With a passion for unique fashion, 2015 Edina High School grad, Catherine Ware created her own vintage clothing business, Ware Vintage.
“I have always been fascinated with vintage clothing and the way that we use clothing to portray ourselves and how we feel,” Ware says. “I view [fashion] as a great tool for expression and how we want others to see us.”
Inspired by other female entrepreneurs, Ware found her innovation for this business stemmed from her experience working for other powerful women in the fashion industry.
As a former employee of Goodshop Badshop, a '90s flare vintage clothing business in St. Paul, Ware learned the trade of sourcing and branding garments through photography. Shortly after, she joined Mille Minneapolis, a luxury clothing and jewelry brand, as a model, stylist and shop employee where she still participates in the process of content creation, pairing clothes and management.
“Vintage is all based on the style of the person doing the curating,” Mille founder and co-designer of Mille Michelle LeBlanc says. “Catherine has a great eye and finds unique pieces.” Encouraged by Leblanc, Ware decided to start a business of her own. “I just wanted to inspire other female artists to get out there and start doing what they love, mine just happened to be vintage clothing,” Ware says.
Growing up in a home with '70s green shag carpet, a retro TV and a velvet couch, Ware says it was her dad’s affinity for vintage pieces that ignited what she calls her “unhealthy obsession” for old-time items. “Everything about it seems so vibrant and full of life,” she says.
Hand sourcing each item, Ware looks for “pieces with a story,” from a variety of decades, materials and older designers. One of the things she looks for when sourcing is tags. From labels alone, Ware can decipher the authenticity of an item, the material it is made from and even the decade when it was created. Ensuring quality, she looks for clothing made from one material (no blends) such as cotton, silk, wool or genuine leather. “There is just something special about finding a piece that has lasted through time and been with so many people,” Ware says. “It is just really beautiful to me.”
Despite going into each shop with a goal of retrieving certain styles, color schemes or vibes inspired by trends, Ware says she doesn’t let that stop her from finding unique elements. In the ever-changing landscape of fashion, Ware explains that’s what she likes most about the business. “I am still learning, and nothing has to be perfect which makes it fun,” she says.
Though it can get overwhelming at times, Ware finds that people appreciate the eclectic approach she takes toward style.
As an alternative, more sustainable option of clothing consumption, Ware says buying second-hand makes it possible to invest in pieces that represent your personality, are budget friendly and made to last. “When I was younger in high school, people had this idea that you needed to buy something really expensive in order to be cool and I feel like that is one of the biggest misconceptions,” she says. “I feel like we have so much excess and there are so many great things to pull from.”
Emphasizing the importance of developing your own style, Ware says there are endless possibilities with clothing no matter the time period. She adds, “If you find a vintage piece, you can add it to any wardrobe, and anyone can wear it. There is something for everyone.”