Style Profile: Christina Kolbe

Christina11980s Iron Maiden tee, East West Musicals jacket, Acne jeans

As I said in a previous post, this site is not a personal style blog. I have nothing against personal style blogs. I spend a lot of time on them, but I wanted this site to mainly be about other women. I could spend hours clicking through street style images, but being the intensely curious girl that I am, I’m always left wanting more. Where did they buy that? Why did they buy that? What does their closet look like? How did they develop their style? The list goes on and on. That’s why I created this site.

I met Christina at her Brooklyn vintage store Mafalda, which has sadly closed. Each time I visited the shop, I noticed her outfit. I remember one occasion when she was wearing gym clothes and she still looked chic. There’s a quiet allure about Christina. The first thing that comes to mind when describing her style is sophisticated, but it’s so much more than that. There’s personality in her aesthetic, meaning you can tell she has fun with clothes, but she comes across as refined and also really cool. I walked away from our conversation wanting to buy less and invest more in classic designer pieces. She also made me reconsider my love for Zara. You’ll see why.

How did your childhood influence your style?

I remember my mom and me would take the train to 8th street, I must have been about 11 or 12, and we’d go to Unique on Broadway and the stores on St. Marks Place. When I was young the trains still had graffiti on them and there were these amazing characters everywhere you turned. At that time, New York was still relatively poor. I think that being exposed to all different types of people had a huge influence on me. People who were either working class or struggling artists or drug addicts. It was a whole mix of different people and of course I was inspired by it. Even though I grew up in Brooklyn, I started hanging out in Manhattan at a young age.

When did you start to get into vintage?

I’ve always been into it. There was a store where I grew up called St. Jude, this tiny charity shop. I remember being in junior high school and trying to figure out who I was. That was a great place for me because I would just find such amazing stuff for literally no money at all.

Any tips for shopping thrift stores?

You have to think of a thrift store as something that needs to be dissected piece by piece by piece. Leave no corner unturned. I also recommend against going thrifting with specific pieces in mind. That is what eBay is for. Be open to the hunt because you literally never know what you are going to come across.

ChristinaDouble1

r12dCC-6Gyb_QhzC6N04U7v5fbViNLXDXKrc8u7wLig,RyLm1cswqDVxlZ1a3vomJDl_uIs2GbsPXr4-vUDXbVsVintage ditsy thermal, YSL plaid skirt, Dior pumps, Balenciaga jacket

Have clothes always been important to you? 

Yes. I’ve always enjoyed them. People often say it’s just clothes, but it’s amazing how they can make you feel.

I think people underestimate that.

It’s people who don’t want to try who underestimate it. Because maybe they don’t know how, or they don’t have the time, so they just say, “Oh, it’s not important. It’s just clothes.”

Do you think it takes effort to have good style or build a wardrobe?

For sure.

Is style inherent or is it something that can be taught?

I think it’s something that can be taught. Look at the models. Those girls come from all corners of the earth and most don’t have a particularly strong style when they start out. Some of them go on to have great style. I absolutely think that there is a formula.

I think for someone who doesn’t have style, the best thing to do is to start out with the basics. Having those pieces and having them fit you well is super important and that’s why they are called basics. That’s why all of the fashion blogs tell you to invest in basics. A lot of people don’t like spending money on getting things tailored, but having clothing tailored is one of the best things you can do. When it fits, even if it is inexpensive, it just looks so much better.

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Do you have a uniform?

Yes. The only time I allow myself to be super bummy is when I walk my dog. That’s the one time where I don’t care what I go out in and what I look like. She can’t wait for me to put together a fabulous outfit, which can sometimes take a very long time. I think everyone looks great in a slim trouser and a nice sweater for fall. And if you pair it with a loafer or pump, I think that’s a nice look. Last winter I wore tall shaft boots with sweaters and calf length skirts. I lived in two sweaters last year, an oversized Proenza sweater and a fitted Acne sweater. I wore those two sweaters all winter long. My skirts were always vintage. A lot of my coats are vintage. Some of them are designer.

How do you make vintage look modern?

