One of Lafayette’s Taco Sisters turns her love of bygone beauty into a clever side business.
By Anna Purdy
“The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from.”
John Still, 1543-1608, bishop of Bath and Wells
|Photo by Robin May|
Katy Richard, co-owner of Lafayette’s treasured Taco Sisters restaurant on the corner of Vermilion and Johnston streets, threads profit and posterity every time she hunts down an estate sale or flea market for the vintage brooches and other jewelry she loves so much. Katy lovingly reworks the pieces with thread and string to make new necklaces or earrings and even year-round wreaths for your house. To her, the jewelry tells tales. These pieces are echoes of a serious craftsmanship that has long been forsaken by mass production and shops in every mall in America. The jewelry represents how someone once bought or was given the brooches, earrings, necklaces or buckles when they were brand new and were worn and cared for by enough people that they survive until present day.
Katy is from Lafayette but returned in 2008 after 25 years away, most of those being spent in New England. Her sister and now partner in Taco Sisters, Molly, came for a visit and together they found a bunch of vintage jewelry at a sale for $10. Molly only wanted a pair of earrings from the collection and encouraged her big sister to keep the rest, and there the jewelry sat for years until Katy was feeling crafty one day and decided to decorate a Mardi Gras wreath using the brooches and whats-its, stringing them up with thread and glue and affixing found shells from East Coast beaches. From here another creative outlet was born, as well as a business.
For the past decade Katy has been searching out vintage and antique jewelry for repurposing and resale. In the beginning she made wreathes and even decorated lamps and other household objects. This is what would become Katy-Did Vintage, a play on her name and the eponymous insect.
“When I see these, I think of a lady getting dressed for the evening, lace collar and cuffs, carefully choosing what to wear that night, “ says Katy. To her, these pieces are more than just eye candy or baubles — they’re a connection to the past. Wearing jewelry from 50, 100 years ago is a direct and tangible reach to another human being. It’s history we can’t feel or simply read about.
Some of the jewelry is sold “as is,” meaning that aside from being spruced up by polishing and replacing broken links or fallen jewels, they can be worn by people today as people would have worn them when the pieces were new. From paste jewels to copper chains, from jewelry made of cork or wooden bits to traditional silver and gold, Katy offers all means of variety and style, from the Victorian and Edwardian eras to the 1970s. Each piece is carefully researched before being put up for sale.
So what is vintage jewelry, exactly? Vintage is one of those words that has gained cache and coin for retailers around the nation the past several years. It’s almost time for it to outgrow “buzzword” status and be seen as more reflective of a style that rotates as the years roll on. It’s generally accepted that for apparel and accessories to be considered vintage they must be at least 20 to 30 years old (antique is generally over 100 years old), which means that, sadly, wearing a Doc Martens-and-baby-girl-dress combo from the late ’90s is prime for reemerging as a vintage style, as is the Aqua-Netted tangles of hair from the ’80s. You’ve been warned.
Like any savvy person who collects valuable and treasured things, Katy is fairly mum on her sources. There are the traditional estate sales, garage sales and flea markets, but much like her friends Tausha Lell and Pat Markin of Euphoria, she has secret sources and dares not speak their name or address.
Talking to Pat and Tausha inspired Katy’s first trunk show last month. After a few “fire sales” around the time of Festival International it was thought Euphoria would be closing, but situations morph and the ladies realized they would be here in Lafayette just a little bit longer. “So why not do a trunk show, get them some publicity?” Katy thought. The May 26 show-sale at Euphoria on Congress Street was a hit. A trunk show is when a designer will show up with literally a trunk full of his or her goods to show potential buyers. It eliminates the need for a designer’s own store or showroom before they are ready to have one.
Katy is planning more Euphoria trunk shows. “I have so many things for sale there right now,” she adds, including a wreath that is the symbol for how Katy-Did Vintage all started.
“That was the wreath,” she says, “that I’m most proud of. I look at that and I think, yeah, that’s pretty much perfect.”
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