kind of integrity as a seller. 

The term second-hand refers to a piece of clothing which has been used before, despite the age of the clothes. Whether a second-hand cloth is vintage is determined by its age, and not the fact that it has been used (Mortara & Ironico, 2011).A  second-hand good is  also defined by the physical deterioration of the product, meaning that with every usage the product’s quality is reduced (Ohlwein 1990) even if it keeps it’s wearability. By comparison, vintage goods are not necessarily deteriorated or used (Cervellon, Carey, and Harms 2012).

With all this in mind I read all kinds of guides and blog posts on “making the most(and surviving) of your first market experience” and prepared all my stock identifying second-hand clothes and accessories and organized all vintage pieces by decade. I sold a grand total of four items. All of them second-hand.

All these considerations might not explain my experience at selling in the real world but have helped me to try to understand people’s motivations for visiting and shopping at vintage markets. As an avid shopper at vintage and flea markets of all sorts, I understand the thrill of the treasure hunt and the hope of finding that unique piece for a bargain. What I have failed to understand is that the majority of people visiting these markets are essentially bargain hunting and are neither interested in vintage nor can they distinguish between second-hand and vintage pieces.

Stepping out into the real world has not, overall, been a negative experience, I just misjudged my “target market” and will give it another go since, with the proper preparation, this kind of vintage market can, probably,  be the perfect outlet for the second-hand pieces that I haven’t been able to sell online.

 

References

Gerval, O. (2008). Fashion: Concept to Catwalk. London, UK: Bloomsbury

Cervellon, Marie-Cécile (2012). Back from the Past: specific antecedents to consumers’ purchase of vintage fashion vs. second-hand or recycled fashion.

Cervellon, M-C, Carey, L & Harms, T 2012, ‘Something old, something used: determinants of women’s purchase of vintage fashion vs second-hand fashionInternational Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol 40, no. 12, pp. 956-974., http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09590551211274946

Brake, Daria (2014) Online Second-Hand Shopping. Threat or Opportunity for Branded Products?