Mary Kincaid, owner of Zuburbia Vintage, Discusses All Things Vintage- Including Fur

Fur has been a bit of a hot topic on the PA blog, and so we wanted to feature an interview with Zuburbia owner Mary Kincaid. Mary knows vintage and has spent her life studying and procuring vintage goods. In this interview, she talks about her passion for and ideas about vintage clothing, including her ideas about fur-vintage and new.

1.) How did you originally become inspired to work with vintage clothing?

Initially I began purchasing vintage clothing because I discovered that vintage clothes simply fit my petite body better than current fashions. Plus I could get “more bang for my buck,” that is higher quality at a lower cost. Eventually it became difficult for me to just pass up fantastic vintage items that weren’t my size, so I began purchasing and re-selling them—first to friends and family and then to a larger audience. Now I’ve shipped items to clients in countries around the world.

2.) Who are your favorite style icons?

I tend to gravitate toward classic, elegant, sophisticated style—think Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelley, and Jackie O. But I’m also a huge fan of Iris Apfel and hope to have even a smidgen of her style when I’m her age! Ultimately, I think regardless of their aesthetic, women who become style icons have a strong sense of their authentic selves and that translates into a personal sense of style that we can’t help but notice.

3.) When choosing vintage pieces for your collection, what do you look for?

I look for pieces that transcend time–items with great style, quality construction and interesting details that look fresh and contemporary when integrated into a modern wardrobe even though they are decades old. I am not a label snob–some great designers created ho-hum pieces and some no-name seamstresses created some extraordinary items. So I like to keep an open mind about a garment before peeking at its label. As Michelle Obama says, “I don’t buy a designer, I buy a dress.”

4.) When it comes to vintage fur, there’s a big debate going on about what is ethical. What are your thoughts on that?

Fur is such a polarizing issue in fashion. And yet I find it interesting that often the same women who so vehemently condemn others for wearing fur often don’t think twice about carrying a leather handbag or wearing leather shoes.

6.) What are your beliefs about fur in general?

I would love to live in a world where animals are treated with dignity, where there are no factory farms and where animals aren’t harmed for the sake of fashion. I personally don’t wear fur anymore and I try to purchase only vintage leather pieces. I do, however, acquire vintage fur items for my own collection as a means of preserving pieces of our fashion history. (I don’t see how tossing these garments in a landfill or shredding them for animal beds honors the animal who gave its life or the seamstress who toiled to create the garment.)

7.) Is there ever an occasion when you think it’s ethical to buy new fur?

I personally don’t believe there’s any reason to buy new fur products.  (Although Mary does think Nutria fur is an exception. She says: Same idea as with vintage fur, the fur of the killed animals might as well be put to use if the animals are being killed anyway for other ecologically sound reasons. Again, same idea that someone who is going to buy new fur anyway now has a more eco-friendly alternative.)

After much thought and deliberation, though, I decided to continue to offer vintage fur items to my clients and to consider fur items for my Weekly eBay Roundup of Vintage Clothing Finds (Donating 10% of all fur, feather, leather and reptile sales to animal activist charities). While some may argue that this fuels the demand for fur, I believe that the few vintage fur items I sell or promote each year has no real impact on a US fur industry which generates sales of over $1 BILLION dollars a year!  That’s billion with a “B!”

According to Fur.org, one in five women owns a fur coat and 55% of buyers are under 44 years old. Also, Gallup reports that US social acceptance of fur is actually increasing among designers and consumers. While I find these statistics disturbing, for these women who have already made a decision to purchase fur, I believe vintage fur is a viable alternative that is more eco-friendly than purchasing new.

8.) What is your favorite piece in your collection and why?

Oh, it’s so hard to pick just one!  I actually just sold one of my all-time favorite Lanvin dresses. But then I acquired an amazing Pierre Cardin vintage beaded evening bag that literally made my heart beat faster when I spied it in a display case at the Santa Monica Vintage Expo. I don’t believe in becoming attached to items because I believe we never really “own” anything. We are just stewards while items are in our possession. And particularly with vintage items, I find it fascinating that each one has a story and a prior owner who lived with the item before me.

9.) How have you seen vintage evolve?

I believe you don’t have to sacrifice one ounce of style to be a good green citizen. If you don’t have access to great vintage stores in your area, there are many fine places to shop for vintage in cyberspace and I feature one great vintage item each day on my blog. Reputable dealers spend a great deal of effort sourcing vintage items and then making sure they are in tip-top condition, cleaned, pressed and ready-to-wear. Compared to years ago when vintage buying might have been viewed as a budgetary option only, today vintage has gone mainstream with celebrities, stylists and women worldwide adopting it as a stylish, eco-friendly alternative. I encourage everyone to give it a try! Dip your feet into the vintage clothing waters with something simple like a vintage scarf or a fab piece of vintage costume jewelry. But be forewarned: once you discover the joys and treasures hidden in the wonderful world of vintage, you may find it difficult to go back to shopping for cookie-cutter fashion at your local mall.


1 Response to “Mary Kincaid, owner of Zuburbia Vintage, Discusses All Things Vintage- Including Fur”

  1. 1 Kat
    February 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I loved this article! I swore my heart to vintage after shopping in my grandmother’s and mom’s closet and I love how you expressed the concept of vintage in this article! The fur debate was portrayed wonderfully here too. I’m still riding the fence on fur because I have vintage furs that I love but I think that if we discontinue buying new fur and just use what is already out there makes more sense. As well as using the nutria, I totally agree with that! Thanks for such an amazing article!

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