Kara Curtin is someone you just naturally like. She’s got a good vibe, the best taste in movies and music and the coolest aesthetic. Even if you only know her through social media, you convince yourself she’s your friend in real life.
She just moved back upstate after a four-year run in New York City attending Manhattan College, and damn, we’re glad she did because it brought us her latest creative venture, DINER. It’s an online vintage shop via Instagram and Etsy, carefully curated and actually affordable. What? Affordable vintage?
We’ll let you hear it right from the creative source in this exclusive 2BD interview.
First, a little about you and how DINER became a thing. (And the name, which I love.)
I started DINER because of my love for vintage shopping and treasure hunting. In my mind, the find of a lifetime is hiding somewhere in a jammed thrift store just waiting for its perfect owner. I’m addicted to the search for that find and I’m good at it, but my personal closet has pretty much hit its limit, so I decided to start looking with others in mind. I also found that many online vintage stores were unaffordable on a thrift-shopper’s budget, and I felt that I would be able to keep everything reasonably priced.
I named the shop DINER because I’ve joked that I want to open a bar and call it that, but I opened this store instead, so that’s where the name landed, ha. I also like the idea that at a diner you can pretty much get whatever you want, there’s always a little bit of everything, and I think the shop mimics that concept.
Vintage is really in right now, right? But it doesn’t seem like everyone wants to rock it. What do you think some people’s hesitations are and what are some quick ways to dive into this fashion trend?
People are hesitant to wear and buy vintage because the term conjures up thoughts of weird patterns, outdated silhouettes and saddle shoes. The prices are often daunting, and shopping for vintage can be overwhelming. But vintage does not have to mean all of these things.
In my mind, the process of owning/shopping for vintage clothes is rewarding. My suggestion is take your time, be patient, and look for items that look classic and will for years to come. Don’t be scared to look at the floral patterned maxi-dress with the lace collar because the perfect black linen mini-dress might be on a hanger right next to it.
So, you’ve spent the past four years living in NYC. Now you’re back upstate in a totally different market (for jobs, for fashion, you name it). How do you think your city experience has influenced the shop and what you’re trying to provide to this area?
I think it’s much easier to dress as an individual in the city, and not as easy upstate. No disrespect to good ol’ Crossgates, but I feel mostly suffocated by the mall and could spend hours getting lost and roaming around, only to turn up with nothing. I don’t feel like my style is represented there so I’ve turned elsewhere. I’m trying to cater to people who feel the same way but are uneasy about thrift-shopping themselves.
Give me the down-low on the routine when you’re out shopping for your store. What are we looking to find, where do we go? Any tricks or tips for the vintage shopper?
I’m extremely dedicated to the Salvation Army but there are others like Savers, City Mission, Unique…that also have a vast selection.
The comment I’ve gotten most about thrift-shopping is, “Your Salvation Army (or whatever big thrift) must just be really good because mine has nothing.”
No. I understand, you walk into some huge, fluorescently-lit warehouse, everything in disarray and you see rows of blouses and dresses that no-one should’ve been wearing years ago, let alone now. You flick through a couple items on a jam-packed rack, and it’s all awful and overwhelming and then you think, I gotta get out of here.
But you have to tackle one section at a time, maybe start with denim, and go one-by-one through every single pair of jeans in the entire row. And then do that with each section of the store. It takes time and patience and some days you find nothing, but then some days you leave feeling like you won the lottery. To me that’s the greatest game in the world, but to some that may be terrifying and if so, I’m here for you.
What are some of the benefits of being on Etsy? Do we see brick-and-mortar as a long term goal?
Etsy is working for me right now because it’s super friendly and all orders have gone flawlessly. It’s simple, but I also like how the shop looks online and how my photos and clothes are presented. The obvious plus side with Etsy is that gals from all over can shop these sweet threads (& goods & shoes), and it’s cool to be reaching a wide audience online.
Brick-and-mortar hasn’t really crossed my mind yet. DINER is still just a little babe of a project that grew in my mind quickly and then became a reality, but we’ll see. Life is weird and wild and I definitely didn’t see myself answering these questions a few months ago, so who knows!
What’s your day job? How does it help keep the creative wheels turning for whatever your next move will be?
I can be found at the new Fort Orange General Store on Broadway in downtown Albany. Other than an excellent way to distract my buzzing, anxious post-grad brain — the owners and other employees at Fort Orange have been a constant source of inspiration to me. Being surrounded by smart, innovative and creative people and products can only do good, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a sweet set-up that’s been rockin’ and rollin’ since day 1, three weeks ago, and I’m super amped to be a part of another great addition to downtown.
Well, there you have it. A super cool chick selling cute and affordable vintage clothes, taking the burden off of all of us who are too anxious to dive into the racks at Salvo on our own. Thanks to Kara for the Q&A, and readers keep an eye out for her newest finds on DINER.
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