Swap Meet Royalty: A look at San Diego’s own vintage clothing dealer

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On a cold October morning in 2020, I found myself immersed in piles of vintage clothing at Kobey’s Swap Meet. Wandering with my coffee in hand and curious by nature, I walked up to a vendor displaying a vintage Britney Spears T-shirt. As I continued to look around, I found myself grabbing strappy dresses, mini skirts, and a sheer black Halloween dress — which I haven’t worn yet. As I grabbed a beautiful black mesh dress with red accents and floral details, I decided it was time for some self-control, so I headed over to the vendor to pay. Finishing a little chat with the seller, I took my items and said a final thank you. As I finally walked away, I realized I hadn’t caught the name of her store. Looking back, I saw the name of his shop on a small billboard: Revival Era Vintage.

Little did I know that my shopping addiction would take over me and I would become a frequent attendee of Kobey’s Swap Meet. Always meeting up at the Revival Era Vintage booth, I would strike up a conversation with the saleswoman and eventually become fascinated by her involvement in the world of vintage clothing, resale and the city’s sustainable fashion community.

With fashion at your fingertips, meet Heidi Cantrell, Revival Era’s designer and San Diego’s own vintage clothing dealer. Drawing inspiration from old movies, TV shows and eccentric musicians, Cantrell was influenced by the style of the 20th century.

“I would say my style comes from 90s and 70s looks with a western twist, influenced by my hometown. Combining eras is great fun and creates such a unique look. Some of my stylistic inspiration comes from my favorite 90s shows like ‘Dawson’s Creek’, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘90210’, ‘That’s ’70s Show’, ‘Charmed’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’. One of my favorite artists who I think has the best 70s and 90s looks is Mazzy Star. A lot of my other inspiration comes from other vintage sellers in San Diego who focus on different eras, like pieces from the 40s and 50s.”

Hailing from a small town in California, she didn’t start exploring her sense of style until she entered college. Feeling lost in academia – like all students – she decided to follow the path that felt right to her.

“I was a full-time college student who worked at two restaurants and changed majors every other semester. I was lost and dissatisfied with my direction in life. Shortly after, I quit my job and came across an estate sale near my house. I stopped trying so hard to find something to do with my life and just did what came naturally to me.

With her adventurous nature and her desire to start investing time in the world of vintage clothing, she began to explore the world of resale and what it had to offer her.

“Shortly after quitting my job, I came across an estate sale near my house. I always felt relaxed when saving and found so much joy in conservation. I spent all my money in an old lady’s closet and I spent a few months signing up on Depop to pay the rent and bills.After my Depop took off I started developing my style modeling outfits for my shop. At the time, Y2k was just starting to become a term within the vintage community and many people rejected the idea that it should even be a thing. With consistency and drive, anyone can start their boutique — quitting your day job helps too! The fast fashion industry imposes a style agenda on the masses and I have fallen hard into their trap for years. They also use unethical practices for hand- good workmanship and fabrics market made from chemicals – meant to break down quickly. Vintage clothing lasts forever, lets you choose your style, promotes sustainability and small business – what’s better than that?!”

Striving to grow her small business, Cantrell began expanding her networking beyond small pop-up events and into store clothes racks.

Cantrell said: “I started selling at the swap meet about a year ago, thanks to other sellers nudging me to go offline. It’s helped me build a bigger following, connect with like-minded people, expand my style, and connect in the community. Selling in person is the best way to advance as a vintage seller. Now I mostly do smaller markets, Instagram and in-store sales at Day to Day Vintage in North Park. My favorite thing about managing shelves in stores is seeing how people respond to selections in an upscale setting. Working for yourself can be overwhelming, but you can choose how it’s all done. You decide how to get clothes, on which platform to sell and be part of the best community there is. I noticed that you can’t think too much about what you’re selling, if you choose cool stuff, other people will notice. Being authentic to your style will always transcend your customers and your brand. If you are committed to your brand and confident in your ideas, no one will ever think otherwise. Don’t be afraid to take risks, stick to your style, and meet as many people as possible when you first start your store.

With her spunky personality and eccentric nature, Cantrell has grown her fashion community in San Diego into something she never imagined possible. Being in a community where resale is rather male dominated, she has created a safe space for herself and her small business to thrive as a woman.

“I accepted late in my college career that I would 100 percent do it after I graduated,” Cantrell said. “It’s unpredictable and exciting while still giving me space to work socially or independently, depending on my mood. There are many different avenues and boredom is never an option.

Photo courtesy of Luis Montejo

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