Q & A with Becky & Lara - Owners of Citizen Vintage

The idea behind Citizen Vintage is to provide a sustainable alternative to the fast fashion brands by recycling and up-cycling vintage pieces and materials. Our love for vintage clothing goes beyond aesthetics- being stylish and creating beautiful outfits doesn’t have to be environmentally harmful.

Our community in Montreal has been a strong and loyal one, and now we are planning to expand our reach- going global. We’ve started this blog to connect with our international community- to share our world, insights, information and all that inspires us.

1.  How did you get into vintage?

Becky: To be honest I don't remember a time when I didn't wear second hand clothing.  Being the youngest of 3 girls we were eventually all the same size so I wore all my sisters hand-me-downs ; shoes, jewellery, jeans, dresses everything.  My mom also saved some items from the 60-80 that i wore in high school and still wear today. Besides that I've always thrifted with my mom.  When I go home to visit my family it's a given that my mom do at least one full day of shopping and I still steal things from her closet. Short answer: Mom

Lara: My short answer is also Mum. My Mum grew up thrifting in London in the 60s and 70s. She would collect really unique edwardian and 1920s pieces mixed with her hippy/rock n'roll style. When we moved to Montreal my Mum got addicted to Village Des Valeurs and we would go thrifting together weekly when I was a teenager. I was also really into the vintage store (that no longer exist) on Mont-Royal in the late 90s/early 2000s.

2.  How do you know each other?

Becky: Our very first vintage pop up was a group of 5 women who all had collections.  Lara and I met then.  We each had an extensive collection to bring to the sale and then continued to work together after that sale.

3.   What made you set up citizen vintage?

Lara: Our Pop-ups were really successful and we were having a lot of fun doing them. We talked a lot about turning it into a full time business but were pretty anxious about it. One day in early 2011, we were walking down St-Laurent to open a new pop-up and we saw the an "A Louer" sign in the window of a beautiful store front. We called, met with the Land Lady and the rest is history.

Citizen Vintage first photo shoot 2011  Photo by Martin Reisch

Citizen Vintage first photo shoot 2011

Photo by Martin Reisch

6.   What were your biggest mistakes?

Lara: Because we found our dream space before we secured our loan, we were very tight on cash for the first few months. Fortunately, everything worked out in the long run, sales were great, the neighbourhood really supported us and things were made easier by having a great land lady!

7.    Where do you source your stock?

Becky: We shop in some local thrift shop and I do small town Ontario thrifts when I go home to visit my family. We do a lot of by the pound shopping, which is really intense and tiring but so satisfying. By the pound shopping is really different from thrifting, nothing is organized or on hangers.  It's just a massive box you need to find the bottom of.  We also go down to the States every now and then on buying trips, we are about to venture out to Massachusetts for the first time!  We are pretty excited about that!

8.    How you describe Citizen Vintage’s look?

Becky: Lara and I each have distinctive ideas of what we we shop for, however our overall image for the store is shared.  I'm more classic and I think she has more of an edge for the atmosphere on the street. I think the differences in our styles is an asset, it creates more diversity in our stock. 

Lara: Quality is really important to us, fabric and construction are key. We don't sell anything with tears or stains, we spend a lot of time on quality control and repairs! 

Salina Ladha's Vernissage at Citizen Vintage 2014

Salina Ladha's Vernissage at Citizen Vintage 2014

Lara outside a Citizen Vintage Pop Up 2010

Lara outside a Citizen Vintage Pop Up 2010

4.   How did you come up with the name?

Becky: We deliberated over the name for quite a while.  It's a difficult process.  Ultimately we agreed on the name Citizen, as it speaks to the people on the street, the faces we see everyday in our neighbourhood that we draw inspiration from. 

5.   What were the steps you took?

Lara: When we were talking about starting a business we decided we needed some help and went to YES Montreal, an organization that helps young entrepreneurs start and grow a business. There, we met with a business coach, Doug, who was incredibly helpful in helping us write our business plan and apply for a loan.

Becky: We also found a great lawyer to help with incorporating our business, trademarking our name and our initial lease. We hired a lovely accountant that was recommended to us by a friend who also had an incorporated business. Recommendations are a priceless asset. there was a lot of details to figure out, but once we found the store front location things went pretty quickly.  We built all our racks and displays ourselves from mostly found and repurposed pieces and opened our doors within 3 weeks of  signing the lease!

Freelove Fenner playing at Citizen Vintage 2011

Freelove Fenner playing at Citizen Vintage 2011

9.   Do you have any exciting events/plans coming up?

Lara: We're about to celebrate our 4th anniversary and we're throwing a party for it on May 28th 2015. Local bands, Nancy Pants, will be playing so we're super excited! 

10.   What’s your favourite part of owning Citizen Vintage? 

Becky: I like the idea of putting together a team of people that work well together.  We have 3 wonderful employees, Giuliana, Lea and Tamara, and have worked with some enthusiastic interns. It's important to surround yourself with likeminded and positive people.  When you own your own business you get the freedom to choose who you work with.  

Lara: I like the diversity of tasks involved in the business; sourcing clothes, organizing events, directing photo shoot, it keeps things interesting, every day is different so I never get bored! 

Photo by Martin Reisch

Photo by Martin Reisch