White Sands: An Interview With Free People’s Vintage Buyer

Dearest friends, compadres and lovers of all things vintage… the time is here. Our latest Vintage Loves holiday collection, Egyptian Revival, has graced us with its presence… one of a kind…. too good to pass up… timeless, historic, full of decades of true love. That’s what makes our love for vintage so deep…. a connection to the people of the past that felt drawn to this same piece. Oh… the parties this sequin vintage number must have attended! Keep the tradition rolling…. holiday parties are right around the corner, New Years eve is creeping up faster than any of us are willing to admit. Stacked and draped in shine and glitz, these pieces were truly love at first sight. Get your party started ladies… shop these looks here!

To get the scoop on how these incredible collections come to be, I sat down with our beautiful and ever inspiring Vintage Queen (ie: Buyer), Ali. Accompanied by images of our recent shoot, White Sands, which features some of the gorgeous items you’ll find in the collection, Ali’s thoughts below are sure to inspire… her life’s passions, her foray into vintage, and the inspiration behind Vintage Loves Holiday: Egyptian Revival. It’s all there. Thank you Ali, for doing what you do and keeping the good times alive.

Vintage Silver Bust Necklace (above)

White Sands 121940’s Silk Gown

First… how did you fall in love with vintage?
It was love at first sight! At twenty one, I went to work for Ralph Lauren as the assistant vintage buyer for the Double RL label. After ten amazing years there, I set out to create a new vintage business with Free People. I’m obsessed with my job. I’m obsessed with the people I work with. Every day is filled with fun.

How long have you been finding the pieces that everyone else wishes they could find?
Vintage Loves represents my life’s work as a collector. After RL, I’ve had four successful years of Vintage Loves at Free People and will continue to grow and evolve to keep our customer inspired.

White Sands 14Vintage Coin and Chain Necklace

White Sands 9Vintage Levi’s and Suede Flares

When was the seed planted? Did you thrift as a girl? Maybe have a love of mom’s clothes?
I’m still wearing the same clothes from when I was 16. I don’t let go of much. Everyone would copy me when I was young — very flattering to lead with good ideas. How I dressed was my form of self-expression. It still is today.

White Sands 10Vintage Crochet Knit Dress

White Sands 6Vintage Rhinestone Purse

Your greatest find of all time?
I’ve been collecting my entire life, so it’s hard to say. My home is an archive of my personal collection.

What was the inspiration behind this collection?
I was trying to search for something different and inspiring for our customers. I found myself drawn to what the Free People designers were working on. I went searching for art deco-esque geometric patterns and embroideries, Grecian inspired draping, back cutout details, and accessories with touches of metallic.

White Sands 5Vintage Metallic Trousers

White Sands 4Vintage Large Collared Coat

White Sands 1Vintage Velvet Vest

What’s different about buying for holiday?
Holiday is fun. This year we have everything from candlesticks to rock posters. I think the collection of rock posters is my favorite.

White Sands 7Vintage Victorian Clutch

Your favorite piece in the collection? How would you wear it?
The gold metal mesh t-shirt. I would wear it with bell bottom vintage jeans, layered beneath overalls and paired with heels, or with a pair of high-waisted pants.

If this collection were a record,what would it be?
The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian” … definitely new wave ’80s.

White Sands 11Vintage Metallic Print Dress

White Sands 8Vintage 1920’s Beaded Bag

Greatest challenges in your job?
I feel like I could go out looking for something and the supply is just not there, because the demand is too high. So I have to buy things when I see them, I can’t afford to miss an opportunity. That’s why I’m always working.

Greatest reward?
Is finding the right piece for the right customer and hearing them brag about how amazing that piece is, and how happy they are.

White Sands 13Vintage Metal Link Belt

White Sands 3Vintage Wool Embroidered Poncho

Buying new vs. used?
I think technology is AMAZING now-a-days. It’s getting harder to distinguish the difference between old and new.

How often do you think of the stories that different garments tell?
I like to think that everything has a story — something that you can remember a person by, or an experience. I think that’s why I hold onto things for so long.

White Sands 2Vintage Chainmail Halter Top

Love to you Ali…. you rock our vintage lovin’ souls.

Photos by Rus Anson

HMU: Stacy Tan

Models: Delila  @ Next & Karol @ Next

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9 years ago

Her styling is perfect. And such awesome finds! She is definitely a trendsetter.

Warm Regards,

9 years ago

i love all the details and the amazing styling and combinations
very pretty
and soo adorable vintage accessories

9 years ago

Each piece is better than the next…but that white coat! Swoon.




9 years ago

Staggeringly beautiful. As one collector of stories and threads to another – thank you for sharing Ali! If you ever have time (!) to write more pieces, it would be great to hear more about your first vintage pieces, what drew them to you, and how thy spoke to you? Developing that eye not just for cut, and colour, but seeing the potential in hidden gems, is so exciting; that thrill of knowing you have found something incredibly special. Something unique. Would love to hear more about your journey! xxx

9 years ago

ali you are amazing!!!!!!!