The mission of Deluxe Redux is to spread the gospel of vintage! My focus is to share information about designers, fashion history, vintage boutiques and fashion history aficionados. To support the Chicago vintage fashion industry, I will be featuring Chicago vintage boutiques in a new blog series called CHICAGO VINTAGE.
This month I met with Veronica Zielinski Staudt, owner of Vintage Meet Modern, a vintage jewelry business based in Homer Glen, Illinois. Veronica is more than a vintage jewelry retailer; She is a preservationist and a fashion historian who can tell you why an item will retain its value, what makes the particular piece a collector's item and ensures the high-quality condition of the jewelry.
We discussed how her interest in vintage fashion began, the inception of her business, what makes her company stand out and plans for the growth of Vintage Meet Modern.
How did you first become interested in vintage?
Veronica comes from a hard-working family with humble beginnings. She also inherited exquisite taste in all things home and fashion. Veronica has been passionate about fashion and specifically jewelry from a young age. While other kids were playing in the backyard at her grandmother's house, Veronica was playing dress-up and going through her grandmother's jewelry boxes.
Her earliest memories are with her grandmother and aunt who were fascinated by everything antique. Their interest led to them making and selling clothes including the three-piece suit styles seen on Jackie Kennedy and glamorous dresses worn by Greta Garbo.
Veronica spent her Sunday afternoons at her grandmother's house with Duke Ellington playing in the background and luxurious fabrics spread across the table. They did not have an extravagant life, but enjoyed the fruits of their labor in ways such as using fine china every night instead of waiting for special occasions. Because of this, Veronica never felt intimidation about antiques and other valuables.
The emotional connection of the memories attached to her family members was Veronica's first introduction as to why one would value and be protective of antiques. She has seen antiques passed down through the generations. Celebrating a milestone was a right of passage whether it was an 8th-grade graduation, prom, or 16th birthday. For her 8th grade graduation, instead of receiving a new set of cultured pearls, Veronica was given her grandmother's cultured pearls. For high school dances, she wore a floating opal pearl necklace that her mother had worn to her prom. Veronica was always excited to have something from the past.
How did you begin your career in the fashion industry?
Veronica earned college degrees in political science and Spanish. However, after graduation, Veronica couldn't ignore her desire for a creative career in fashion or design. After graduation, she enrolled in Harrington College of Design and became an interior designer.
While attending Harrington, Veronica worked as a Neiman Marcus salesperson. Her first position in the jewelry department proved to be one of her most fulfilling career experiences. She recalls the Human Resources Manager telling her that everyone loves jewelry. Jewelry always fits, everyone can wear it and there's always something for everyone. That notion always stayed with her.
Veronica developed friendships with her customers. With exceptional customer service, she became the top salesperson in the jewelry department, rivaling co-workers with years of experience over her.
Neiman Marcus' philosophy was that one had the ability to sell the whole store with a "Customer Service Comes First" business policy. With that mentality, Veronica took on larger accounts which eventually became personal shopping accounts. She gained extensive knowledge about the quality and craftsmanship of luxury goods and history of high-end fashion brands. She developed a new appreciation for luxury goods as an investment and not just a lifestyle status symbol. After four years, Veronica left Neiman Marcus to start her family.
When did you start Vintage Meet Modern?
Veronica started selling online around 2008 when eBay was still relatively new. As a single mother, she was looking for a way to supplement her income and read an article about making extra money by selling things on eBay. It was then when she began selling her personal items online.
Veronica received an unexpected call from a former Neiman Marcus client who was moving to the west coast. She had over 600 designer vintage rings she could no longer wear or take with her. She heard Veronica was selling things on eBay and asked if she took inventory on consignment. Veronica ended up helping with her living estate and sold her rings for her.
People heard through the grapevine that Veronica was selling goods on Ebay and asked her to sell their items for them. She sold luxury goods on consignment that were not necessarily vintage, but the experience helped her gain a foundation with online selling.
A few years later in 2010, Veronica inherited a large estate of vintage pieces from her aunt. Through her fashion history research, she learned that some of these designers were in business for decades. She began to fall in love with the thrill of the hunt for pieces from brands and collections like Kenneth Jay Lane, Miriam Haskell, Ciner, and YSL.
Vintage Meet Modern was officially born in 2011 as a business. Veronica's personal area of interest include the sparkly, blingy and designer 1970’s & 1980’s statement pieces. Veronica moved online stores from eBay to Etsy in 2011. She feels a strong, supportive vintage community within Etsy and continues to sell on Etsy today.
My own personal style is to buy something timeless, buy something unique and make it your own.
What inspires you to sell vintage fashion?
The number one reason Veronica sells vintage jewelry is because she loves being able to share the joy of something unique. She prides herself on being a resourceful person and values being able to pass something onto someone else. Veronica doesn't think people should be turned off or intimidated by making an investment in something they can have for the rest of your life.