Whatever the silhouette is of the season, you can pretty much find it vintage. And, you can probably find it of superior quality, unless you are going high-end designer.  But most importantly, forget about what the trends are, it’s what silhouette works on you. And then don’t be scared to go to a tailor.

prada belt, ysl cream trousers, vtg black tee, vtg black overcoatLeft: Vintage floral slip, Dior pumps, Pringle sweater; Right: 1940s dress

ChristinaDouble7Left: Vintage greek fisherman’s hat, 1940s dress, Balenciaga buckle boots

 What makes you buy something for yourself? 

I tried these black leather track pants on and I thought, “I’m going to live in them. I’m going to be working in them, walking the dog in them, and I’m going to go out in them.” It was a no brainer. I don’t know if people realize that they can get basics at a vintage store. I have Elise Overland leather leggings from a few years ago. I bought them at wholesale and I wore the hell out of them. I knew from that that I was going to get a ton of wear out of these so it made sense.

Do you think about the rest of your wardrobe when purchasing things?

No. My wardrobe is all over the place. I have so many different looks or characters I want to portray depending on the situation. I don’t get people who buy their clothes like, “Oh, I can wear this skirt with this top and that top.”  I buy what I love and then I figure out how to make it work with what is already there.

What’s your process when getting dressed every morning? 

It depends on what I have to do. If I have to walk around a lot I know I’m wearing flats. Menswear is big for me right now. I love trousers. But it really depends on the day and how I am feeling at that moment.

Is it ever difficult?

Yes. All the time.

How do you wade through that? 

It depends on how much time I have. If I have a lot of time, sometimes I can use all of the time getting dressed. It doesn’t always work out so easily. But that’s when I revert back to wearing a slim trouser and a slim shirt, because I know that that’s fool-proof.

Left: Vintage coat, vintage tee, YSL trousers, Celine slippers; Right: 1990s DKNY hat

ChristinaDouble8

Do you think that owning a vintage store changed your style?

No. I mean I probably have more basics that are vintage than I used to. I have no problem with spending just as much money on vintage as I would on a new designer piece because to me the vintage is more special and no one is going to have it. Especially the really expensive vintage. I guess my style has changed a little bit. But generally, no.

What are indicators of good style? For me, it’s the accessories. It’s the shoes. It’s the hair. It’s the sunglasses. What makes you say, “She has great style.”

I think it is a way that she walks. A certain confidence. Also, the attitude. A happy, healthy attitude. Women who are just comfortable and have on a great look. I don’t know what it is necessarily. There is something that some women just have and you know it when you see it.

Where do you shop for non-vintage?

I’m a Barneys girl through and through. They’ve had some bumps over the years, but I’m for sure a Barneys girl. I am really looking forward to Dover Street Market opening.

Do you shop the Barneys Warehouse sale?

No. I went a couple of years ago and it’s just too crazy. I used to shop sample sales and then I just ended up buying things that I never wore. And sample sales are not always cheap. You can go and get the same thing at end of season sales and shop in peace and quiet. I like to feel my garment and look at it in the mirror and have a fantasy with it. I can’t really do that at a sample sale.

ChristinaDouble2Left: Accessocraft Me necklace, Fiorucci bag; Right: YSL cream trousers, Celine slippers

What are you thinking about for fall?

I have a lot of it covered already. All of the slim trousers, the cropped trousers, the cropped denim. I love all of that. I’m really excited about that. I have a calf length skirt. I have this other skirt I’m making. I think again what I will do is pick up key basics in updated silhouettes. I’d like to get a new coat. What’s the shape?  Maybe calf length again. I like this big oversized thing that’s going on. They feel like little cocoons and you feel safe in them. I really hope we stop buying as much as we buy, because we just don’t need it. Within the last couple of years I’ve definitely taken a step back.

Do you shop Zara?

(Shakes head)

Why? Because of quality?

No. You know I question why I don’t shop Zara, because I certainly have Zara pockets. I have a girlfriend who occasionally has things on and I say, “Where did you get that?” And I’m surprised when she says Zara. I’ll go in Zara, look around, spend two hours in the store and I walk away with nothing. Every time. I’d much rather shop vintage.

77YMydnPz5vOfxFjLpRPym2kf_gh_omd6IKhOvLdYKk,gndunZJr63YXbBBB307k39BRrpfs9uMfKL3xfNQenEQ NgFYX0Qx5-uAWo-edrCkgZg8dtxeAx1jCOGLhPEefxs,540GpGUJGUanXYmuS-h_-pYF0OKze3AigLN5L0B8megPrada belt, YSL cream trousers, vintage black tee, vintage black overcoat

It’s very easy to get into a rut as far as what you wear. How do you stay inspired to dress well on a day-to-day basis. Is it just something within you?

