Toronto Vintage Fashion Spotlight: Very Cherry Vintage

We are all consumers. Our digital lives push us to consume our work and school, social media, movies and tv, food, and clothing, all through the artificially light interface of our screens and devices. This type of consumption detaches us from the real, working people behind the operations. 

Now, entering stores and public spaces hijacks our senses. We must be aware of what we touch, the coverage of our nose and mouths, and having our eyes set on the other people around us. Don’t linger. Ask what you need to and get out! At least, that’s been my policy through the pandemic. 

But, what is lost by adopting this new way of public interaction? Simply, human connection and taking the time to know and talk to the people that keep our economy going through their businesses. 

I sat down with Very Cherry Vintage owner Victoria Baker to discuss what her experience has been like as a small vintage fashion business owner in Toronto during the pandemic. As an artist with a background of studying fashion business at George Brown College, Victoria transitioned from working as a waitress pre-pandemic to starting and supporting her own vintage fashion business through this time. 

Victoria and I had first met because I bought a 70’s crocheted halter dress from Very Cherry Vintage, refer to my article A Beginner’s Guide to Online Vintage Fashion Hunting, for details on the gorgeous dress, the Very Cherry product offering, and more! I hopped in my car and drove downtown to pick it up. This was in February where the bitter cold and icy sidewalks really kept people inside. When I arrived to pick up the dress, Victoria and I didn’t share any words but jumped and laughed together in the middle of the sidewalk as she handed me the dress to take home. We were both so excited for each other. It was a magical moment of pure human connection, something everyone, even if they don’t realize it, misses and needs. 

Let’s see what Victoria had to say. On to the interview!

Can you tell me a little bit about the Very Cherry Vintage mission and vision?

So, I guess the mission started because of the pandemic right now and trying to find work. I was waitressing before so I had to find something to do because I had no work. I just figured I love fashion. I love clothes. Let's start an online business and see what happens.

The feedback has been great. I started Very Cherry Vintage as work and a way to make money but it started growing into a little community of women supporting each other and coming together in Toronto. 

It's been amazing for me to have that and see that happen. 

As a business born during the pandemic, what has developing your business been like?

I can't complain. I wasn't sure what was going to happen and I was actually surprised by the amount of support that I got with starting Very Cherry Vintage. 

One door closes and another one opens. It was challenging having to find something else to do but I really believe in myself and I think that shows. People gravitate towards that and want to be a part of something small. I'm just like every girl out there in Toronto, trying to find herself and figuring out a way to make it in the world. 

I remember our exchange and how good it felt. It was so lovely and positive and it really brightened my day. It gave me a beautiful energy to want to do more and sell more and hear about what girls know, how the clothing is, how it fits, and how you feel. I think we're all looking for that right now, to have those moments of supporting each other, especially through such hard times. 

But, it hasn’t been easy. It's hard getting the clothes with stores being closed so that was challenging. It’s work, you know? You have to put work into it, a lot of time and energy. It can be straining at times because it’s online and you’re on a computer in this little world, this bubble, that can affect you. It’s social media, you know. You always have to look on the positive side of it. There's a community out there of women that want to help each other and want to donate their clothes. The support has lightened the load for sure. 

It's been really great seeing people come together through a small little online vintage shop that I started on my own. I’m making friends and meeting people and getting new connections and that's awesome.

That's what it's all about, it really is.

How would you describe your product offering and the value that you bring to customers? 

I would describe all of my products as really cute. They’re fun, they’re quality clothing.

It's about feeling good in what you wear and expressing yourself and your individuality through unique clothing. Clothing that is vintage, it's quality and it’s helping our impact on the environment which is important too. 

Is there a certain era or style you’ll gravitate towards when selecting your products? 

The cherry thing has always been about cutsie, pinup, 40s, 50s and then like the Retro 60s, 70s vibe. There's so much colour in those clothing and there's a lot of detail in them. The clothing made in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, its quality, there's a lot of love, it's really unique.

It’s about balance. Some days it's about being comfy and what you feel that day. Other days, maybe you want to feel good and you want to shine and express yourself and I value that in clothing. I want every item that goes in the shop to have that energy, that background to it.

It’s like carrying the clothing’s story forward in a way.

Exactly! When I get something that’s from the 40s or 60s, I think, who had this? What life did this go through? Then I’m sharing that with somebody that I don’t even know! 

So there's a connection with the clothing which is really special that you don’t really get with most big stores. That's why vintage is so awesome. It has stories and we have stories and we get to carry those stories on. 

What has the journey been like in vintage fashion, whether it be the vintage fashion industry or your personal connection with vintage? Start at the beginning!

I think it started from watching movies from the 50s. Then watching movies like Almost Famous and Forrest Gump. I watch the fashion and the way that people carry themselves in their clothing and their style. Also, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion was a big inspiration and played a huge role in showing me how to express myself through fashion. I saw the cherry earrings, bright fabrics, and unique sense of style and I was hooked ever since!

