Take two rad girls, an awesome collection of vintage, a 1976 RV, and that ladies and gentlemen, is Lost Girls Vintage. The mobile vintage shop that these two women have created is one that I had to check out while in Chicago. We pulled up to Antique Taco in Wicker Park where they set up shop, and the first thing that caught my eye was Winnie – the 1976, orange and white chevron painted RV, that has been gutted and rebuilt into a shop-able vintage store. The color alone of this baby will get your attention from a mile away. Sarah and Kyla were seated at a picnic table, in between the merch and the ever delicious Antique Taco that everyone in Chicago raves about. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures, shopped the racks, then were invited to sit down and enjoy a few tacos and rosemary margaritas with Sarah and Kyla. These girls are such a blast, and they had all of us laughing as they told us stories about life on the road and in Chicago. It’s times like these that you never really expect to happen, but turn out to be some of the best on the trip. Take a step inside Lost Girls Vintage!
When did your love for collecting vintage start?
S: When I was younger I was always drawn to history and the things of the past and so when I went to school for fashion a big part of it was studying the history of dress. I became fascinated with styles of the past and how they keep reinventing themselves today. I started collecting vintage in 2011, after graduating college at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
K: When I was a little girl, I often tagged along with my great grandmother (and total kindred spirit) to her work at a flea market, and I spent just about every Saturday from the ages of 5-18 going to yard sales and antique stores with my mom. I guess you can just say It’s in my blood! I was always intrigued by old and unusual pieces before I knew “vintage” was actually a thing.
How did Lost Girls Vintage come to be? How did you two meet?
K: We joke that we met in Heaven! I know, It’s cheesy, but we’re total cheese balls so hear us out! We both sold vintage separately before Lost Girls. We sold at all of the same markets in Chicago, but didn’t become friends until a rainy day at a sale called Vintage Heaven in 2012. Foot traffic was slow and Sarah had brought this dice game called Farkle. It’s a game of risk, kind of like Yahtzee. I couldn’t figure out how she kept outscoring me until she let me in on a little secret… I wasn’t taking enough risk. “No risk, no reward.” It’s definitely been a guiding principle in how we run Lost Girls. We’ve pretty much been inseparable as friends ever since.
When did Winnie come into the picture? How was your experience converting it into a shop-able space?
We started working together in Fall of 2012. We had some free weekends when there were no markets planned in the city so we thought, “why not put together our own sales?” So we did! We teamed up with a cool local coffee shop and did a pop-up sale on their patio, and it ended up being a hit! It helped their business and it was definitely a success for us. We saw that what we had working together was greater than the sum of its parts. We kind of knew right then that we wanted to go into business together. We tossed around the idea of a traditional store front, but nixed it fairly quickly. We’re young – we don’t want to be stuck sitting inside all day waiting for people to come to us. We want to travel, and go out and find those people, and see new places. So that’s why the idea of a mobile shop made more sense. Once we had the idea in our heads, we kind of just ran with it. We found Winnie on Craigslist and spent about a month gutting her, doing the build out, and getting her in full working fashion. We had some amazing help, but we did A LOT of the work ourselves. And we’ve learned sooooooo much about car maintenance and repairs over the last year. We fix a lot of things ourselves.
Where are some of your favorite places to set up shop in Chicago?
We have so many favorites! You can’t beat Antique Taco. The BEST fish tacos you’ll ever taste! And we don’t know how they do it, but their Antique Taco Salad makes kale craveable. Amazing food, drinks, and fun atmosphere in the heart of Wicker Park. What more could you ask for? Another favorite is Modern Cooperative, a vintage furniture and handmade shop in Pilsen. We always get so inspired by everything they do. It’s refreshing being there, and it’s fun – such a fun neighborhood! We also really love Gaslight Coffee Roasters, a beautifully designed coffee house in Logan Square that offers some of the best brew in the city! And their food will blow you away, too! What’s really cool about all of these places is that the owners couldn’t be nicer people. We have continually been amazed at how helpful, friendly, and collaborative the small business owners are in Chicago. Not competitive at all, even if they’re in the same field.
As far as Chicago markets go, we never miss a Vintage Bazaar, a highly curated twice-a-year pop-up bazaar of everything vintage. We’re also regulars at The Vintage Garage, a market where vintage dealers take over a parking garage in Uptown once a month.
What’s it like working so closely with someone else on the same project?
S: It’s fantastic and challenging at the same time. It’s wonderful to know that someone always has your back when a challenge arises but sometimes we do butt heads. We are both very stubborn people and we have to learn to compromise with each other.
K: It’s like a marriage, seriously. We have to communicate EVERYTHING, and we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of Lost Girls, even if they’re not the decisions that are in our individual best interests. But it’s also really awesome because we fuel each other. When one of us is feeling tired or feeling down, the other one is there, ready to carry things for a bit. Or if one of us has a neat idea, we can bounce it off each other and run with it and see where it takes us. It’s pretty amazing.
Any funny/noteworthy experiences you guys have encountered while traveling on the road with Winnie?
S: Oh boy. So many.
K: Well, we once paid a mechanic in tacos… and that’s not a euphemism! We paid another mechanic in vintage merchandise.
What is your favorite part about owning your own business?
S: I love working for myself. That we get to decide which path to take and how our business will grow is a thrilling and terrifying thing. I love that work doesn’t feel like work. Doing something you love never feels like work, yet you are putting all the energy you have into it.
K: I really love what I do. It’s not mandatory or obligatory. What I do, I do simply because I love it. And it’s also nice not to be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule.
How would each of you describe your personal style?
S: I would say my style is always over the top. If Carmen Miranda wore more gold, that would be me.
K: It’s funny, I feel like my style has changed so much. Even from when we started Lost Girls. Growing up in Georgia, I always wore dresses and skirts and had a very feminine aesthetic. But since I’ve been in the Midwest, I’ve become more interested in less-obvious beauty.
Where do you find inspiration?
S: I tend to find most of my inspiration from peers. We have some of the most amazingly stylish friends and family. There’s always a new and creative way they express themselves whether it’s through fine art, fashion, design, or music.
K: We have a studio in a collective called Beehive Chicago. It’s 10 vintage businesses all under one roof. I never walk in that space without feeling inspired.
What are some of your favorite markets to shop?
One of our favorite markets to shop is Vintage Garage Chicago. It’s a vintage market in a parking garage. Vendors come from all over and there’s always a great variety. A lot of times at markets we’re too busy to shop, but we tend to do a lot of shopping in our collective studio Beehive Chicago. There’s clothing, furniture, housewares, everything you could ever dream of! All under one roof. It’s dangerous. In the best way possible :)
What is your favorite piece in your collection at the moment?
We’ve recently acquired quite a few 1970s fringe pieces and we have a stunning suede fringe and beaded jacket that is just surreal.
Any special projects or events coming up that you guys are excited about?
We’ve hired our first employees. They’re both named Caitlin! We’re really excited to be expanding and start working with them.
What do you think the future has in store for Lost Girls Vintage?
Our dream from day one has always been “Lost Girls Abroad.” We’ve got lots of ideas in the works! Stay tuned!
It was such a pleasure meeting you both, thank you for supplying us with an incredible evening! And a big shout out to Antique Taco, you guys are awesome, and thank you for the amazing, amazing food! (I’m still thinking about those margaritas!).
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