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“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Inside Vintage Outlaw
Since Danniela Crisostomo was 15, owning her own vintage store has been her dream. When she first moved to Toronto at 18, she would scribble down logistics about how much she would have to save, sell, and spend every month to eventually be able to open a store. Now at 23, Danniela is running Vintage Outlaw in Kensington Market – all by herself. The store has seen quite a bit of success in the short time they’ve been open, and I had the opportunity to sit down with Danniela and talk about her experiences in the market, owning a clothing store, while also navigating the vintage industry as a young woman of colour.
The author and Danniela in store.
When you first started vintage outlaw, what were your biggest goals? Money aside, what did you want it to be?
I wanted it to be a base. I didn’t want it to be my whole life, but a beginning, really. I want to do so much more than just have vintage clothing, though it and fashion in general is a big part of every creative thing.
Since Day 1 you’ve been letting people pull while organizing shoots. Are you happy with how you have managed to become a creative director and a stylist as well?
Yeah, I love it! *laughs* I think it’s so awesome. These things I’ve always wanted to do, but as I get to do it more and more, while also making money on the side since it’s a business, I’ve been learning a lot. It’s exciting as someone who could never afford post secondary school.
Your photoshoots especially, and the content you post on your Instagram is very high in quality compared to other vintage stores in Toronto.
Vintage Outlaw’s Instagram feed
Your shoots are so high in quality, and beautiful, and you put so much thought and time into it, that it seems like there is a youth run collective that stems from Vintage Outlaw.
A lot of the people I shoot with are artists and creatives. It’s nice being able to link creatives together. There are so many connections I’ve seen where I know they’ve met on one of my shoots!
What’s your favorite shoot that you’ve ever put together?
The Virgo Queen for Vintage Outlaw by Felice Trinidad
Especially stores that sell this kind of clothing.
Right. Vintage especially is very connected to the hip hop scene, and is male dominated. I listen to tons of hip hop artists talk about the culture, which is very misogynistic, VERY homophobic, and it’s disgusting. I do consider my store to be in the hip hop niche, and it’s cool to bring light to and work with all sorts of different kinds of people.
Did you have a pretty good idea of what your niche was going to be, when going into this?
Vintage is so broad, and you really have to pick a certain niche, especially in the market. I knew I wanted to be as authentic to myself as possible. The only way you can succeed in the creative and artistic scene is to always be true to yourself. Even when I started selling Supreme… I don’t wear Supreme. I didn’t know anything about it and I wasn’t able to talk about it, so I stopped selling it. A lot of people I hang out with wear it but it isn’t really me.
Vintage Outlaw store front
We know it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Have you felt welcomed in the Market or has it been an experience where you felt a little slighted or judged by other stores?
I didn’t at first necessarily feel welcome. A couple stores came over and welcomed me to the neighborhood or gave me advice, which was so sweet! I had no experience opening a store before so I didn’t know that it was a normal thing to do.
But you usually try to stay impartial, and on everyone’s good side.
Business is hard enough as it is. I don’t really need people gossiping about me, or trying to give me a bad reputation. I’ve heard “oh, this person thinks that you copied them,” and that’s so not true! I’ve had this dream since I was 15 years old. It’s crazy to see how everything worked out. Not even in the way that I thought it would… it’s amazing.
I would imagine you have a lot of stress, because this store is your baby.
When I started, I used to take it very personal when someone wouldn’t buy something. I’d think “awh, they don’t like me!” or “they don’t like my store!” because this space is a reflection of who I am. I pick everything in here. But I’ve learned that I shouldn’t have my happiness rely on people’s personal tastes.
There are a few road bumps that come along the way, because I have to handle everything. I set up the store, have to ensure I have enough clothing, but then there’s also buying from people… some people want me to buy something at the same price for what I would sell it for, or lowball me, and then when I disagree with them, they end up feeling differently about me. Like, “oh, she’s cheap, she doesn’t care what their clothes are worth”. But that’s not true! I just have bills to pay, like we all do. I have store rent, plus my own rent…
And then there are friends who say “oh, it’s so cool that you own your own store, that means we can come to your spot and drink and chill.” It’s hard to separate your personal life and your business. At the end of the day, I’m not living the average life of a 23 year old.
Danniela and her dog, Scully
What in the business has been harder for you as a woman of colour?
I’ve had so many people come up to me and say that they don’t know what I’m doing, stuff that people wouldn’t say to a guy doing this. People have opened stores recently, close friends who are guys, and I’ve noticed that it’s so much easier for them. They’ve gotten counters, display cases and shelves for free, just from other people hearing that they were opening a store. I had to pay for everything out of my pocket. I’ve gotten zero handouts. It’s a lot of work, physically, mentally, having to do it all by myself. It’s hard making every single decision knowing that if something goes wrong, I’m the only one who can be held accountable for it. But I’ve had this dream forever, so I was a little more prepared for it than just going in blind and getting overwhelmed.
I’ve had setbacks. I’ve had people try to rip me off. No doubt in my head that they wouldn’t treat me the same if I was a dude, or a white dude, or even someone 10 years older. I’ve been ripped off in so many ways, but at the end of the day, I’m a firm believer in karma. And if you do these negative things, in the long run you’ll only be hurting yourself.
Vintage Outlaw is located at 146 Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market.