In the world of bargain shopping and fast fashion, it can be easy to forget that not all that long ago, clothing was made (and priced) to last.
If a T-shirt only lasts a year before falling apart, does it matter, if it was only $5? Yes, according to Natalie Wrubleski, proprietor of Champagne Hippie*, a vintage and "up-cycled" clothing store in Cooperstown.
“The fashion industry can be very polluting,” Wrubleski said. “I am all about sustainability and having respect for the Earth.”
Wrubleski said she moved from Massachusetts to Cooperstown in 2001 with her family. She graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 2015 with a degree in fashion merchandising. She decided to open an online vintage clothing store on a website called depop.com, which is similar to the more well-known Etsy. She also sold clothes at local events around the area.
“There had been consignment stores in the area that never stuck," she said. "I didn’t want to go full force until I knew there was a void.”
Wrubleski eventually found that there was a need in the area, and decided to open a physical store with the help of her father, Brian Wrubleski, owner of the Cooperstown restaurant, Mel’s at 22.
“The first store was in an apartment above my father’s restaurant,” Wrubleski said. “In the summer, on Wednesday evenings I would bring racks down to the street level and vend along with other shops in the village.”
Eventually, her friend, James Matson, owner of Henry March Gallery, offered her space in his Main Street gallery in exchange for help staffing the gallery while he was busy with graduate school. “Art and fashion are one and the same,” Wrubleski said.
Wrubleski’s wares come from many sources. Often, she said, families will bring in items that belonged to a mother or grandmother — things the family wants to “re-home.”
“Sometimes people come in with items from their loved ones, and that is really special to me, to help give it a new home," she said. "It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job.”
Wrubleski said she also attends estate sales and similar events. “Estate sales are a lot of fun, and where I get a lot of my inventory” she said.
By offering vintage second-hand clothing, Wrubleski said, she can offer a high-quality item at a lower price. She also enjoys re-imagining items, or "upcycling" them.
“I sew and do a lot of seamstress work. I add lace to items a lot. It is really fun when these items, which are especially dear to my heart, sell,” she said. She said she feels “we have fallen out of love with our clothing a bit. We focus on the sale, rather than on how much effort goes into making it. We don’t focus on the people and the time and the resources.”
It is the idea of chic fashion with a save-the-earth attitude that gives Champagne Hippie its unique flair. In the future, Wrubleski hopes to add events to her shop, including ideas like hosting a “sip and sew” event, where guests can learn how to hand-stitch their own wardrobes.
Customers can check out the Champagne Hippie Facebook page, shop online at www.depop.com/champagnehippie, or stop by the store at 83 Main Street in Cooperstown. The shop is open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
*Changed throughout at 7:47 a.m. March 9 to correct spelling of the store's name and website.