By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY – Vintage clothing and accessories from New York City are a hot seller in Thunder Bay thanks to Lake Helen’s Denise Atkinson, owner of Mustang Sally Vintage.
“It’s been amazing — people want unique clothing and they want to look individual,” says Atkinson, who has been interested in unique clothing since she was a teenager. “They don’t want the mass produced clothing that they buy in the malls. They want quality and they want to be unique.”
Atkinson usually travels down to New York every two months to pick up a new selection of vintage clothing and accessories from a collector. She says her customers are “very excited” about the opportunity to purchase vintage gear from New York.
“It just seems more special to them,” Atkinson says. “The collector I deal with also sells to the vintage stores in New York and Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
Atkinson points to the tailoring, the style and the attention to detail as reasons why her customers keep coming back for more vintage clothing and accessories.
“You’ll have a beautiful coat on the outside and you’ll also have a fancy lining,” Atkinson says. “They paid attention to all those specific details. They’re made to fit how a woman is shaped — the buttons, the darts to accentuate the waist — they’re very feminine.”
Atkinson began selling vintage clothing and accessories at the Thunder Bay Country Market about 11 months ago after first opening up Mustang Sally Vintage as an online business in February 2013.
“I went to England a few years ago and I noticed that the trendy thing is vintage clothing,” Atkinson says. “I came back and thought I’m going to do something similar in Thunder Bay.”
Atkinson is one of about five First Nation vendors at the market, which attracts about 6,000 customers every week. About 100 vendors sell their products on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
Garden River’s Dawn Driver, owner of Designs by Dawn, has been selling a variety of beadwork and embroidery at the market for about four years.
“This is a handmade medicine bag,” Driver says, describing a recently completed piece. “It’s made out of deer hide I got from a friend of mine who is living off the grid. He hunts and has all of his hides tanned, so this way I can keep in touch from where my supplies are coming from. It’s made personal because it’s got fine beadwork on it and on top of that it’s got a little stone. For someone who has something sentimental, you can put your own pendant on it.”
Driver sourced the pendant on the medicine bag from a silversmith in Thunder Bay.
“She’s a little old lady and she has been doing silversmithing for a long time,” Driver says. “Where she finds flaws in her skills because she is not a perfectionist, sometimes I find them more beautiful and unique because they are different from anybody else’s.”
Driver enjoys the atmosphere on the second floor of the market.
“Today it is bustling with people everywhere, people eating, people trying out different bicycles,” Driver says. “Sometimes we even have entertainment up here, so people sit and stay all day.”
Pic River’s Raphael Moses has been selling his traditional medicines book, Holistic Adventures, at the market for about nine months.
“As of two weeks ago, we have already sold about 750 copies,” Moses says. “A lot of people are interested, native and non-native. And a lot of people are coming to the market to pick up different herbs that are picked locally.”
Moses plans to translate Holistic Adventures into a number of languages, beginning with Ojibwa, Cree and Oji-Cree, to help keep the languages strong.