1) Please tell us a little about yourself Natasha, who are you and what do you do?
I am the owner of Halmoni, a vintage boutique in Oakland, CA that focuses on statement pieces and body positivity. I am a fat woman of color who loves expressing myself through clothing and I want to bring visibility to people who also love vintage and look like me.
2) As a fellow curvy woman of color I absolutely love that mission. We can't have enough body love/acceptance out there, ever. How long have you been thrifting?
I have been thrifting since I was about 12 years old. My best friend growing up had an older sister who would let us tag along when she went on thrifting adventures to all the hidden spots in the boogie down Bronx where I'm from.
3) How long have been collecting vintage?
I have been collecting vintage items since high school. When I did go thrifting, I would always see items that just couldn’t be left behind and I had to take them. I considered myself the “search and rescue” team of all things vintage.
4) When did you open Halmoni vintage and what was your mission with the shop?
Halmoni opened July of 2011. My mission with the shop is to have a non-pretentious vintage boutique that focuses on body positivity and making community. There are certain situations when some people think, “Oh, am I cool enough to go into that shop? Will there be anything in there for me?” and my answer to those questions is always an enthusiastic: “HELL YES!”
5) Love that mission too, I always strive for the same approachability in everything I do. There can be a lot of uncomfortable cliquey exclusivity in creative communities. What were the biggest challenges you faced starting out with your shop?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was switching from worker bee to queen bee with this being my first venture as an entrepreneur. I had to learn to not only be a shop owner but also a stylist, graphic designer and bookkeeper, just to name a few of the hats I wear.
The lovely and stylish Natasha in head-to-toe vintage duds.
6) What's your favorite and least favorite element of running your own vintage shop?
I like that I get to help people in more ways than just fashion. For example, I hold clothing swaps focused on body empowerment and through that I’ve been able to help people with body acceptance and nurturing their curiosity of vintage. My not so favorite element would be the bookkeeping. But that’s not so bad because I am doing my dream job.
7) I dread doing my taxes here soon, stopping being creative to do paperwork suuucks. What are your creative influences/inspirations?
Children are definitely an inspiration because they are so free with everything especially with the way they dress. I am also inspired by my memories of growing up in NYC but now meshing that with living in Cali.
Love this personal touch on the vintage jewelry backings.
8) I see a distinct creative flair and love for indie art in your business. Any favorite artists you'd like to give a shout out to?
Dave Young Kim is an Oakland based muralist that everyone needs to know!
9) How has your community accepted your shop? Is there an appreciation for vintage in your area?
The community is my number one fan! The street where the shop is located at used to be made up of mostly empty storefronts so, I like to think that Halmoni has helped with the renaissance that is happening in the neighborhood and in Oakland. Also, there is an appreciation for the shop because it is a part of memory lane for lots of people who live in the area.
10) What are the top 3 tips you'd give to someone who wants to start their own brick and mortar vintage shop?
1) Believe in yourself and don’t beat yourself up over little mistakes.
2) Hire a bookkeeper.
3) It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good.
Thanks so much Natasha for sharing your story and for the support (hope you love the Unicorn swag you've ordered!) I love the three tips above, so very true all three. Check out the Halmoni Vintage site and Facebook/Twitter.
What would your dream vintage shop/cafe/brick & mortar be like? I'm actually about to start the business plan for my dream one again. I see lots of local art, vintage housewares abound, beautiful...