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Bold and bright: Q&A with Wendy Kennedy, Millie’s Modern Vintage
Channel the ‘80s with a high-neck blouse, snakeskin bag and big earrings. Photo: Millie's Modern Vintage

Bold and bright: Q&A with Wendy Kennedy, Millie’s Modern Vintage


Shop owner Wendy Kennedy is big on making bold and beautiful fashion pieces with an edge work for modern life

If Pretty in Pink’s Andie Walsh lived in 2021, she’d be a customer at Millie’s Modern Vintage. Like Andie, owner Wendy Kennedy is big on making bold and beautiful fashion pieces with an edge work for modern life.

Wendy, a full-time vintage reseller who recently moved cross-country from Medicine Hat, Alta., back to her home province of Nova Scotia, sits down with The Vintage Seeker to chat about her business and what keeps her excited about vintage.

How would you describe the style of your shop?

Wendy Kennedy: I’ve morphed a little bit since I started. I was buying all decades and all eras, but then as I went along, I found that I was really drawn towards all of the bright things. I tried the neutral game, and that did not work for me.

I love the brights. That’s where my heart is. I'm an ’80s girl! I looked at the pieces with fresh eyes again, and thought, how can I take those pieces and wear them today? So my shop style is bright, colourful, ’80s and ’90s vintage.

How did you get interested in vintage?

WK: When I was a kid — I think I was about eight or nine. We spent a lot of our childhood days at Gram's. My Gram, she taught me everything. Gram is Millie; my store is named after her. She had a woodshed, and we were always out there playing. She had this whole wall of shelves, and I spied this box. And, you know, I'm a nosy kid, so I bring the box down and I open it.

The whole box is vintage jewellery. And I just, like, lost my mind. I was so excited. It was sparkly! I took it into her house. And she said, "Oh, this is just old jewellery, you can have whatever you want from this box." I actually still have so many of those pieces in my jewellery box.

I loved them because all of the pieces were different. They weren't like anything that you got when you went shopping at the regular stores. Everything was intricate, and constructed differently. I just knew that the jewellery was something different, and that it was something that I wanted to have more of in my life.

That was the start of what got me interested, and then my mom and dad and both of my grandparents — they always had this love of maintaining the older stuff, keeping what you have and making it last and repurposing. So, it is just how I was raised.

Portrait of the seller wearing a black lace blouse, brass necklace, red pleated skirt, and cheetah-print heels while resting on the arm of a copper velvet upholstered chair in front of brightly painted floral wall.
Wendy Kennedy, Millie’s Modern Vintage. Photo: Millie’s Modern Vintage

Why do you like selling vintage?

WK: I love the whole one-of-a-kind thing. In high school, I just wanted something that was different than what everyone else was wearing. Vintage purses were kind of where I started after the jewellery pieces from my Gram. I got them passed down from my aunts and my Gram.

I loved that they were one-of-a-kind items and I liked that they had a story. I always thought, who wore this bracelet? Or, what was this lady like? I like the fact that I can take something and kind of create a new story and continue on with that.

How did you get started with your business?

WK: I opened my business and registered in May of 2019. I did not officially launch until September of that year — I spent some time prepping, getting together what I wanted my vibe to be, and curating more stock.

A huge reason why I started my store was because I had so many vintage pieces of my own, and it was kind of getting a little bit out of control! I thought it would be a really fantastic way to share that with others.

My dream was to have a brick-and-mortar years ago, and then it just didn't pan out. Financially, I couldn't swing a store. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, why am I not doing this [as] an online store? This is the age we live in, so why am I not taking advantage of this? So, I just went and I did it. I registered and the rest is history.

What appeals to you about selling on online platforms?

WK: The fact that I don't have to have this huge commercial space and the overhead expenses. I worked for a girl who had a pre-loved clothing store. There were a lot of conversations about the costs and the expenses. Do I want that in my life? The fact that I can do business and do it right from my home is actually really thrilling and appealing to me.

If I was in my 30s and I was more of a whippersnapper and at a different point in my life, maybe I would have said okay, I'm just going to do the physical store. But online is how people shop now. People love online more so since COVID. I also love the people. There's just a ton of support, and cheering each other on. I like that, and I like being a cheerleader for others, too.

