Greatest Friend Embodies Everything We Love About Vintage Fashion
I saw a lot of great fashion at New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW) last year, but one of the most surprising and delightful was the appearance of second-hand clothing on the runway.
Greatest Friend, a Waiheke Island-based vintage shop front and online store, braced the runway with absolute confidence and style.
Perhaps it was just my sustainable fashion blogger tinted glasses I can’t seem to take off, but Greatest Friend was a game-changer at fashion week. I wanted to know everything about them and how they tick.
Two weeks after NZFW, I popped over to Waiheke Island to interview Angela, the founder, and try on a jumpsuit I eyed up on the runway (turns out my torso is too big, and unfortunately cameltoe is not currently on-trend).
Preloved Treasures on an Island Paradise
Waiheke Island is found off the coast of Auckland city, home to approximately 10 thousand residents, and in summer, quadruple the tourists. Most visit to drink wine or watch two people say “I do”, but my purpose was to trawl through second-hand goodness and pick the brains of a very skilled and experienced, vintage reseller, stylist, DJ (what?!) and general sustainability activist: Angela.
In the first few minutes of being in her store, I quickly realised it wasn’t actually a shop.
Greatest Friend may look like your standard vintage shop, but it’s also a community-focused workshop space, meeting space, and counselling office.
Angela confirmed it by explaining “there’s Lab Tests next door with some terminally ill people. I’m like: sit down, do you want me to make you a cup of tea, let’s talk. I can’t help it, I just love people. But I’m also like, oh yeah I pay a lot of rent for this space.”
Below on the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week via FashioNZ
First and foremost, Angela loves people
She’s currently in the midst of moving Greatest Friend from a humble store downstairs, to a space over double the size, on the main stretch in the central village.
It will be a meld of old school market and community space, filled with other local designers and makers, and always open for those who need a chat, a tea, or a piece of vintage. Having opened the store only four months ago, Angela has massive plans around how to support the community, particularly authentic local designers.
“Sustainability is about working together”
Greatest Friend began 12 years ago in the US, hitting the Etsy store in 2006 as one of the world’s very first Etsy vintage sellers
After becoming burnt out, Angela moved back home with no plans to re-open in New Zealand… until she saw a little shipping container area become available on Waiheke, and couldn’t stop.
Her store is now stocked with beauties she bought over from the US, local second-hand shop finds, donations, and random pieces Angela has collected over the years.
“I’m really passionate about fashion, and clothing, and textiles, and reselling, and sustainability and all of that, so I keep that available. But I am now going oh, this is an issue”
Selling clothes while being an anti-consumerist is a constant battle. Instead of giving up, Angela is pushing for a more sustainable fashion industry and authentic vintage experience. People and planet are considered in all she does, from the store chairs she found on the side of the road, to the recycled brown paper packaging that keeps online store orders safe as they travel to their new homes around New Zealand.
After reiterating “I’m so conscious about my own carbon footprint,” Angela explained to me the massive carbon footprint of both new and second-hand imports.
Reality is, it’s difficult to stock vintage clothing on a small island off the coast of another small island, so the clothes have to travel from somewhere.
This comes at a cost to the planet. You won’t find many brand owners who’ll openly discuss the things they find contradictory about their business, but transparency is all part of how Angela works. She’s figuring out the balance, and in the meantime, I personally think she’s doing more than enough to offset.
Angela is a wealth of knowledge
She’s tour managed across the US, DJed for people like Yoko Ono, and worked as a stylist for all sorts of people, shows, and designers. Angela knows a heck of a lot about a heck of a lot.
Here are some of her golden nuggets that stuck with me:
- True vintage in NZ is so expensive because “you’re paying twice as much. You’re paying tax, freight, customs, and the ability for someone to put it in a shop.”
- We have a worldwide fabric crisis. There’s too much of it, and it’s overflowing in huge warehouses.
- In one week in New York, the amount of textiles going into landfill is 8 times the weight of the Brooklyn Bridge.
- Buying vintage by the bale is illegal and fills our landfills with textile waste. Only ⅓ of the bale is actually good stuff!
- Dead stock fabric in the states is becoming more expensive as the demand for it grows. Designers don’t want new fabric to be created, because they realise there’s a fabric overflow too.
For Angela, NZFW was a confidence booster and opportunity to celebrate her work with friends and family
Magically, the models fit the clothes (you can’t adapt sizes when you’re dealing with second-hand clothing!) and the show went seamlessly; aside from the fact I didn’t fit the jumpsuit I lust after.
“I was 11 when I decided I was going to be the editor of Fashion Quarterly. I can remember where I was standing when I decided,”
Fashion is in Angela’s blood, but what’s more present is her consistent drive to make sustainable change.
She’s a writer, a storyteller, and one of those people who you meet and would totally believe if they told you they are going to change the world. I’m incredibly grateful to have absorbed Angela’s knowledge, taken her time, and walked her store. Greatest Friend may be fresh to New Zealand, but they’ve already made an impact on the fashion scene. Watch this space very carefully.