Katie White and Her Rare Heart

Guest Writer Michaela McTee

At the beating pulse of Dallas’s vintage market is the tiny but mighty Rare Heart Vintage, located in the Dallas Bishop Arts Center. Owner Katie White curates the store to carry vintage clothing from different time periods and to give off a “Classic Americana” vibe.

White opened Rare Heart two years ago when her husband moved his barber shop into the connecting garage and suggested she take his old space. This was White’s chance to finally open up a store of her own. Her inspiration for the store name came from a song by The Growlers, Rare Hearts. She heard the two words and thought to herself, “Rare Heart Vintage, I kinda like the sound of that.” To her surprise, the name hadn’t been taken. After she decided on Rare Heart, it was time to get started.

Growing up in Oklahoma, White became interested in vintage and thrifting from a young age, often going to thrift stores with her mom. She moved to Dallas after high school with the hopes of having a career in styling or merchandising. Instead, she delved into the world of retail.

After starting her retail career at Urban Outfitters, she later moved on to Favor the Kind. During her time at Favor the Kind, she opened up an Etsy shop and began selling vintage clothing online. When she explained her new need to be part-time, Favor the Kind invited her to sell her vintage pieces in the store. After having the space for about six months, White decided to do her own thing.

When she first opened Rare Heart, she was thrilled to find it wasn’t too difficult to make a profit. Marketing her pieces to the Dallas customer, White tries to stick to staple pieces, like denim jackets, t-shirts, and jeans. Her buying has changed over the years as she’s also branched out into more funky pieces that customers might gravitate towards.

Photo Credit Michaela McTee

It’s those signature pieces and occasional statement garments that attract customers who value sustainability like Southern Methodist University junior Maria Chammas. “With fast fashion and sustainability issues, there’s no way to really fix the damage that the fashion industry has done, but there’s definitely a way to make it better,” Chammas says. “By shopping vintage and not always buying new things off the rack, you can make a small difference.” This mindset has increased the popularity of vintage shopping dramatically.

After COVID-19, the fashion industry saw a sharp rise in the consumption of vintage clothing. There was a newfound desire for shopping that wasn’t as damaging to the environment as fast fashion. The Vogue article, “2020 Was a Big Year for Old Clothes: How Vintage, Secondhand, and Upcycling Took Off”, emphasizes reselling as an increasingly important sector of retail. “Circular fashion-i.e., clothing that re-enters the market or is upcycled into something new, rather than being thrown away-is undeniably the future,” says Emily Farra. The 2020 changes in fashion positively impacted vintage stores as the world recovered from COVID-19.

With this recent development in fashion, the power of vintage stores, like Rare Heart, has grown exponentially. Vintage has become the shopping of the future, using items from the past. The Business of Fashion says it’s the shift in consumer behavior that has made vintage such a retail powerhouse. “Many enjoy the special feeling that goes hand-in-hand with buying vintage. Others see vintage as an opportunity to make a statement against the artificiality of modern consumerism,” according to the 2012 article, “The Art and Science of Valuing Vintage.” Buying vintage is a great way to shop sustainably that also benefits the consumer.

One of the many appeals of vintage is its ability to portray individuality. White emphasized how vintage garments are so special because you are probably the only person wearing that exact piece. “It’s individual style, if you go to the mall you might see someone else in that same sweater, but if you buy a vintage sweater, you’re the only one wearing it. It’s just more unique, White says. The thinness, holes, and stains on vintage clothing only make them more individualized.

Vintage blurs the lines of trends and moves the focus onto personal style. In the book “Fashioning Memory,” Heike Jenss says there is a clear link between vintage clothes and individuality. “The argument that everything is uniform and that there is no variety in fashion may not hold so easily, not at least considering vintage – as old or old-looking clothes – is firmly integrated into the fashion market,” says Jenss. Though old or previously worn, vintage clothing can be given a second life in stores like Rare Heart.

Whatever a customer’s reason for shopping vintage, the market is booming, making it a competitive business. This makes the ambiance of vintage stores increasingly important in differentiating themselves from competitors.

White wants customers to feel “creative energy” and “good vibes” when they come into her store, which is exactly the experience customers like Chammas say they have. The store has windows that let in lots of light, and the door is usually open, keeping the shopping experience airy and authentic. “I want people to feel relaxed and inspired to switch up their wardrobe and get something new, or old I mean,” White says. She works to create a sense of comfort and coziness.

Photo Credit Michaela McTee

One of White’s sales associates, Liz Magill, has a special connection with the store. “Whenever I met Katie, I just knew that we clicked, and I just wanted to start prioritizing bosses that I feel like care about me as a person and as a creative,” says Magill. She loves that she is able to style pieces, try them on and post photos on the store’s Instagram. Magill has the opportunity to express herself through styling, something she really values about Rare Heart and White’s leadership. 

White stays very involved with the store, but she acknowledges some of the difficulties of owning a small business. “Staffing, being able to find someone to work and who’s reliable, I got really lucky with my people, but I know other small business, it’s having someone to help you,” she says. “I’m still wearing so many hats, it’s just the buying is such a full-time job.” She also mentions how keeping traffic in the store and balancing work life with personal life are common challenges.

Although there are a few complications with owning a small business, the positives of White’s job are far more extensive. For anyone hoping to follow in her footsteps, she emphasizes the importance of going after what you want. “Action will bring motivation and inspiration,” she says. Follow your Rare Heart.

Lucy Ladis

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