Vintage shop pops up on Chapel Street

{Cut.Cloth}, a vintage clothing retailer, opened on Chapel Street Wednesday — but the pop-up storefront will be gone by next week.
{Cut.Cloth}, a vintage clothing retailer, opened on Chapel Street Wednesday — but the pop-up storefront will be gone by next week. Photo by Emilie Foyer.

Until next Wednesday, Yale students can pass up Broadway’s chain retailers in favor of clothing from a bygone era.

Wednesday marked the relaunch of {Cut.Cloth}, a New Haven-based vintage pop-up boutique that has opened three times in storefronts around New Haven and once in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood since its establishment in December 2011. Currently located on Chapel Street, the shop was conceived by Janis Foo LAW ’13. When the idea of practicing law after graduation was no longer appealing, Foo said, she decided to dabble in business, creating a model she felt was lacking in New Haven.

“I saw clothing as an opportunity in New Haven. Many of my friends grew up shopping in secondhand clothing stores but are unable to do so here. There’s a huge gap in the market for vintage clothing,” Foo said.

Foo sought the help of Danyel Aversenti, the owner of Our Empty Space, a company with the intent of transforming the lifeless storefronts lining the New Haven streets into thriving businesses. Among Aversenti’s previous clients are Apple Inc., Chocopologie Cafe and the Tacky Christmas Sweater Shop, which sold out of its merchandise just days after its opening in December 2011.

After the nearly overnight success of the Tacky Christmas Sweater Shop, Aversenti was left with an empty storefront, already rented out and paid for. It was a perfect opportunity to take a chance on Foo’s boutique, she said.

“I asked Jan if she’d like to pop-up within my pop-up and together we hosted her first pop-up,” Aversenti said.

The first opening of {Cut.Cloth} proved a success, with 80 percent of Foo’s dresses — styles handpicked from her travels to thrift stores in the New York and San Francisco areas — sold in just a few days.

“That’s when I knew that this could actually be possible,” Foo said.

Foo said the styles she sells provide Yale students a welcome change from a local retail industry dominated by chains like J. Crew and Urban Outfitters.

“With only two major stores on campus catering to students, you always run the risk of dressing like your classmate. But when you buy a vintage piece, that problem just doesn’t exist,” she said.

Aversenti echoed this sentiment, noting that it’s not uncommon for her to walk down the street and see her same outfit “strutting in the opposite direction.”

“To me, this is frustrating,” she said.

Foo keeps this sentiment in mind as she travels with one big, empty suitcase ready to collect items for the next season. When hunting for clothing, she said she prefers to search for what she prizes as “contemporary clothing with vintage flair.”

Much vintage today is too costume-like to appeal to a wide market, Foo said. Part of her inspiration, she said, derives from her grandmother in Hong Kong.

“My dad’s mom was incredibly stylish, and loved wearing Jackie O-style sunglasses. I’m always trying to find pictures of her to look to when buying,” she said.

This week’s flash sale, Foo’s fourth pop-up, ranges from winter coats to party dresses. Bags, shoes and men’s ties are tastefully aligned throughout the store’s airy expanse. Before the store officially opened at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the sidewalk outside the store was busy with Yale students and New Haven residents waiting to shop.

“It’s nice to shop in a store that’s both student-run and not a chain. I really like the idea of bringing student entrepreneurship to the spirit of the city,” said Sheela Ramesh LAW ’14.

Foo’s next goal is to scale the business, with the hopes of designing her own clothing line and later mass-producing it. Though she doesn’t envision herself remaining in the industry for a long time, {Cut.Cloth}, she said, has been a valuable stepping stone into the business world.

“It’s been a fun learning process.”

{Cut.Cloth} will be open through next Wednesday.

Comments

  • MsMoneypenny

    Where on Chapel St?

  • LAandproudofit

    Wayy too snobbish for me. Maybe it’s because I don’t look haute-couture or something. When I asked the store owner what type of store this was, she turned her back on me and said, “we’re a HIGH-END vintage store” and basically ignored me as if I was an idiot. She tried to help all the white people there, and never once bothered with me. OK, so I’m black and where I come from, I’ve only seen Salvation Army and the like. So what if I don’t know what a vintage store is? I don’t care what type of cloth she sells, with an attitude like that, she’s not getting any of my or my friends’ business. What a stuck-up and vain little b. Hell no, I’m not going back there.

    • FreddyHoneychurch

      No she didn’t!

      • isayhello

        She probably did.

    • cutclothvintage

      Hi LAandproudofit,

      I am so sorry that you had that experience in our store, and I apologize if I or anyone else working there did not treat you well. I really hope that no one meant to ignore you and I am sure that no one did so because of your race.

      We close on Wed. Please come by Tuesday or Wednesday morning and someone will help you personally … with both “high-end” and non-high-end stuff. Email your name to CutClothNewHaven@gmail.com.

      I would also like to give you one of our dresses on the house. Again, I feel so bad that you were treated with snobbery. I know that must really suck.

      Many apologies and humble thanks,

      Cut Cloth

    • Amy

      LAandproudofit — Even if someone made you feel uncomfortable at the store, it’s incredibly serious to accuse someone of doing so because of your race. I have shopped in the store many times this past week, and I have always seen people of different races shopping and being helped. I think I may have actually been there during the exchange you’re mentioning. Someone came into the store with a friend asking whether it was a thrift store, and Janis responded with something to the effect of “it’s a high-end vintage store. If you are asking whether the clothes are second-hand, then yes, most of our inventory is second-hand.” Perhaps this could come off as “snobbish” if you have never heard of a vintage store, but it was certainly not intended to be a response that would make anyone uncomfortable. The flash sale has been advertised online and on paper as a sale of “high end vintage clothing,” which is descriptive and intended to attract customers rather than make them uncomfortable. She would have responded this way to anyone who asked, regardless of who they were. In addition, I know that the store was incredibly busy at the time and Janis was one of two people running the store. She responded to the question and went to help other customers who were already looking at the clothes or approaching her with questions. The person who I saw ask the question was standing in the middle of the store (right next to me at the time) and did not look at any clothes for the 2-3 minutes she was there.

