Kirsty Barros talks vintage shopping in the Americas
For this week's SF Spotlight we spoke to shopping nomad Kirsty Barros. Kirsty has the job every girl dreams of – international vintage shopper! After working as a designer in Melbourne for labels such as Mimco, Insight and Alice McCall, Kristy decided to pack up her enviable wardrobe and head off to South America for an adventure. There she wandered up and down the Americas, from Chile to Mexico and LA, in search of standout vintage pieces for her vintage store Makers of Belief, as well as creating and styling vintage capsule collections for Sportsgirl, Arabella Ramsay and Down Yonder.
Before jetting off on another adventure we asked Kirsty to let us in on her vintage shopping secrets.
How many countries have you travelled to?
Travel has always been high on my list of priorities. It's usually where all my hard earned pennies go to! I've travelled through quite a bit of South East Asia. I lived in London for a stint so got to see much of Europe. I also had another life in South America and visited a bunch of countries in Central and South along the way. I'm fortunate in that I need to travel to the states for work and when I used to design I often visited Tokyo or Hong Kong to see manufacturers. This is a bit of a stab in the dark but I'd say around 20 to 25 countries.
If you could narrow it down, what would be your favourites?
The places I love the most are definitely the ones I spend the most time in because you get a real sense for a country, its people and culture the more time you spend there. The patriot in me would have to say Chile because half my family have a fixed address there and they say home is where the heart is! Mexico is also one of my favourites - so much colour, celebration, diverse landscapes and beautiful souls.
How often do you travel to the US and South American?
I try to get to the states 3-4 times a year for sourcing trips but it changes all the time. I was living in Chile a while back so was travelling between there and LA for work. Unfortunately I feel like it might be a year or so before I make it back to South America. When I venture back to South America I'd like to gypsy around for no less than 3 months to make it worth my while.
Most memorable travel moment?
That's a super hard one! There have been some insane party moments, solo highs, overwhelming awe at nature etc. Burning man with 25 friends from home was pretty spectacular! Camping in a national park in Chile, swimming to abandoned cliff top houses to watch the sunset in Mexico and walking around the most insanely colourful cemetery in Palenque Mexico. Being invited to a private Tamescal ritual in San Cristobal and standing at the top of the world in Machu Picchu, Peru.
Where in the world do you think has the best vintage stores?
LA has the best vintage markets for sure! They're enormous and super cheap. On a retail level though, I'm not sure they're the best. Paris and Tokyo have some pretty insane vintage stores. The Japanese in particular, have the most unique sense of style, truly original and trend free. The vintage stores all have a different angle, some will be western, others Victorian, another 80s glam. Vintage is highly coveted there and unfortunately the prices reflect that too.
Any tips for vintage shopping overseas?
Surprisingly you can find great vintage in most places. You can't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Most of the places that sell good vintage are pretty dishevelled and manky, definitely not for the precious. It’s helpful to learn how to say ‘vintage clothes’ in the local dialect and ask around. Locals are always happy to help if you lend a smile. In bigger places like LA, do some research. Jump on-line and when you find a goldmine ask for more references from people in the know.
What do you love about LA?
The weather is number one!! I love the beach culture and of course the vintage is second to none.
Your fail-proof favourite LA spot?
San Diego has a super special small town vibe. It has a really rich long standing youth surf and skate culture mingled with the fancy pants rich folk who holiday here. It's also the yoga capital of the world. I go here at the end of my hectic sourcing trips to let it all hang out. It's my favourite place to do pretty much nothing!
What destinations are you planning to travel to next?
I'm heading to Bali in June for a friend’s wedding. I can't wait for a hit of summer in the thick of Winter! I’m also dreaming of Colombia...