The first time I met Anessa Woods, was in 1999 at Larry’s Bar, a smoke filled watering hole on University campus that attracted hipsters, linguistics professors and dirty old men. Rumored to have been a gay bar within OSU’s Greek systems, Larry’s was routinely skipped by braternity pub crawlers, allowing non student campus residents to debate art, philosphy, music and more. But take away the designer denim, tweed jackets, and ironic tees and we were all the same drunk. Except for Anessa.
Anessa was a passionate photography student who loved fashion, post-modern art, and the Detroit music scene. She was wild with a 70’s je’ ne se qua and for not being a full on punk, she had an attitude that screamed “fuck it”. At rock shows, I’d often admire her thick blonde mane, backlit by stage lights, as it wafted to the beat of the drum.
Fast forward 13 years, take a left at NY, walk across the bridge over some arguments over guys, then take a right to Columbus, Ohio and Anessa is not only a dear friend, but owner of Bustown Modern, a digital vintage clothing boutique she started with her husband, Paul Fogt in 2006. She is also the only one of my friends to which I can say things like “That scarf is so Michael Kors for Celine Spring ’03” to which she would reply “yes so 70’s Julie Christie en route to Morocco.” She’s full of fun facts like how Elsa Schiaparelli’s first distributed design was a tromp l’oeil sweater in 1928.
Bustown Modern boasts Cristobal Balenciaga finds, Peaches Geldof as a customer and a carefully curated assortment pulled from closets all over the midwest. Her job is literally to know everything about fashion and design history in order to price items for vintage followers. There is such a unique feeling about buying vintage, it’s a passport to the fashion past, and Anessa is working on writing the tour guide with her finds.
She is so passionate about her work, seeing her comb through the many racks in her studio showing me new arrivals of 45 year old silks and velvet, she seems back lit by the stage of her own life now. It’s such a pleasure knowing someone who loves what they do. Here she is describing what she does in her own words…
NeverIsSacred: What is Bustown Modern?
Anessa Woods: Bustown Modern is (currently) a weekly listing of 20th century vintage + designer, clothing + accessories on eBay. Each week my husband and I challenge ourselves to outdo the previous week’s listings with more rare + more unique items. We spend hundreds of hours combing through every means you can think of to find rare, high-end + crazy vintage pieces that are on point with today’s runway trends (hence the word”Modern” in our name).
NIS: If Bustown Modern was a person what zodiac sign would it be?
AW: Libra-Scorpio cusp. Definitely.
NIS: How did you get started collecting vintage?
AW: I started thrifting when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I loved vintage and hated all the mall stuff the otherkids at my school were wearing. Everyone looked exactly the same to me. There have always been so many aspects of modern fashion that I love but I also love knowing that my piece has a history, that it had a life before me and will (hopefully) have a life after belonging to me. I just recently did the math and figured out that I’ve been collecting vintage for exactly 20 years. It makes me feel old but also incredibly happy.
NIS: You shoot all your own items and provide original content, what’s that process like?
AW: It is laborious and can be monotonous + repetitive at times. I shoot 2-3, 6 or 8 hour sessions per week + Paul spends hours editing photos and doing design/web work. On top of that, I write all the copy, he does the shipping and we both do all of the buying together. It keeps our plates full, to say the least.
NIS: Do you keep up with current trends and seasonal shows?
AW:YES, absolutely. Current fashion trends tend to drive vintage trends. WIth an implausible number of exceptions to the rule, It’s nearly impossible to sell vintage that doesn’t have some bearing on modern fashion.
NIS: What’s it like literally shopping someone else’s closet?
AW: For me, it can be very emotional. Often you are in an estate with photos of the person, artwork she’s made, photos of her family. I’m kind of a bleeding heart so I always notice those things. Every time I find something, be it a simple 60’s shift dress or an expensive, rare designer piece, I imagine what it was like to be the woman who owned it first. Who was she, what drove her, where did she wear the piece and why did she buy it? As I mentioned before, I love history so to me, the most intriguing part about shopping someone’s closet (and often seeing her entire estate) is learning what type of woman she was. I love seeing the progression of her personal style and how she adapted to modern trends throughout her life. I love walking into a closet and seeing the progression of 1930s bias cut silk day dresses to 1980s shoulder pads. It’s honestly humbling.
NIS: What’s the rarest item you’ve ever came across?
AW: Oh well, you’re not going to like this but I have to answer: my husband, Paul. A straight dude that loves art, furniture, animals + clothing? Pretty much impossible to find. I don’t know if you like astrology or not, but I read a quote in The Secret Language of Relationships 8 years ago when Paul and I first met and it never fails to make me smile. The book is essentially a series of charts detailing the varying relationships between 2 birthdays. About us (Sep 23 + Oct 22), it says “Both are willing to go to the ends of the earth to find collectibles of good value, or simply to catch a one-time glimpse of an exquisite art object”. I love that quote. Paul wants me to add that he “found” me… I am “his” big find – lol.
NIS: What was the most difficult item you had to part with?
AW: Nothing has been difficult (you have to keep food on the table, don’t ya know) but there have been things I’ve regretted selling after the fact.
NIS: Anessa, you know a lot about fur, fabrics and construction. What’s the value of buying vintage as opposed to fast fashion at chain retailers?
AW: First, don’t ever let anyone tell you that vintage is one of a kind. “Fast fashion” has existed for decades. The key to good vintage is finding pieces that were just as special in their own time as they are now. I would rather sell one really amazing piece than 10 mediocre ones. I treat modern fashion the same way. I would rather have onefabulous, high-quality item that will be in my wardrobe forever than 50 cheap things from a made-in-china junk retailer. The fact that a garment has lasted for 50+ years can be a testament to its quality as well as its timelessness.
NIS: What designers do you shop new?
AW: I generally buy vintage but when it comes to new fashion, I buy what appeals to me. I am huge proponent of jumpsuits and maxi dresses. The most recent new designer items I’ve purchased for myself are mostly accessories (various bags/shoes) but also a few things from the Theyskens Theory line, Phillip Lim + Alexander Wang. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I buy or don’t buy. It literally depends on my mood down to the exact minute that I find it. For me, cut + color tend to decide on whether or not I like an item. Personal style trumps the designer card for me every time.
NIS: How would you describe your personal style?
AW: If you don’t like one outfit, put some more shit on top of it and then add ridiculous amounts of sterling. Also, I like to look vertical. I don’t like lines that cut me off at strange places
NIS: Do you have any fashion icons?
AW: Iris Apfel.
NIS: What’s the one item that got away?
AW: Do you have all day? “One” wouldn’t even scratch the surface! I think the key is not to get too emotionally attached to every (and any) thing. You win + lose items every day but you can’t dwell on what you didn’t get. You just have to be grateful for everything you DID get. In this business, if you snooze, you lose. You can’t waste time worrying about the things that didn’t manifest because for every item you miss, there are 10 better items waitingaround the corner. I honestly always think about how much money I saved when I miss out on something. Ha! I follow the laws of attraction so the good things have a way of finding me.
NIS: What’s coming up for Bustown Modern?
AW: We are currently working towards opening a brick + mortar store (secret location TBA) as well as launching our web store. We are always looking for ways to better our business, our merchandise and ourselves