Australian stylist Bridie Gilbert opens the digital doors to her new vintage boutique, Phantasmagoria.
Interview Adam Bryce
Bridie Gilbert is a stylist with a uniquely talented eye. The former fashion editor of Russh magazine and now-freelance stylist has taken her ability to create some of the best fashion imagery and adapted it to create a vintage boutique that will make everyone want to shop this way. Fashion’s reset points heavily in favour of consumers making more careful purchases and considering vintage pieces, all we needed was Phantasmagoria to show us how it’s done.
How did you originally fall in love with fashion and find yourself in this job?
Bridie: I was exposed to fashion from a young age so it was a pretty natural progression really. My parents both work in creative industries and I grew up around inner-city Sydney in areas like Darlinghurst, where the LGBTQI scene was thriving, and Newtown which was very alternative. Creativity and style was everywhere and it was hugely influential.
I started collecting magazines around 13 so, by the time I was finishing school, I knew I wanted to work in fashion. I did magazine internships straight out of high school and briefly studied fashion at East Sydney Tech, then moved onto freelance assisting which was what really set me on track to do styling.
Where do you see vintage sitting in the fashion marketplace? Especially taking into account the current reset to the way fashion operates.
I think it offers the opportunity to make an ethical choice in a marketplace that, until recently, has not offered that at all. Vintage could be a viable solution to fashion’s waste problem. Essentially, when you buy vintage, you are recycling. You’re not contributing to landfill, you’re probably not buying something covered in plastic and hidden under layers of packaging. You have made an ethical choice and you’ve also been able to engage in fashion guilt-free.
There is a current reset taking place; we all seem to be looking for an alternative. I think fashion has become overwhelming for most people. We’re marketed to constantly because of social media, offered a new brand or collection endlessly but, at the same time, given all of this information so most people know the environmental cost and repercussions of fast-fashion and mass production on the Earth.
Vintage is, in a lot of ways, the antithesis to what fashion has been up until recently — excessive, exploitative, wasteful. It ticks a lot of the right boxes in a way that new fashion can’t. It already exists so it’s not creating more waste, by buying it you’re saving it from going to landfill, it’s usually at a good price point and there’s only ever that one piece, which means it’s unlikely someone else will have it. In an age where fashion has become so mass, that’s a real novelty in itself. Then, it also has that added bonus of appealing to those very human desires for nostalgia, authenticity and individuality.
Has vintage been something you’ve always been attracted to?
Yes, definitely. My mum and stepmother always had vintage, and my dad used to take us to the markets on the weekend to look for old records, so it wasn’t a new concept for me. I think the values of it being unique and special were instilled early on, vintage was always spoken about appreciatively and often as though it had more value for the story behind it. My parents have always had great vintage homewares, records and furniture in our houses.
When I started shopping for myself, I mainly bought vintage because I lived near a lot of great vintage stores like C’s Flashback, Grandma Takes A Trip and Zoo Emporium. Newtown Vinnie’s and the Crown St Salvo’s were also my go-tos. It was fun to go rummaging and find things other people wouldn’t have. We didn’t have a lot of money so I had to be creative with what I could afford and vintage provided the solution.
It was also a learning experience — researching the best places and markets, the best cities for vintage, getting to know the different kinds of clothes and recognise things about them, like a type of collar or fabric and what that meant about it. I still do it now, obviously I love it. Especially when I’m travelling, I feel like that’s the best way to get to know a place more intimately.
Phantasmagoria is heavily curated. How do you make decisions on what to buy for the store?
The buy is heavily based on my own taste and from things I’ve seen in my travels or that I own myself. Some things are from my archive and others are sourced based on things I’m not ready to part with yet. Part of styling is curation — of imagery, of pieces and creating collections that send a strong aesthetic message. Phantasmagoria is built on those basic styling principles of pulling together a cohesive collection of pieces that has small stories within it (ie. silk pyjamas, 70s prairie dresses, capsules) and which all complement one another.
Where does the name come from?
Good question. One of my favourite songs is Phantasmagoria In Two by Tim Buckley and I really liked the meaning of the word: ‘a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream’. That kind of summed up my idea of how you feel in a good store.
“When you buy vintage, you are recycling. You’re not contributing to landfill, you’re probably not buying something covered in plastic and hidden under layers of packaging. You have made an ethical choice and you’ve also been able to engage in fashion guilt-free.”