Tell us a little about what ABLE is, and how you got started with it:
ABLE is a curated vintage shop that gives modern context to pre-loved clothing and homewares. The shop’s primary platforms are etsy and instagram but I have recently started to go to markets and participate in pop-up shops which has been so fun! I love getting a chance to interact with my clientele considering we’re not a brick and mortar shop and I currently run the business out of my home in Elgin. ABLE actually began in Nashville during my time interning for a fair trade boutique. During my time there I learned about the horrors of the fast fashion industry and textile pollution. I became aware of local brands working to make a difference in the industry. I was constantly thrifting (my all-time favorite activity) at a goodwill outlet near my apartment in Nashville so I began picking up pieces and I thought I would try starting an etsy shoppe. I borrowed a white backdrop from my internship and used friends as models and began listing my first pieces. It was crazy fun. I remember my first order was a oatmeal linen jumpsuit - I was thrilled. That fall I moved back to the Chicago area to finish up school where I designed my senior thesis around textile pollution. About 6 months after graduating, I quit my job at Madewell to pursue running ABLE full time.
Where did the name, ABLE, come from?
On my way to my internship I would pass an abandoned store with a gorgeous sign from the 50’s that read “ABLE”, which inspired the name. But beyond that sweet sign, I love the idea that we are “able” to create positive change with our shopping choices.
Can you share a bit of your process in regards to the work you do to make ABLE successful?
I typically go thrifting or what I call “sourcing” one or two times a week to add inventory. Recently, I discovered that I receive better turn around selling directly from instagram, so I will post items directly to my story and sell through that format. Selling on etsy is a more intensive process and I am still figuring out the best process. I prefer using a white backdrop studio space and shooting a model but that takes a little more coordinating. I have a crazy talented photographer friend who does product and lookbook shoots for me as well. I have been experimenting with modeling the clothing myself. It’s a very vulnerable and hilarious thing. I often have a camera clicker in one hand behind my back while I am trying to pose. The photo of the garments are very important to me because essentially that is what a customer is purchasing when they are shopping solely online. Turning a side hustle into a full time gig has definitely changed the way you approach it and those processes are important.
Where are a few of your go-to spots for some of your fantastic vintage finds?
Oh man. Too many to name. In college I lived near a non-profit thrift called Pass It On and a Salvation Army in Bridgeview that I still make trips out to visit. There’s a couple near my house that I frequent but I stumble upon the best finds when I check out a new town. The other day I bopped around Aurora checking out thrift stores I hadn’t been to before. I also love hunting at garage sales. Elgin has lots of older homes with vintage filled yard sales. I’m getting pumped just thinking about it.
Any tips for our readers when it comes to hunting for unique finds?
I think if you’re not an avid thrifter it helps to go into it knowing exactly what you’re looking for. When I first began sourcing I would look through everything - seriously everything- baby stuff, Homegoods, mens -everything. Now I know what kind of colors and materials I like so I scan the racks and shelves for those things. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine vintage clothing outside of their thrift setting. I would recommend looking for classic silhouettes and quality materials such as linen, silk, denim and leather. If a thrift store has a dressing room - try it on! But just in case it does not, I usually wear leggings and a tank under my shirt. If you’re not game to do the dirty work, that’s totally fine too! There are so many amazing curated vintage shops out there right now. Browse through Etsy or a few of my favorite online vintage shops - The Break Vintage and Vaux Vintage.
What keeps you motivated and/or inspired?
A huge part of my motivation is that my work is something that flows very naturally out of who I am yet is greater than myself. The process of taking a forgotten clothing item and giving it new life feels very redemptive to me. I like to think of ABLE as artful and ethical - two things I feel passionate about.
Have you taken on any jobs outside of ABLE?
For a year I worked as a stylist at Madewell while running ABLE. The position was extremely helpful in teaching me how to run a retail business. I also do some freelance graphic design and styling. A couple weeks ago I did wardrobe for a shoot with OX Creative. I dressed 24 people and had a blast on set. I really enjoy doing collaborative work!
Do you have any other passion projects you are pursuing outside of ABLE that you can tell us about?
I have gotten into studying mid century modern furniture and design. I like to pick up mcm pieces and restore them a bit and either incorporate them into our home or resell them. But, I started selling them on a separate account called ABLE ABODE - so I guess that’s not technically outside of ABLE. Whoops. I love to draw and I have been working on some drawings to screen print onto pillows and shirts. Also, I hope to take a ceramics class sometime soon. I think it would be amazing to make my own dish set.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
In the near future I hope to participate in more pop-up shops and collaborative projects. Similarly, I’d love to expand my work as a stylist working with different companies. Down the road it would be an absolute dream to have a brick and mortar shop. Yet, honestly, my hope for ABLE is to continually be inspiring ethical and artful dressing and serving others by providing the means to do so!