When we got wind that there were two Chicago girls driving a revamped, chevron painted, 1974 RV across the country filled with fabulous vintage finds we had to know more! We caught up with Kyla Embrey and Sarah Azzouzi, the ladies behind the Lost Girls Vintage mobile shop, to talk about their passion for fashion, running their own business, and more…
How did you two meet and the idea for LGV come about?
Sarah: Kyla and I met in Heaven! Quite literally. Two years ago we each had our own business selling vintage at different markets around Chicago. We met at one called Vintage Heaven in May of 2012 and ended up bonding over a game of Farkle when customer traffic was slow. We vended at several of the same markets over the following months and then worked with a local coffee shop to produce our first pop-up sale ourselves. But the real friendship clincher happened when ordering brunch at that first pop-up. We both wanted something savory and something sweet, so we ordered an entree of each and went half-sies on the whole thing. With that, our friendship was sealed!
Where does your love of all things vintage come from?
Sarah: I grew up with an interest in history. I read a lot when I was younger and I loved stories about the past. My family was also very big into thrifting. We always went to thrift stores. Some of my earliest memories were of my grandmother taking me and my younger sister shopping. My aunt would joke that I was the only one in my family who could keep up (aka shop all day) with her. The love of well constructed pieces came while studying fashion at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The idea of actually wearing vintage came to mind while studying the history of dress. Fashion is a constant repetition of trends, silhouettes, and prints. Fast fashion a lot of its appeal to me and vintage quickly took its place in my life.
Kyla: As far back as I can remember, I spent every Saturday morning going to yard sales with my mom or tagging along with my great grandmother at the flea market where she worked. I always loved the thrill of the hunt and the idea of finding beautiful old things that were unusual and unlike anything made today. I never wanted to be just like everyone else, so it was only natural that I was drawn to vintage and the uniqueness it offered.
What hurdles did you face getting your business off the ground and how did you overcome them?
Sarah: I think one of our biggest challenges was finding the right type of truck for our shop. We were going to get a pull along camper, but neither one of us had a car, so that idea went out the window pretty quickly. We thought vintage RVs were completely out of budget, but the more research we did the more we found that it was the best way to go for us. We found quite a few out of the state and started making appointments to go see them, but then one morning I did a random search on Chicago’s craigslist and found Winnie! We saw her the next day and knew she was the one.
Kyla: There’s a steep learning curve when starting a business. I think a lot of people have great ideas, but are intimidated by the thought of starting a business because instead of focusing on everything they DO know, they get overwhelmed by what they DON’T know. But the thing is, there’s no way to know everything when you’re first starting out. The important thing is to start with what you know and continuously add to it. We’ve also learned to be flexible in order to shift gears at a moment’s notice and focus on the immediate top priority.
Talk to us about Winnie. What were the highlights of your cross-county trip?
Kyla: Well, I’m not sure this is a highlight, but it’s a funny story nonetheless. It wasn’t until we were in Austin, TX last year on our first big road trip that it ever dawned on us that we would need to clean Winnie’s tanks. When we got her, we gutted her of all her original RV components, including sinks and toilet in order to make room for racks and shelves of our amazing vintage. On the drive South, Sarah kept commenting that it smelled like a baby’s diaper. When we hit Austin’s 97 degree weather, the smell hit me too! Winnie was constipated! Her black water tank (IE poop tank) hadn’t been emptied by the previous owners. Since we never used her as an RV, it didn’t cross our minds that we we’d need to empty it either. Not that it was fun or glamorous to empty the tank, but it led to a fun adventure…
Sarah: We found an extraordinary RV park in Austin to empty out the black water tank. Matthew McConaughey even lived there at one point! We met a 28 year old who owned an RV dealership for 5 years and decided to retire young in an RV park. He told us that in his down time he sold things on Craigslist, like rugs. Kyla misheard him and thought he said “drugs.” Hah! He helped us install a power inverter on our battery so we could have electricity in the RV. He showed us parts of Austin we never would have seen otherwise… a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint, a pool fed by natural springs, a speakeasy through a secret door, and a secret garden. Some of our best adventures have come from the most unexpected places.
What are the best vintage pieces you’ve ever scored for yourself?
Kyla: A 1970s suede multi colored poncho worthy of a superhero, a 1960s Pucci dress that fits like a glove, and all of the turquoise jewelry I inherited from my grandmother!
Sarah: A 1970s wicker egg chair, 1970s Black Label Frye boots, and a 1980s extra large multi-colored Carmen Miranda fruit necklace.
Do you specialize in anything specific (accessories, decades, etc)?
Kyla: We specialize in relevant vintage, things that can easily fit into a contemporary wardrobe. We’ll never pass up amazing cowboy boots, a beautifully made leather bag, or a show-stopping leather fringe jacket!
How can someone begin to incorporate vintage pieces into their wardrobe?
Kyla: It’s about finding something you connect with, even if some people may think it’s crazy or it’s not necessarily “in.” Give more weight to your inner voice than your critics.
What shopping tips do you have for first time vintage shoppers? What should they be looking for in a piece?
Sarah: Try it on! Sizes have changed so drastically over the past 70 years, or even the past 20 years! A lot of pieces will say a larger size than they actually are by contemporary standards. For example, a size 16 in the 1950s is a size 8 today! Also pieces look very different on a person than they do on a hanger.
Kyla: Bring a belt! You’d be surprised at how much more flattering some pieces can look simply by adding a belt.
What is it like working with a friend?
Sarah: it never feels like work, but we’re always working.
Kyla: even at birthday parties or other non work-related events, it’s highly unlikely that we wouldn’t talk about at least one thing related to Lost Girls!
Sarah: Instagramming never stops. Sometimes we try to schedule friend time, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
What’s next for LGV?
Kyla: That’s a question we’re always asking ourselves.
Sarah: We’re constantly brainstorming different ways to grow, and have quite a few ideas, we just need to see which one sticks!
Kyla: some of the best opportunities have not been things we’ve planned but things that have presented themselves to us. So we want to always remain open to possibilities that we haven’t yet conceived.
Where do you see your lives/careers in 5 years? 10?
Kyla: It’s funny, I used to spend a lot of time and energy planning what my life would be in the future. Two years ago the way I conceived my future was drastically different from how it is shaping today and I couldn’t be happier to be so wrong!
Sarah: Same with me, actually. While Kyla and I are constantly talking about the future and how to grow we invest the bulk of our energy into the now. It’s hard to think past tomorrow!
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]