Founders Vita Haas and Lucy Weisner on curating one-of-a-kind looks for the post-quarantine world

Rules are established to create boundaries, ideally with the well-being of community in mind. It has become apparent that in social crises, rules no longer apply—or they become broadly amended—which makes us wonder why they’re established in the first place. The sentiment applies even in the world of fashion, where pairing black with brown and sporting socks with sandals are historically perceived as sartorial crimes, but driven by what reason? Fashion faux-pas act as ironic limitations in a world that encourages exploration of the self. To establish restrictions based on archaic questions of taste is to dissuade individual expression. Beyond how we choose to dress as we #stayhome, Café Forgot founders Vita Haas and Lucy Weisner remind us that personal style can be an area of risk and wonder.

Document virtually reconvened with Vita and Lucy to discuss favorite indie designers, curated online shops, and the best practices for discovering your personal style.

Rachel Cheung: Do you have a plan of action when shopping for new pieces? For example, do you have a list of particular items you’re seeking, or do you find pieces more organically?

Vita Haas: I do not have a plan of action. Until recently, I rarely shopped online, and when I did, it was because I came across something I’ve always wanted and could only get online. Now, in this brave new world of self-isolation, my shopping habits have changed. Recently, I purchased the GIVE A DAMN t-shirt from The Deep End Club online shop. It’s a shirt that has been around for years, but now that message seems critically important, so I had to have it. I also bought one for Lucy as a present.

For me, there’s nothing like buying things IRL, and I hope it won’t be long before that is an option again. When I shop for myself, I usually have an idea as to how much I am going to spend, but I don’t pre-select the designer or the piece. I like to stumble into a store, get to know the people there, and have fun trying things on. Being able to buy clothes is such a treat; I want to enjoy it.

Lucy Weisner: I follow a range of designers and artists and seek out their work when shopping. Typically, I have a very clear idea of what I want and prioritize the relationship I have with a garment’s creator.

Photography by Christian DeFonte. Yasmin Geurts wears shirt by Martina Cox. Skirt by Carolyn Kilcoyne Voyta. Necklace by Anna Pierce.

Rachel: What do you personally look for when scouring thrift shop racks? Are you drawn to particular colors, textures, styles?

Lucy: Personally, I don’t scour thrift shops. I engage and respond to garments when I understand their narratives, references, or the designer’s conceptual practice.

Vita: I go through phases. Recently I love minty blue and silk. I’ve always liked plaid; I’m attracted to patterns, particularly vintage textiles that have been reconfigured into something unexpected.

Rachel: Is garment quality of importance when curating a wardrobe out of vintage pieces? How do you determine quality when sifting through a plethora of clothing racks?

Vita: It totally depends. With some pieces, the appeal is that it’s really well made. With others, it’s just a really fun, funky pattern, and that’s why I want it.

Lucy: I don’t associate quality with durability or longevity. Clothing is a living object that will inevitably change overtime. Garments that are worn-in or show signs of decay are extremely appealing. Quality means having a relationship with a garment, even if that relationship is ephemeral.

Rachel: How important is maintenance of second-hand garments to you? Do you follow the tagged care instructions to dry clean, wash cold, et cetera?

Vita: Yes, I try to. Especially if it’s a piece I really care about. That said, I have had shirts that I bought from Goodwill in college that I washed incorrectly and they turned into amazing new shirts. Sometimes a little shrinkage is a good thing!

Lucy: I try to follow instructions, and when in doubt I hand wash.

Rachel: What are your favorite digital second-hand shops, whether they’re curated Depop or Instagram accounts, independent designers, or general online sites?

Vita: Second Cousin Vintage is a brilliantly curated shop. It has been around for a few years selling really upscale designer finds by designers like Issey Miyake and Vivienne Westwood. I met Elise Troister, who runs the shop, on Instagram a year ago. I was familiar with her shop, but I messaged her because she was posting clothing items with scenes from The O.C. printed on them. Since I love The O.C. and the garments were gorgeous, I thought Café Forgot had to sell them. Since then, Elise has started the line Retsiort Esile, which we carry.

I like Girl Food, who runs shops on Depop, Instagram, and Etsy. Kiko vintage is a Depop account I love. I met Ari last month when she came to visit our February Café Forgot shop. She’s a big fan, which is not a huge surprise because our styles are in sync. She often uses pieces she bought from our shop to style with the vintage designer pieces she sells—Maroske Peech and Merritt Meacham are two of her favs.

The Mirth Vintage e-comm site is also great. I used to work there, and the founder, Lauren Moetell, has a unique eye for classy vintage.

Lucy: I love Esther Archives for 90s and 2000s Prada Nylon, John Galliano gazette print, and Dior bustiers. Pechuga Vintage is great for rare and archival Vivienne Westwood or Jean Paul Gaultier, and I love Constant Practice for Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe.

Photography by Christian DeFonte. Eyren Powell wears dress by IGNACIA ZORDAN. Waist piece by Marland Backus.

Rachel: Is your closet composed of any particularly favorite vintage brands? Who are some of your go-to indie designers, whether for personal wear or Café Forgot?

Lucy: My day-to-day wardrobe consists mainly of jeans and t-shirts. Café Forgot designers comprise much of my daily wear including Venice W.‘s neoprene pigeon bag, Under the Rug‘s collaged knits, and Julien Archer‘s T-Shirts—vintage graphic tees that Archer meticulously hand-embroiders, tracing the existing graphic with monochromatic thread.

Vita: I love all Café Forgot designers, but one jewelry designer I wear every day is Marland Backus because her jewelry is so versatile. It can be super casual or very formal; it works with anything and everything. In terms of clothes, these days it would probably be Emily Dawn Long because her dyed athletic wear is super comfortable and also very positive and energizing for home wear. In that vein, Delicate Porcelain clothing is also really easy to slip into, yet shapely and chic.

But just because I’m at home, I have not forsaken dressing up. In fact, I think it’s really important to keep up the self-presentation part of being socially connected with friends, family, and business contacts. I’m in many Zoom meetings each day, and it really gets me going when I put something on that’s fantastical and perhaps too much for running around during the day in the city on the street. In the past week, I’ve worn pieces by Martina Cox, Emma Pryde, and Zepherina, and when I’m wearing them, even if I’m just sitting on my bed at home, I feel both productive and like a princess.

Left: Lucy Weisner wears silk pajamas by Max Shamash available on Café Forgot’s online shop.

Right: Vita Haas wears Marissa Cooper shirt by Retsiort Esile from the August Café Forgot pop up.

Rachel: In the saturated world of fashion we live in, it can be overwhelming to find a unique sartorial expression. Can you offer any advice for someone who’s trying to find and curate their personal style?

Lucy: Always dress the way you want, feel comfortable, take risks, play.

Vita: Just have fun with it; that’s the point—it’s fun. Wear things that make you happy, that remind you of movies, books, and TV shows you like or just times in your life that you think of fondly. Create stories through your clothes; trust your instincts when it comes to fashion because they will always be more reliable than anything anyone else tells you.

Café Forgot has temporarily closed their brick and mortar location in light of COVID-19, but recently launched their online shop.