Over a few speakers in a Los Feliz store, a rockabilly tune plays loudly. To most Angelenos listening to the radio today, the song probably sounds beyond foreign, but the girl twisting her hips while in line at the cash register obviously really digs the groovy track.
That's the magic of Vintage Vortex V, a collection of storefronts that celebrates bygone eras with everything from furniture to clothing to knick-knacks. An eclectic group of people gather there to sell and buy items from a much cooler culture that makes all our modern gadgets look drab — for example, the bright lights coming from a vintage Playboy pinball machine.
The first storefront opened in December 2012, and on March 1 the space threw a grand opening party for a additional space featuring a number of unique vendors. In and out walked vintage fans dressed like they'd just stepped out of a time machine wearing everything from a flowing, multicolored dress that screamed '60s to an oversized fur jacket that would drive PETA nuts. The crowd ranged from stylish 20-something couples to fashion-savvy individuals in their 40s and 50s.
Tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. VVV will hold another grand opening for its new record store and recording studio. DJs will be blasting out rockabilly music from the '50s, '60s and '70s while visitors munch on items from Canter's deli and scope out vinyl, turntables and stereo equipment.
Most of the vendors at VVV moved there because they had no boutique of their own or because of a recent store closure. Shoppers can get everything from handmade jewelry by Cannonball and TIlly, the name of Laura Kranitz's shop, to plus-size clothing finds from Zaftig. The vendors individually display their objects on racks or shelves; Deryenne Davis Taylor, for example, showcases her items on desks and behind glass cases. She scouts flea markets and estate sales to offer finds like rare Illuminati objects. Visitors can walk across the central courtyard to explore another storefront with furniture and knick-knacks for sale.
Back in December 2012, store owners and couple Michi and Kyle (who met a pool party in downtown) opened the first furniture storefront and then decided to expand when more space opened up. (Michi said they preferred to not give their last names to “keep the mystery,” stating that Michi is her stage name.) Michi spoke with a lot of residents in the Los Feliz area and eventually met the landlord, who handed her the keys to the space. She and Kyle put out an ad for vendors on Craigslist and chose them with the goal of giving shoppers variety.
Though born in L.A., Michi grew up in Oklahoma and found her love for vintage there out of necessity. “It's very boring over there, so I was, like, 'There's gotta be something more than this,'” she says. “I'd go to thrift stores and vintage stores and it opened a whole new world. I decided to move back to California because … here you've got everything. Los Angeles is such a beautiful city for people to be creative — it's open and people support the arts.”
In a lot of ways, she sees herself in the younger customers who frequent VVV. “When I was young, I remember walking into my first vintage store and thinking, 'Oh my God, this is the coolest thing ever,'” says Michi, who is in her late 30s. “I have high school kids come in and they're completely blown away. Their eyes get so big. They come in and give me a hug now.”
Kyle created the new music portion of the store because of his own history as a musician playing guitar and some keyboards. Some of the vinyl records will come from private collections of nearby residents. The recording studio will offer vocalists and musicians a place to record their work.
“We will have an isolation room that won't be able to accommodate large drum kits, but it will be a fully functional recording scenario,” says Kyle. “I'm in the process of doing all the construction and proper soundproofing and isolating noise from outside and inside.”
Michi and Kyle plan to keep the parties going with at least one bash each month. They see VVV as a way of keeping shoppers of all ages in tune with the culture of the past.
“It's kinda like the generation is catching up,” says Michi. “When I was growing up, I thought '60s wear was the best, and my mom was, like, 'Wow, that's what I wore when I was a teenager.' This whole transition is happening. … It's exciting and we want to keep that alive so people know their roots and where they came from and how fashion transpires. It's important to keep teaching the hipsters.”
Vintage Vortex V is at 4517-19 Sunset Blvd. and 4516 Hollywood Blvd. More info at vintagevortexv.com.