Portrait of the seller wearing a long silk dress with blue, green, and fuschia patterns, taupe beret, brass necklace and bracelets, long blue and black earrings, black leather belt with gold hardware, gold vintage purse, fishnet stockings, and royal blue velvet heels with a strap.
Wendy models a floral dress and accessories from her shop. “When I look at pieces and I feel that love, then I know it's coming home with me. That makes it easier,” she says. Photo: Millie’s Modern Vintage

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The pandemic hit shortly after you opened your shop. How have you been able to grow your business?

WK: I'm just really being open to trying new things. I literally just got my business off the ground and then COVID hit and I didn't really know what to make of it. I thought, “oh, I just got started, and now it's going to flop.”

But I was open to explore all the other creative ideas, like doing videos and putting out styling tips and getting in front of the camera more and also being open to a lot of collaborations with other vintage sellers. It's really helped to grow my business.

The online vintage marketplace has grown since the start of COVID-19. Do you think it's become more collaborative or competitive?

WK: It's definitely still more collaborative. Yes, there are more people that are doing it. But I also feel like everyone has a space in this vintage market, and everyone has a different vibe.

What resonates with me is not what's going to resonate with people that are doing it. When I'm sourcing my stuff, it's not going to be the same thing that they're looking for. My clients and my customers are following me and shopping with me because they like my vibe. They're shopping with those other people the same way.

What are your plans for 2021?

WK: More collaborations with other vintage and maybe some non-vintage people. I've done a few collaborations with people who had nothing to do with vintage and it was wonderful because I was promoting them and they were promoting me. I love that we're different but yet we're the same.

I want to do more styling videos and showing people how to work with vintage and make it current. And I'd just launched my podcast last year, then I put the for sale sign on my house and moved, and it's been sitting there, haunting me every day. I need to get back to it because I loved it. It was so much fun. But life happens.

Closeup of vintage earrings with brass, pearl, and crystal elements shaped like flowers and shellfish.r
Vintage earrings — both clip-on and for pierced ears — are mainstays at Millie’s Modern Vintage. “I love the gaudy, gold ’80s and ’90s jewellery,” says Wendy. Photo: Millie’s Modern Vintage

What's been your biggest challenge with your shop?

WK: Definitely not to buy all the things I love! Sourcing and finding the goodies is the easy part. It's what happens afterwards that is the hardest part [the researching, pricing, styling, photography and marketing].

There's tons of vintage out there, tons of it, wherever you go. But just because it's vintage doesn't mean that I should buy it, right? So just kind of zeroing in on what I really, truly am passionate about and love —bringing that home and leaving the other stuff. That's definitely a weekly struggle.

Is it mostly about what you love? Or do you look at an item and think, a customer would want this?

WK: It's probably a little bit of both. I have the mindset that if I am not fully behind a piece, then how can I express my love for it?

When you're trying to talk about something that you are not passionate about, and you don't feel the love towards it, it's really hard to have that conversation.

But if you love something, you could literally sit and talk about it all day. When I look at pieces and I feel that love, then I know they’re coming home with me. That makes it easier.

What’s the biggest misconception about shopping vintage?

WK: That clothing is not wearable. But that's not true. Yes, there are some vintage pieces that are kind of meant to be admired and not really meant to be worn. I've had a few of them, just because they're beautiful and I couldn't leave them there.

But most vintage pieces are super wearable. It's about being able to have your mind open to how you're going to wear it to make it current with today's things.

There are the vintage lovers that are true vintage — they wear nothing but vintage and that's their aesthetic. Mine is making it completely wearable in this day and age and mixing it with modern pieces.

Portrait of the seller smiling widely while wearing a long baby-blue coat with grey fur collar and cuffs and bright silver buttons.
Wendy wears her all-time favourite vintage find: a pale blue coat with fur collar. Photo: Millie’s Modern Vintage

What was your all-time best find?

WK: My favourite piece of vintage is a piece that's in my own personal closet. When I first moved to Alberta, I went to a thrift store and it was the very first thing I saw. The coats were right in front of the door, and I could see this fur collar and this blue shoulder peeking out.

I tried it on and it fit me — this pale blue, cashmere-blend coat with a gray collar, big buttons down the front. It is exquisite. Nothing really has compared.

Wendy Kennedy, Founder, Millie’s Modern Vintage
Pictou, NS

This interview has been condensed.

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