Four years ago, the economy collapsed and Myly Dao’s closet was bulging. After living on her own, she moved back into her childhood home where the rent was free. Her closet didn’t have enough storage space for the tons of vintage clothes she’d collected over the years, so she put them on eBay and called her store “Vintage Grime.”
Today, Vintage Grime has moved beyond cyberspace to vending booths at community events, fashion boutiques and art walks, bringing spunky and elegant vintage fashion to buyers in an interactive environment. The store has evolved to become much more than the mere re-selling of vintage fashion — Myly puts a bit of her own style into her garments. She upcycles her findings by altering, hemming and updating silhouettes. Sometimes she sews on pieces from other garments or adds appliques, studs, buttons or other embellishments.
Upcycling is one of Myly’s specialties. Part of the boutique’s unique charm are shopping bags made from recycled vintage clothing. Buyers are elated upon receiving their purchases in these fashionable, reusable gifts.
“If a dress sits on the rack for a while, I’ll construct something completely different [out of it],” she says. “My most recent upcycle is a black leather jacket I’ve had for over a year. It never sold so I tore it up and made dozens of medicine bags that can be worn around your neck or waist.”
The 26-year-old seamstress’ first desire to sew came in 4th grade, when an aunt helped her make a pillow for Father’s Day. “I remember the look on my dad’s face when I presented it to him,” she recalls, “and that’s the look I seek every time someone buys one of my garments or accessories. It’s a damn good feeling…”
After three quarters at the Art Institute in North Hollywood, Dao dropped out on account of high tuition and the lackluster quality of the curriculum. If the plan was to start her own business upon graduating while being $100,000 in debt, she saw no point. “I finished my fashion history and marketing classes, soaked up what I could and got the fuck out,” she says. Myly affirms she’s learned more about the industry through personal experiences than sitting in a classroom full of teenagers with Prada in their eyes.
Being employed by an esteemed label is the average fashion student’s dream. “High-end, couture fashion houses were always an inspiration,” Myly confirms. “Owning something from Chanel was some sort of prize; some sort of life trophy or sign that you’re making it.”
This perception of success was contradictory for a struggling novice businessperson. Myly studied local Los Angeles entrepreneurs not much older than herself and watched their enterprises evolve from the bottom up. Growing vintage shops like Spanish Moss and Nasty Gal started on eBay and are now recognized businesses in the industry. Suzanna Ford, founder of Spanish Moss, was a huge inspiration to Myly and her efforts with Vintage Grime.
“Not only is Suzanna beautiful, but she has immaculate taste in clothing, jewelry and music,” Myly says. “A few months ago I received an email that two of my items sold. When I logged on, the buyer was Suzanna Ford. I WAS STOKED. Suzanna from Spanish Moss bought not one, but two items from my store. This seriously made my month.”
This event reevaluated Myly’s meaning of “making it.” Being able to afford something from a high-end fashion label wasn’t a sign of advancement. Your hero, the owner of a flourishing vintage label that started out the same way you did, buying something from your store — that is the trophy.
Myly’s ultimate goal is to own a vintage boutique and dwell in a loft above it.
In the meantime, she’s gaining recognition in the L.A. art community. “I’m freelancing a whole lot, vending at different events every week and mingling with those with the same goals and dreams that I have. Hopefully this will lead to great connections in my future endeavors.”