My favorite online vintage shop is Market Publique, where the sellers are vetted, the pictures are well-styled and the selection is a top-notch mix of designer duds and affordable finds. Imagine my delight when I saw that the intrepid entrepreneur behind the site, Pamela, uses a vintage trike to get around and haul cargo for the shop. She was gracious enough to talk with us for Part III of our Vintage Style Series. Read on to hear about the traumatic event that stopped her from cycling for so long, her return to pedal-powered transportation and the intersection between chic cycling and vintage style.
Pamela and her Vintage Trike
Hi Pamela. Thanks again for taking the time for this! We love to profile real women who use bikes for transportation, and you and your trike are perfect for our vintage series.
Tell us a bit about your history with cycling. When and why did you start, and how do you use cycling now in your life?
I didn’t really start cycling until this summer. I knew how to ride a bike when I was a kid, but I was pretty bad at it, and once crashed into a small bush outside this lady’s driveway because she was backing out and I had never learned to use my backpedal brake. As I was lying amidst the bush, under my bike, the lady backed up more, rolled down her window and said: “Can you please be more careful with my bushes?” then she rolled up the window and sped away… I was stunned, hurt, scarred for life and never rode my bike again.
My husband Jon has always been on my case about how awesome it would be if we could go ride our bikes together around Brooklyn. I was also walking many many blocks with tons of packages from the Market Publique office to the Post Office, and we had just signed up for a CSA, where I would have to pick up our vegetables every two weeks – it seemed like I really needed a bike then.
(Yikes.) So what is the story of your awesome vintage trike?
I hesitated getting a bike because of my childhood experiences, so I jokingly said that maybe I should get a Big Wheel or some kind of tricycle so I could carry a bunch of stuff and not worry about falling over.
I didn’t really know adult tricycles existed, but after some googling, we found a few. I got super excited and was trying to decide between a blue and a red model on Amazon, when a few days later, Jon surprised me with an early birthday present: my awesome vintage trike, found on Craigslist. My birthday is actually in September, but that way I could ride it around all summer and really enjoy it.
Unfortunately, knowing little about bikes, I bought the wrong lock and my trike got stolen before my birthday even came. We instantly searched Craigslist and eBay, to see if the thieves were up to no good, and lo-and-behold, we found a very similar one, which we bought instead.
Pamela's Second Vintage Trike
Do other cyclists and drivers on the road treat you differently because of your bike and clothes?
Ummm, yes. I think people think I’m weird (it’s true). Some cyclists get very excited, and ring their bell or yell “awesome bike” (I like those). Others give me dirty looks and complain I’m taking too much of the bike lane or going to slow (not so keen on them). About the clothes, I do live in Williamsburg, so I don’t stick out as much as I would in other places.
Is there a link between your passion for vintage clothing and your passion for cycling (aesthetic, environmental, economic, etc.)?
I think biking is a great way to get around without having a carbon footprint. It’s much better than driving a car to go 10 blocks away, and great exercise!
It is very much tied to my vintage lifestyle, as the main reason I got it was to be able to take the packages of clothing I’ve sold on Market Publique to the Post Office. We also love to eat local, so we joined a the Southside CSA. I ride my bike to pick up our veggies all the way from the Northside, and take my reusable bags in the basket with me.
Aesthetically, I love how my trike has recently become my signature accessory, it’s really fun! And the fact that we were able to get a vintage one is even better.
Vintage style seems to be having a moment right now. What do you attribute that to?
People are wanting to be more eco-friendly and sustainable without sacrificing style. Vintage achieves that, because you can get something fashionable and one-of-a-kind, that’s also eco-friendly. You’re not only reusing, but there’s less waste created when the fashion you buy is stylish but not necessarily trendy: you can wear your vintage season after season, since it won’t really go out of style, instead of buying things made in China that won’t last or will be out of fashion in a few months.
Plus, vintage tends to be a better value, as the quality is often higher than that of new items at an equal price point. If a dress has been around for more than 20 years, you know it will hold up for a few more years – unlike the new things that you wash once and get destroyed.
Pamela and her Topshop cruiser via Chictopia contest
The online vintage shop you co-founded, Market Publique, is a huge success. Tell us about the concept.
Well thank you! I think we’ve had the success we’ve had because we solved a problem.
I was selling vintage on eBay and then on Etsy for a few years before we started Market Publique, and was really frustrated with both options. eBay changed their policies, fees, and feedback system to a point where it no longer made sense for me to sell my vintage there. Plus, it’s overrun with fakes, vintage reproductions not listed correctly, and a lot of irrelevant items, which made it hard to find the true vintage or trust any of the sellers.
I tried Etsy, but items sat on the virtual shelves for way too long without moving, and the lack of auctions made pricing difficult. You could also have very little creative control over your shop and branding, which is essential in conveying your message and presenting your items in an attractive way. Plus I felt that vintage should not have to be a second-class citizen on a handmade site, but should have a marketplace designed and built for it.
Since my partners and I are designers and developers, we decided we should start a site that fills in the gap, and gives vintage buyers and sellers a focused environment where vintage is truly appreciated – thus, Market Publique was born about six months ago.
We’re truly grateful to everyone who has supported us in our short existence. Because of them, our budding new site is now competing with eBay (10 years old!) and Etsy (5 years old!). We are thrilled at this quick start, and excited to finally bring the vintage community together, giving them the place and attention they deserve.
What is the vintage outfit of your dreams to ride your bike with (or perhaps you already own it!)?
Hmmm… I have so many dream outfits! Some I do own, like many of my 50s dresses, which pair excellently with some flat sandals and a picnic basket on the trike. I would love to have a swimsuit by Rudi Geinreich with a cute little skirt that I could ride to Brighton Beach and go sunning in (with a big hat and SPF, of course!).
Do you have any guidelines you apply to yourself when dressing to go somewhere on your trike, or do you ride in any outfit without giving it a second thought?
I try to ride with any outfit, but that has gotten me into trouble before, so now I give it a little more thought: Rompers usually work the best. Too short skirts or skirts that tend to twirl and blow in the wind require bike shorts or cute little tap pants. Long skirts are a no-no. Shoes are better without a heel, but hey, it all depends how far you’re going! And no shoes that are too precious to get scratches, as that’s almost inevitable.
The Aforementioned "Trouble"
Is there any advice you would like to pass on to women considering city cycling?
I would say, stay on the bike lane and wear a helmet. I go to http://www.nycbikemaps.com/ and plan my route if I don’t know where I am going. I also bike with other people if I am going long distances, so we can help each other out if necessary – although they don’t like to wait for my grandma trike… hehehe. I try to only bike around Brooklyn, and not go into Manhattan so much, as it is mighty crazy over there.
Plus, get all your gear: a good helmet that fits properly, lights for night riding, a bell, and most importantly – a mighty good Kryptonite lock – they will steal ANYTHING in big cities.
Thanks, Pamela! What an interesting and inspiring story.
If you are a vintage lover, check out Market Publique. You can find everything from this amazing 80’s Chanel dress (with price tag to match) to this much more affordable floral polyester shirt dress, this well-priced plaid and velvet YSL dress, and this sexy Dior cocktail dress. Also check out Pamela’s blog for fun fashion inspiration and trike spottings.
You can read Part I and Part II of our Vintage Style Series at those links. Stay tuned for the final series post, Trisha’s guide to buying and owning a vintage bicycle.
Anyone else out there have a trike? Love vintage? Both? :)