I get inspired by walking on the street. I get inspired by the millions of things you can find on the internet, different blogs, photography, art, etc. All of that. I think it’s hard not to stay inspired with all of the images that are put in front of you on a daily basis.  Fashion is way more accessible than it ever has been, at all different price points.  But yes, the overall desire to look good is something inherent in a person, you either care or you don’t.

You’re naturally thin. I think some women might not be happy with their bodies and say, “Oh when I lose weight, I will care.”

That’s an excuse. It comes back to knowing your shape and what flatters your body. That’s another thing that I learned at the store. Dressing women who don’t have standard body types is hard. Dressing someone who has big breasts, or someone who is super tiny is hard. A tall girl, a big girl; it’s hard. But I loved it. Women with non-standard body types are the women that really need to go to the tailor. Hopefully they love their bodies the way they are and if they don’t love their bodies then they should probably put in a little more effort so they feel comfortable getting dressed. It’s not hard to look chic and put together if your clothes fit you well. Get to the tailor. That’s my advice.

ChristinaDouble4Left:’60s knit dress, rhinestone belt; Right:Dries Van Noten sandals, Manolo Blahnik boots

What are your favorite blogs?

Viciously Cyd & A Conversation on Cool for imagery.

What’s your philosophy on handbags?

I used to have a bunch of designer bags. The last high end bag purchase was the Nightingale by Givenchy several years ago. In fashion, it is very easy to become a slave to the latest It bag. I felt like I was constantly in need of whatever was the newest. Now I carry the tiniest little vintage Dior clutch and I don’t worry about it anymore.

I see you like luxury shoes.

These Balenciaga boots were a Christmas gift. I get a lot of my shoes on sale, but they still aren’t cheap. Most of my shoes are new, not vintage. That’s another way to make vintage more modern. Dries Van Noten is absolutely one of my go-to designers for shoes.

bc10XPKBIwud8_8GKpvUh1B0XFltDyPe2l3AoMH-KgQ,k1_4t3IoOesyo-IYFxAegH2wYODWbWw-PNNAH55J7noVintage Kenzo Jungle Jap skirt, Dieppa Restrepo shoes, Pringle sweater

 Do you shop online?

I’m an online looker; not an online shopper.

What’s your philosophy on jewelry? I wear nothing. I go through phases. Like now all I want to wear are these (I point to my big silver hoops). Some people are really good at piling on accessories. I’m not. Even Sam (the photographer). Her hands look really cool. She has all of these silver rings and it looks good, but i could never see myself doing it.

I’m not that person either. I like baby rings. I like that a lot. For a really long time, I wore a cross and I have only just taken it off for a bit this summer. Sometimes my outfits can be a lot, so I always try tone myself down a little bit because I can get a little excited. I start by taking off the jewelry.

pAeqJLerPDtowgb6h199edOk7IZfyz1S61Ab4Bxe0kM,42q2qxDdTsjrI3L3CQ-Kry7SleseErIl8F82Q0MOMOoVintage Levi’s shorts, black sweater, Balenciaga buckle boots, Oliver Peoples sunglasses

 Where do you go vintage shopping?

One Of A Find. I mentioned it on my tumblr before. It is in Brooklyn on Vanderbilt. Her store is different from what my store was. It is a little more kooky. I don’t think I ever go in and leave without buying something. And she’s not even one of the more expensive ones. Her stuff is probably the same price that mine was. And it is always pieces that I wear again and again and again.

I’m always interested in how women who are living within a budget acquire nice things (designer items). Do you have any advice or tips on how to add designer pieces to your wardrobe without breaking the bank? 

First you need to know what it is out there for the season.  Then you need to stay attuned to the sales cycles.  For me, I shop Barneys sales pretty religiously. It’s to the point where where my dog Paul is recognized by the salespeople. It’s pivotal when shopping sales to have a good idea of what your look is and not be pulled in just because of price or trend. Generally at sale you can find lots of trendy pieces, which I try to stay away from and go for the more classic, core pieces.

Photos by Sam Aldenton.

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