One day, we walked into a funky new vintage shop on East 12th Street and inquired about the business. “It’s a pop-up,” Maegan Hayward informed us. “We’ll only be here for three months.”
That was over eight years ago, and the East Village Vintage Collective looks like it’s sticking around.
Hayward — who went from went from studio manager at a post-production sound facility, to selling vintage clothes on eBay, to her own brick and mortar establishment — turned a side hustle into a career. It was her life partner Alex Carpenter, an artist and musician, who suggested that she take over the two-floor empty storefront that once hosted a Hungarian book store.
He probably didn’t realize at the time that he would end up quitting his freelance life — which rotated between sound editing and bookkeeping — to become the full time manager.
At first the shop was an actual collective, with seven different vendors occupying the place, but, Hayward recalls, “there was so much drama!” Eventually it was down to Maegan, who wanted to wanted to create a space “in the old school style of the East Village that I always loved so much when I used to shop at vintage and antique stores in my teens. Colorful, fun and inclusive. Something for everyone and always a good time even if you don’t find the perfect thing that you’re looking for that day.”
Fun is definitely the key word! The decor is a wild melange of kitsch and cool from a variety of eras, set to a soundtrack of whatever vinyl Alex is in the mood to pull from the racks and old TVs playing John Waters’ “Cry-Baby” or a collage of clips that combine everything from Pee Wee Herman to “The Golden Girls.”
Add that to the affordable selection of eclectic vintage duds, and it’s not surprising that pop stars and film stylists have been seen flipping through the racks.
Sam Oslyn, hairstylist at ‘The Best Little Hair House in Brooklyn,” is a regular customer.
“I shop at EVVC because the inventory is eclectic and the prices are accessible,” he says. “I can play around with new looks.” Although he picked a jacket from director Tommy Wiseau’s “Love is Blind” collection to be photographed in, he ended up leaving it on the rack. If you’re a fan of “The Room,” you’ll want to run over and grab it — it’s signed by Wiseau on the sleeve.
Though the shop no longer hosts separate vendors, they do have others set up from time to time on the sidewalk in front free of charge, such as the candle maker “Melted By Justina.”
“I guess basically we’re a stupid business!” Hayward says. “But we’re trying to be a community space — we love being part of the neighborhood.”
Their community spirit manifests itself in her work with the East Village Independent Merchants Association, where she and Carpenter are board members and Hayward manages the Instagram account. The pair put together a map of all the vintage shops in the neighborhood, just in case you can’t find what you’re looking for at EVVC.
You never know what you’ll find at EVCC, as the joint is stocked with an eclectic mix of accessories, DVDs, magazines, houseware, and artwork, some of it by Carpenter under the moniker Art by Carpo (check out the brand new Bowie/Jesus mashup by the front door). You can buy his experimental minimal LPs, as well as vintage clothing surprises.
“I love EVVC because you can find fun pieces from across decades that let you be whoever you want to be,” says customer Jaclyn Snook. “I love color, patterns and vintage leather and they do too.”
Brendan O’Shea notes that he “has a pretty standard look that always includes vintage pieces. However, when I go to EVCC I always find wild looks that make me feel straight out of the movie “Soapdish.”
Hayward loves that she acquires unique treasures for people to find in the store, although she admits that not all of her finds make their way onto the sales floor.
“Sometimes it’s one for the shop and one for me!” she says.
It’s clear that the store is an extension of her sensibility. She notes that she is “very passionate about the intertwining of art and fashion and music.”
“It’s not easy to pinpoint what the aesthetic of EVVC is — it’s all over the place,” she laughs. “Just like the inside of my brain!”
While she remarks that there has been a shift from people who want to create their own look to fans who are looking for something that they saw their favorite star wearing, Hayward is sticking to her vision for the store.
“I don’t try to follow trends. I want people shopping here to start trends,” she explains. “I’m not focused on gender, the prices are affordable and I want every type of person to be comfortable here.”
Violet Lane, who is studying fashion business at LIM in Midtown, is a former employee at EVVC.
“It was my first ever job at 16 years old,” she recalls. “It opened my eyes to the world of fashion and true vintage. Everyone in NYC should know about EVVC. It’s a true gem!”
(A note on the photos: All of the people photographed are clients of the store who are wearing items from the shop, some from their own collection.)
For a full East Village Vintage Shop Map, visit eastvillagevintagecollective.