Since the days of working in retail with personal shopping clients, it has always been about personal style. Veronica showed me her personal vintage collection and stated, "My own personal style is to buy something timeless, buy something unique and make it your own." The beauty of vintage jewelry is a person can develop and evolve a sense of style regardless of the current fashion trends.
Most of the time, not only will the vintage jewelry you buy retain its value, but it probably will still fit. What doesn't fit can be very easily adjusted. Today's world of fast fashion does not come with the same quality or craftsmanship as vintage.
Does Vintage Meet Modern have any other business owners?
Although there are no other business owners, Veronica considers Vintage Meet Modern a family business with her husband and three children. Her children get involved with the organizing and packaging process. Her husband is a film editor and contributes directly to the company as Vintage Meet Modern's stock photographer.
She notes that the professional photographs of her products resulted in a significant upturn in sales. She states, "That was the point when Vintage Meet Modern solidified itself as a business and not just as a hobby or as a supplemental income."
How do you find your inventory?
Veronica purchases her stock outright from estate sales, personal estate calls, and past clients. On rare occasions, she will buy at auction and she offers consignment only if an item is over $10,000.
Veronica continues to cultivate client relationships she has built over the past 15-20 years. She has a variety of customers from her time in interior design and Neiman Marcus who still contact her to sell their jewelry.
What are your business plans for the next five years? Any future projects or collaborations?
Vintage Meet Modern has several plans in the works. Changing selling platforms, a designer partnership and retail store and blogger collaborations are just a few of them.
Vintage Meet Modern currently sells on Etsy but is transitioning to sell on their company website. "Online selling has changed so much. Now, there are numerous avenues to selling vintage online, namely through an online selling market such as Ebay, Etsy, 1stDibs or Ruby Lane, on your own business website, craigslist, etc. The options on how to sell and where to sell are almost endless," says Veronica. "It helps to connect the vintage fashion community online among collectors, sellers and buyers."
Veronica was excited to learn that some designers who inspire her are still in business. For example, Ciner has been in business for 124 years and is the oldest costume jewelry company in the United States. Ciner is a family run business and Ciner's granddaughter, now in her 70's, runs the business. Ciner completes everything from mold to finish at their headquarters in New York City.
Vintage Meet Modern is partnering with Ciner to offer an exclusive collection online. These pieces were hand selected by Veronica from Ciner's vast inventory and will be available under the name "Ciner for Vintage Meet Modern". Ciner will be making the jewelry using the same materials, mold and techniques as their vintage jewelry pieces.
Vintage Meet Modern has participated in Chicago events and festivals including the Chicago Antique Market Randolph Street and Vintage Garage over the years. Veronica will be taking a break from the festivals in 2016 and plans to work more with smaller fashion boutiques. She believes that offering Vintage Meet Modern in retail stores will give her clients more opportunities to style the vintage pieces within modern looks.
As an avid advocate for Chicago small businesses, Vintage Meet Modern will continue to collaborate with local creatives and provides vintage jewelry for photo shoots, tv, movie, magazines and prop houses. Veronica also plans to work with fashion bloggers specializing in vintage fashion.
What are some Vintage Meet Modern current promotions?
Vintage Meet Modern holds standing promotions for returning clients including 15% off and free shipping in the United States. She knows her regular and collector clients very well and, as a courtesy, she extends personal shopping services and contacts them directly when desired items come in. Vintage Meet Modern also hosts trunk show events twice a year in September and April and participates in select trunk shows within the Chicagoland area.
Vintage Meet Modern issues a bi-monthly newsletter reporting on the latest vintage trends or vintage pieces relating to a current fashion trend. Newsletter subscribers also have the first look at newest items not yet posted online and event information. Subscribe to the Vintage Meet Modern newsletter HERE.
Rhinestone collection as featured in costume jewelry publication.
In what eras does Vintage Meet Modern specialize?
Vintage Meet Modern specializes in the 1950s through the 1990s. Her popular selling point is early 1970s through 1980s jewelry. She sells about 10% of the inventory in purses and other non-jewelry accessories.
Veronica has close to 2,000 vintage pieces in stock and has approximately 600 pieces posted online at any given point. Her goal is to post 50-100 new pieces each week. It's best to check her Etsy website on a weekly basis to keep current on her newest finds!
How would you describe the Chicago vintage fashion scene?
Veronica has a couple of perspectives regarding the Chicago vintage fashion scene. From the buyer standpoint, she feels that vintage is more of a trend on the west coast exuding luxury and celebrity. The east coast is rooted in old world preservation of vintage with more of an appreciation of the antique market.
She goes on to say that "Chicago is different than the east and west coast with the Midwest being more of a hybrid between the two coasts." She feels that quality pieces are harder to find in the Midwest as this area is more rich with shabby chic and may be less hip to trends.
On a personal level, Veronica feels that Chicago has an extremely supportive vintage fashion community. She has met numerous dealers and customers from online networking groups and events. The vintage fashion community is also an incredible resource for fashion history and designer research.