B efore meeting Vintanthromodern Vintage owner Melissa Gonzales, I envisioned her as imaginative and whimsical—the kind of woman who, as a child, twirled around the kitchen in her grandmother’s fanciest frocks, sunlight and the color of marsh marigolds gliding across the floor together.
Such nostalgic notions of playing dress-up as children rings out in the hearts of many vintage lovers, but that image doesn’t completely capture Gonzales. She also radiates the energy of an old soul—serene and reflective, with a quiet inner drive.
She started Vintanthromodern Vintage in not-so-vintage 2011. She admits the business name is a mouthful, and it turns out that’s the point. “People suggested that I change it from the very beginning,” she says, “but I’m really stubborn—I promise that once you figure out how to pronounce it, you won’t forget it and that’s what, I think, gives it a lot of character.”
An art teacher during the day, she works on Vintanthromodern much of the rest of the time, finding the right clothing and curating collections to sell. Her interest in historical fashion is longstanding; flip through her high school yearbook and you’ll find Gonzales decked out in a sweet vintage velour shirt amidst a rather dreary sea of Gap logo tees.
Over the years, Gonzales has relentlessly sifted, combed and browsed, accumulating quite a mass of clothing, jewelry and accessories. Along the way she’s become well-versed in major periods of style and developed a discerning eye, which seems to have gained her a local following, particularly among New Haven’s creative-types. They may have discovered Vintanthromodern at two of New Haven’s most creative and vintage-friendly brick-and-mortar shops, the English Building Market and Project Storefronts’s brash new retailer Lipgloss Crisis, where some of Gonzales’s one-of-a-kind wares are on display.
You can also check out Vintanthromodern’s inventory at various flea markets, farmers’ markets and festivals across the shoreline (including at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, as pictured above) courtesy of The Vintanthromobile, which is exactly, gloriously what it sounds like—a roving minibus filled with dresses, jackets, shirts, hats, handbags, trinkets and the like (catering to both women and men). The vehicle is a unique and attractively merchandised storefront all its own; it even has hardwood flooring and a curtained-off dressing room in the back for trying on a wrap dress, perhaps, or a floral house coat.
Aside from the recent explosion of food trucks in recent years, mobile retail is still new here on the east coast, especially in Connecticut. Though Gonzales says she’s thrilled to collaborate with local brick-and-mortar stores, she remarks that “the future of Vintanthromodern is, without a doubt, The Vintanthromobile.” Crediting Ralph Ferrucci, a mechanic who breathed new life into an engine that had been pronounced dead, and her two assistants, Jillian Lyons and Petra Szilagyi, who often work on location, Gonzales says, “We’ve poured our hearts and souls into our mobile vintage boutique.”
If you’ve seen it, you know that it wears plenty of that heart and soul on its sleeves. The vehicle’s exterior features lovingly painted details like little black birds perching on prominent red stitch lines, along with logo and patterned signage. In addition to the changing area, the interior contains hanging hooks and clothing racks galore and is capable of carrying standalone racks and tables for displaying wares outside the van, like a contemporary version of a trade caravan.
Having a mobile store means she can literally go find shoppers, but it’s not the only trick up Gonzales’s sleeve. She’s smartly utilized a variety of social media platforms to connect with potential customers, who can get all of the latest updates via the company’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Then there’s something that might feel a little vintage itself in this fast-changing technology landscape: the company blog. Recent posts involve styling and photographing outfits inspired by recent fashion-culture events, like the release of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster version of the 1920s-set The Great Gatsby, and the Costume Institute gala this past May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where “punk” was the theme.
While it’s certainly fun to flounce around in flapper dresses and spiky bracelets, and though Gonzales encourages wearing vintage as a meaningful form of self-expression, she’s also passionate about the human benefits of choosing older pieces. “More and more, people are becoming socially conscious of what’s going on in other countries. People are really looking for ways of being a consumer that doesn’t exploit others and most people don’t think of vintage as a way to do that. To me, it is,” she says.
Gonzales is likewise attuned to the environmental and consumer benefits of buying vintage. Describing much of what’s sold new today as “disposable clothing,” she adds, “It’s not just about how the piece looks, but it’s about how it’s made, the quality, and how long it will last you.”
Examining Gonzales’s treasures, one can’t help but wonder about their stories. Whose forms did they fit? What moments in history did they witness? How have they survived so intact, so long? If Vintanthromodern Vintage has its way, those stories are far from over.
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Written by Courtney McCarroll. Photograph courtesy of Melissa Gonzales.