      Perhaps you did not feel like your question was adequately answered, but I think that the way Janis responded actually goes against your point (if what I witnessed was actually your exchange). She did NOT assume based off of who you were or how you were dressed that you would not understand what a vintage store was. Maybe she could have followed up by asking if she had answered your question, but it seemed to me that she was sidetracked by how busy the store was — and also felt that your question was answered.

      Either way, I think it is just as inappropriate and insensitive as you accuse Janis to be that you concluded based off of this interaction that you were treated the way you were based off of your race. I know her personally, and I know that she would never ignore someone based on their race to “rush to help all the white people.” I know this to be false and personally believe that you owe Janis an apology for accusing her of something so serious. It would probably help you to not assume the worst in people and to think about the possibility that you might not thoroughly address every single customer’s concerns if you’re running a new business with very little additional help. It is fine to say that you felt you were treated rudely or that the store had a “snobby” air to it that made you feel uncomfortable — it is entirely different to accuse someone of being racist based off of that.

      • derailing101

        It is not your effing place to tell her if she experienced racism or not. Maybe in your naive world racism only happens if you’re called a slur or if there’s a cross burning in your yard, but that’s not the case. Microaggressions are just as valid (Google it). Stop trying to minimize her experience and silence her. As a black woman who has lived in a racist society her whole life, I’m sure she pretty damn well knows racism when she sees it. That goes to narishakti too. I’ve seen pretty ridiculous things on this website but this is the first time I’ve felt compelled enough to make an account and respond to this nonsense.

    • Lauren

      LAandproudofit – I’m attaching a link to the 2012 Look Book for Cut. Cloth. not just to show that the clothing at the store is beautiful (and reasonably priced to boot) but also to show that the owner of Cut. Cloth. chose to use three models of different races and ethnicities to represent her store and her brand. I am also black, and also from an area in Brooklyn where high-end vintage stores aren’t exactly on every street corner, but I was treated with nothing but kindness, respect, and great customer service at this store. http://www.cut-cloth.com/look-book/fall-2012/

      On another note, if you felt disrespected by the store owner, then I think you should have spoken to her directly about how you were treated, rather than accusing her of racism in a public forum. As members of the same Yale community, we should try to support our peers who are trying to start their own businesses, rather than deriding them online behind a veil of anonymity.

    • NariShakti

      To all readers out there: There are always two sides to a story and if you take a moment to meet Janis, I promise you will find that the image of her as described by LAandproudofit is as far from the truth as possible.

      To LAandproudofit: I’m sure that your perception of Janis is based on some misunderstanding. Jan is not the least bit racist or snobbish. She is friendly to everyone and does not judge on the basis of clothes or race or anything else superficial for that matter. As the other comments have already articulated, accusing someone of racism, especially a member of your own community, is not something to be taken lightly, especially when the accusation is merit-less. I hope you will make another visit to Cut Cloth and clear up the misunderstanding.

    • concerned

      Dear LAandproudofit,
      I am sorry you experienced what you did at a downtown New Haven store. At the Salvation Army or Good Will stores you can, once in a while, find an article of (used) clothing with a designer label but it is mixed in with everything else and not displayed or grouped in any special way and you have to judge for yourself if it is truly stylish. Apparently this store specialized in collecting and displaying for sale used designer and used designer-style clothing, having separating it out from non-designer stuff for the convenience of shoppers who might be interested in trying to find used designer labeled clothing without having to spend more time sorting through lots of non-designer stuff found at the “low end” & other types of second hand shops. But this store is only open on a short-term basis.

    • vintanthromodern

      Hi LAandproudofit,

      We are a local New Haven vintage clothing retailer, also owned by a woman of color, working with Jan and {Cut. Cloth} at the Chapel Street storefront. We are truly sorry that you were, or anyone else was, made to feel uncomfortable in the space, and that you were treated with what you perceived as rudeness, snobbery, and/or racial animosity. Trust me: we all feel terrible that ANYONE had this experience in the shop. It doesn’t square with what any of us, or our businesses, are about at all. Saturday was a truly overwhelming day at the store; with only two of us working, we had to juggle a lot of customers, a lot of little logistical things, and even a shoplifting incident. We tried very hard to give each customer our time, but we understand how our multitasking and divided attentions could have come across as personal affronts to our customers, and we apologize if that was the case.

      We realize that racism doesn’t have to be intended to be felt, and that the experience of racism is more important than our distress at being called out — justified or not. However, this comment strongly implies that Jan was in fact intending to be racist, the charge to which other commenters are replying. Let us further assure you that any exclusivity — via racial, class, or whatever identity — perceived to be promoted by anyone working in the shop was absolutely not intended as such. (Although the space we are currently occupying unfortunately does not have an elevator, which sucks, and we apologize for being unable to accommodate customers whose disabilities prevent the use of stairs).

      In short, like Jan, we feel awful that any of our customers had this experience. We do not mean to invalidate it. However, we think it is important to clarify what we are about as members of the Yale and greater New Haven communities who really love our customers (especially making them feel special and happy) and, most importantly, to apologize.

      Vintanthromodern Vintage

  • Amy

    (comment reposted as response)

  • Amy

    On a completely separate note, GO TO THE STORE! They have really great things, the space is really beautiful, and they close tomorrow!