Vintage shopping can feel overwhelming, with decades of decaying clothing often hiding the high-quality gem everyone wants. Items regularly need repair or are so outdated they become unusable. Although any fashionista worth her pumps knows vintage is one of the best ways to add a one-of-a-kind twist to an outfit, finding those items isn’t as easy as going to a boutique.
Unless, of course, you’re looking at curated vintage.
Paso Collection is one of St. Louis’ latest curated vintage lines. After the line’s founding four months ago, Paso Collection items are now for sale at The Heirloom Room on Cherokee Street. Each item is individually selected as a ready-to-wear piece as part of the curation process, meaning shoppers only see a selection of vintage showstoppers instead of retro rags.
“The pieces in the collection are hand-selected vintage clothing and accessories that celebrate the feminine figure and embrace timeless silhouettes,” owner Amber Ibarra says. “Right now, we have two tracks in fashion – ultratrendy fast-fashion and a more ethical ‘slow-fashion.’ With Paso Collection, I’m really wanting to make an ‘ethical closet’ both appealing and accessible.”
So how do items make the cut from run-of-the-mill vintage to curated Paso Collection pieces? Any given item has to be something Ibarra would wear.
“The collection is very intimate and definitely rooted in my personal taste, so if it’s not something I would wear, it doesn’t make the cut,” Ibarra says. “I look for pieces that are effortless and feminine. This usually translates into neutral, subdued colors, but there are some occasional outliers that are more vibrant. I’m also a huge sucker for lace and ruffles.” She notes high-quality cashmere, wool, silk and cotton are the fabrics she seeks out, but style and quality rule in the end. The same goes for decades – for the period in which an item was produced. Although “the older the better,” Ibarra notes apparel from the 1990s is considered vintage to some. “All things considered, it takes a long time to find the right pieces,” she says.
Ibarra, a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, doesn’t have a formal fashion background, although she says she’s been “tuned in to that world. It’s an incredibly powerful facet of design – everyone lives it.”
To find her pieces, Ibarra shops thrift stores, estate sales and small-town antique shops. She notes how much time is spent sifting through junk, a task formerly placed on the consumer. And although Ibarra will reinforce stitching or mend small holes, she doesn’t do alterations to the pieces. Instead, her focus is often on cleaning items.
“Sometimes I’ll need to work out a stain or shave pills off a knit, but nothing major,” Ibarra says, explaining all items are washed, air-dried and steamed before making their way to the showroom. “For me, nothing is worse than vintage clothing that smells like its age. Silks, cashmere and wool are hand-washed in an old wood bucket. It’s time-consuming and can get tedious, but I think it’s really important to give these pieces the proper care and attention.”
The result is a grouping of largely neutral pieces of women’s clothing, from a boxy mohair-and-suede jacket to a fitted knit cardigan. Paso Collection also includes a sampling of vintage denim. Because of the nature of the pieces, though, the stock is always changing. Ibarra showcases her latest finds on the brand’s Instagram account, @paso_collection. Also, although she declines to provide a price range or an average and notes prices may seem high for this area, Ibarra calls them moderate; the prices reflect the time it takes to find items, as well as cleaning and steaming, she says.
To see items offline, shoppers can head to The Heirloom Room, a store and private event space that specializes both in artwork and in vintage and fair-trade items. Ibarra’s collection is available there through Ibarra’s friendship with owner Angela Otto. Ibarra explains that the two co-host private events at the space through their other business, Heirloom Gatherings, which helps book events at The Heirloom Room. “She knew how much I loved vintage clothing, and she was very supportive in me having my collection at the shop,” Ibarra says of Otto. “It’s really the perfect place to have my collection – the vintage clothing and antiques really work together.”
Ibarra explains the name, Paso Collection, came from a few references, including her hometown of El Paso, Texas. “Paso also means ‘a step’ in Spanish – my family is from Mexico –and I wanted the name of my collection to reflect a sense of time,” Ibarra says. “When you wear a piece of vintage clothing, you kind of have one foot forward and one foot backward.”
Paso Collection in The Heirloom Room, 2116 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314-772-8000, instagram.com/paso_collection