Located in the heart of the East Village, AuH2O Thriftique (84 East 7th St.) isn't your average Manhattan vintage shop. Surrounded by a sea of upscale boutiques hawking overpriced 80s polyester and stuffy designer duds, AuH2O offers budget-minded shoppers an oasis of fun, thrifty treasures. In addition to a unique selection of secondhand clothing, shoes and accessories--much of which is priced below $20--the store also boasts a pair of perennial $5 and $10 sale racks. I met up with AuH2O shop owner and Wisconsin native Kate Goldwater to discuss the store's awesomeness, her love of thrifting and why East Village fashionistas are on the hunt for men's button-ups.
Q: I love the chemistry-inspired wordplay in the shop's name (Au = gold and H2O = water, hence Goldwater), and the concept of a "Thriftique." How was that word coined?
A: My former business partner actually came up with that name, and the thriftique concept was an existing thing. But I just liked the idea of thrift store prices with a more boutique style. There are so many vintage stores and secondhand shops in the city that are so expensive, and while I totally get that they do all the work to find the cool things, it's still like--these are used clothes! And I liked the idea of a thriftique so people would sense right away that it's kind of a boutique but it's kind of a thrift store. And having a five dollar rack outside and thriftique in the sign helps give people that idea of, hey, I can afford that!
Q: And why was it personally so important to you to be affordable?
A: I'm from Wisconsin, and I loved going to all the thrift stores there. I had grown up living in the Value Villages and the Salvation Armys because I just wanted to dress uniquely and find something different. I was kind of the weird girl that shopped at thrift stores, and I just really loved not spending very much on clothes. Then I went to school at NYU, and I was so excited because I loved thrifting. I was like, I'm in the city with the best shopping in the world--I can't wait for the vintage stores! And then I couldn't afford anything. I remember going into Andy's Chee-Pees and being like, "cheap" is in the name, it should be cheap! I loved thrifting and I loved secondhand clothes and I just wanted it to be for everybody. And I just wanted thrifting to be more accessible, and not perceived as dirty or gross. A lot of people think of Salvation Army and think, oh, it probably smells. I mean, obviously it doesn't--people who thrift know that.
Q: There's always great street style here in the East Village, so I bet you get some really fashionable customers. Are there any trends that you've been spotting, or anything people have been asking for?
A: I feel like my customers are just so stylish. A woman that was just in here bought a big men's shirt, and I've been selling a lot of those. I think people wear it by rolling the sleeves, belting it, and then adding some leggings or tights. It could be a really big shirt, but it could also be a really short dress. I started selling them after I saw one that I thought was a woman's shirt. It was actually a men's, but I was like, I'll try it anyway, and they started flying. The bestseller here--and maybe this started when the Man Repeller started doing the arm parties and everything--is probably the jewelry, specifically the bracelets. I feel like people are wearing a million bracelets these days. And I feel like last summer--and even today--the big thing was knotting your shirt and wearing something high-waisted with it. I remember I would buy something and think, oh, this is kind of big and baggy. And then all my customers would come in, try it on and knot it, and it was like everyone already just knew to do that.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: I grew up very athletic, so I've always had a very sporty side. So having been so athletic all my life, I do like to wear form-fitting things--sometimes I wear really short shorts or really short skirts, because I've played soccer my whole life, you know? And then I also really like 80s and 90s styles.
Q: So how much of the shop is actually your personal
style, and how much is stuff that maybe you wouldn't necessarily
wear, but might be perfect for someone else?
A: Well, sometimes I run to work, because I live about 2 and a 1/2 miles away and it's good exercise. Then I'll get here and I'll just change into an outfit. I can normally always find something because a lot of it is my style, but it's always so funny to me when I'm stuck and I can't figure out an outfit. And then I'm like, I hope my customers never feel like that! I want my customers to always find things. Sometimes people ask me, what's your closet like at home? And it's funny because my closet at home actually isn't even that big. I consider this store my closet!
Want to check out some of Kate's favorite picks from AuH2O?
Peep the slideshow below!