When I was younger too, I was inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. I love that classy style. Then I got older and started to listen to rock and roll. I loved the retro, groovy style. 

My love for fashion, style, and vintage has grown with who I am and what I'm interested in. I’m a bit of an old soul and seeing that kind of popular culture from a very young age had a huge impact. It’s like a treasure hunt. You're looking for something and it’s special and it's yours in that moment.

I understand you donate some of the proceeds from Very Cherry Vintage to helping sick and stray animals. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about that?

So, when I started Very Cherry Vintage, I knew I was coming to Mexico. My boyfriend lives here, so I come here a lot. I know that there's a lot of animals in need here. There's a lot of stray dogs, horses, and cows. I love animals. They're so loyal and I really value what they have to offer people.

So I thought, you know, wouldn't this be a great idea if a portion of the sales went to something that I care about and giving back? I was immediately like, yes! I'm going to record how much money, what percentage goes towards this cause. 

Now that I'm here in Mexico, I get to buy food and feed animals. I am working with a vet here, she's amazing. She's devoted her life to helping animals. Her name's Lina. She's a really special, very busy lady. 

She’ll know somebody whose family dog is sick and they don’t have the funds to support its care. She'll call me and I can go help her and give my time and my energy and have a bit of money from Very Cherry vintage to be able to do that. Before I was supporting this work out of my own pocket, which is fine, and it made me feel good. But now, it feels like I’m building a whole other branch of my work. I want to give back and it feels good to do that, especially to animals, for me personally, because they've always been so wonderful in my life.

I am part of a Facebook page here in Chapala, Mexico where people in the community are posting about animals that need help. So I am able to be a part of the community and help where I can. There are also so many communities that deal with sending animals from here to Canada and Toronto to give them homes. I’m hoping to get a little bit more into that, bringing these animals to Canada where people can give them homes. 

You mentioned before that a mission of Very Cherry Vintage is to build a community where women are able to step into their confidence and express themselves and their identities through vintage clothing. So, what steps have you been taking through Very Cherry to make that a reality?

Being positive, making connections with people, and taking the time to make them feel good. I welcome people to ask questions and talk about clothing to communicate with each other and acknowledge each other. People really respond well to that. 

It’s something that was kind of unexpected and started happening naturally. It’s like building a friendship, a sisterhood in the community, and all-loving and supporting each other. A lot of my followers have businesses as well that I want to support for them. It creates a beautiful bond between everybody. 

I’ve seen that through the Toronto vintage scene. There seems to be such a real community there. 

Right! Just getting into the community myself, it is really amazing that we’re here, living in the city, walking the streets, and doing it together. Especially now, building a community for women to uplift each other and be there for each other is so important. There are so many possible ways to do that, I didn’t realize having a vintage clothing shop could be part of that. It’s so cool. It’s amazing. 

How has the clothing collection process been like in Toronto versus in Chapala, Mexico?

It was a lot harder in Toronto due to the pandemic. I was really short on my shock and had to get creative. I was on Facebook marketplace, and reaching out to people asking if they wanted to donate clothes they don’t wear anymore and give them some profit. 

It’s a lot easier in Mexico. Everything is open here. There’s a little market on Mondays with heaps of clothes. You go and see these tables with clothes, over clothes, over clothes. You have to go in and find what you want. I get to support the people here. These sales are going towards people’s families to support their livelihoods and put food on the table. It all comes around because then I ship to Toronto and people there get to be part of that too. 

A vintage ecosystem!

Yes! It’s a circle. It’s a process. It’s all going around and helping each other. Then we get to wear these clothes and feel good. 

For my last question here, what is the role of vintage fashion in preserving the environment? 

Well, fast fashion is, you know, killing the planet. It employs child labour and unfit working conditions. By having sustainable fashion and recycling clothing, it reduces our impact on the environment and provides an alternative to those large fashion giants and unjust practices. 

I feel like there was progress before the pandemic where the use of plastics was being reduced but that kind of got pushed aside. Now, there’s so many masks and a lot of waste and that waste is going into the environment. I love this planet and I try to do everything I can to make sure I’m giving back to it. 

We can do that with clothing in our everyday lives. We can start that trend for people to do that, not buy from those multi-billion giants and buy recycled clothing instead. We need to think about the ways we can start to change to help the planet. Climate change is real. 

REAL!

Real! And, you know, we may not feel the effects of it every day, but slowly and gradually, things are happening and changing and ecosystems are dying. We throw so many clothes out but there are so many beautiful, quality pieces that are better than what is being produced by these corporate massive giants. If we can think about that when we’re buying clothing, we’re helping the environment and little by little, more and more each day, the more you learn about it and grow, we can see results. I really believe that and hope it happens. 

Thank you to Victoria for taking the time to talk with me and sharing her experiences with the Ryerson community. Shop local and support small businesses!