Origin of Era, a store with vintage-inspired clothes made by small independent brands run by women in Port Jefferson. The clothes often showcase European street style, but there is also a bohemian chic vibe. ANNA CORREA/THE STATESMAN

When someone typically walks into a Long Island boutique, they’re faced with two options: bright athleisure apparel with the town’s name on the front or dainty, overpriced trendy clothes that look like they came out of a Francesca’s at the local mall. There simply isn’t a lot of variety.

Origin of Era, a store with vintage-inspired clothes designed by women from all around the world, is trying to give another option that involves classic cuts, some sustainable and fair trade clothes as well as quality craftsmanship.

The clothes often showcase European street style, but there is also a bohemian chic vibe. Depending on the time of year, clothes can be inspired anywhere from the early 40s to the 70s. 

“I always lean very heavily on vintage inspiration but I decided not to bring in the vintage with the clothing because the women who were shopping here didn’t differentiate between vintage and thrift. And there’s a huge difference,” Renee Goldfarb, owner of Origin of Era, said. “….you have to know who you’re selling to. So we scaled back on the vintage, went heavy on the vintage inspired and then just kind of did a little sprinkle of vintage with our accessories and our belts, our jewelry, which is worked out really nicely for us.”

Long Island native Goldfarb opened Origin of Era in January 2019 to provide more diverse clothes and give a city-like feel to Long Island. Formerly, Goldfarb opened a vintage store called SlapBack in Brooklyn for about six years. 

For local communities throughout the Long Island suburbs, it’s all about knowing what your community wants and likes. Stony Brook University students who dress cool want to find pieces that mix into their current wardrobes or an interesting piece of vintage. Women in their 30s to their early 50s want to get fashionable classic pieces.

Other people who follow fashion and runway shows want recognizable pieces that look like they’re from designers pieces, says Goldfarb.“Shopping vintage is definitely like a very sustainable way to participate in the fashion system. But also, we’re living in this like this postmodern world where, you know, almost everything that you see in fashion has been done before. And so we’re living in a world where we can mix like a 60s skirt with a 90s top. And you know, 80s clip on earrings and you can like collage together of imbecilic, that’s not specific,” fashion historian and adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Raissa Bretaña, said.

“One of the reasons why I know a lot of people start wearing vintage is that they like the idea of, you know, not everyone is going to have this, like this could be one of a kind thing. No one’s going to relive the same outfit as you. So I think that’s definitely an aspect to that as well.”

So what’s the cost? Sustainability, morality and quality.

 The brands available in the store are an integral part of what makes it unique; and they do not contribute to the fast fashion chain. Fast fashion refers to how quickly the clothes are produced to keep up with the release of seasonal trends, which ends up at landfills due to the way it’s produced and how quickly things go out of style. Through means of mass-producing clothes, underpaying and overworking the workers, brands often make poorer quality items that last — if you’re lucky — eight to 10 uses. 

 “The system [of fast fashion] that we have now is rather new, but the idea of, like, disposable fashion really gained steam in the 60s when we start getting all of these technological advancements in textiles. And this is when I started to see a million different kinds of polyester that can be made cheaply and quickly,” Bretaña said. “But there was even a fad for paper dresses in the 60s. So, like, this idea of throwaway fast is usually born in times of plenty. I feel like the paper dress is kind of a historical marker for this idea of shorter lived clothing.” 

Breaking down the stereotype: “Made In the USA” doesn’t mean it’s the best made

FRNCH has the typical French aesthetic: fitted, nice silhouettes with interesting prints. Patrons of Peace has flowy clothes with a more forgiving structure that uses lighter fabrics and seasonal colors so you can actually travel and wear the clothes of the season. 

PEPΔLOVES, a Spanish brand, has a contemporary vibe. Then, there’s brands like BEL KAZAN with clothes made for the modern woman, with bold colors and pieces that look like they come from Zara.

The brands in Origin of Era also do not contribute to the fast fashion chain. Fast fashion refers to how quickly the clothes are produced to keep up with the release of seasonal trends, which ends up at landfills due to the way it’s produced and how quickly things go out of style. Through means of mass-producing clothes, underpaying and overworking the workers, brands often make poorer quality items that last — if you’re lucky — eight to 10 uses.

Inditex brand, Zara, makes up to 840 million garments a year for their 6,000 stores. Companies like Zara and Forever 21 outsource the production to foreign countries, where it’s not only cheaper to make clothes but there is less regulation. People throughout Asia in places like Bangladesh, China and India then suffer from biologically dead zones from dyes or microplastics in garment fibers going into their water streams.

Though the business models for these stores hasn’t been the most sustainable in terms of environmental impact, it’s not even keeping it afloat financially. Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy and will close up to 178 stores this year. Charlotte Russe also filed for bankruptcy and closed 100 stores. Gap is planning to close 230 stores and splitting its company in half. Although, H&M and Zara are still making profitable gains, they’ve had to close physical stores and focus more on their online production to stay ahead.

“The system [of fast fashion] that we have now is rather new, but the idea of, like, disposable fashion really gained steam in the 60s when we start getting all of these technological advancements in textiles. And this is when I started to see a million different kinds of polyester that can be made cheaply and quickly,” Bretaña said. “But there was even a fad for paper dresses in the 60s. I feel like the paper dress is kind of a historical marker for this idea of shorter lived clothing.”

BEL KAZAN is an ethically-made clothing company that produces in Bali, Indonesia.

Belinda Kazanci, founder and designer of BEL KAZAN, grew up around a family involved with Turkish textiles. She didn’t initially plan to go into fashion; she actually studied music in college, but it wasn’t profitable. She lives in Los Angeles, California, but after a trip to Bali, she realized she could use her passion for fashion and background with textiles to help local communities there. She trained local workers until they became skilled enough to produce clothing.

The clothes use traditional Balinese techniques. Clients have to put in their orders for them to produce the product and every six months, they change designs.

Kazanci says she tries to give back to the Balinese community as well, working on local philanthropic projects. Since the beginning of the year, a portion of the company’s proceeds go to the Bali Children Foundation and 20% of proceeds also goes to the American Red Cross.

As for the label “U.S. Made,” that doesn’t mean it’s any more sustainable or better quality than goods produced elsewhere, but it’s been a statement made in recent media coverage of products.

Goldfarb, who uses brands from the US and abroad in her store, thinks the quality of the items is not based on their location.

“Because something is made in China does not make it bad quality, if these workers are treated ethically and given the proper working conditions, the proper wages, your garment is just as good as being made anywhere in the world,” she said.

Correction: Nov. 30, 2019

A previous version of this story misstated that Origin of Era carries independent brands run by women. The store carries clothing designed by women.

The story also misstated that a vintage store called SlapBack has been open for 20 years. It’s been open for six years. The store doesn’t carry items from the brand Lucia; therefore the sentence, “UK-based brand Lucia has more size forgiving full cut clothes with a UK-like street flair,” was removed to avoid confusion.

The photo caption in the article misspelled the name of the store as Origins of Era. It should have been Origin of Era.

The article has been updated to clarify that BEL KAZAN products is produced in Bali, Indonesia while the founder lives in Los Angeles, California.

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