Walking into the Spark Pretty popup shop is quite literally like stepping into the explosively colorful, wacky-glam oasis of a true '90s girl's bedroom/studio: there's glitter on the walls, floor, and ceiling; posters of hunks with waist-length crimped blonde hair; and bright MTV logos beaming out at you.
Spark Pretty is the art child of Betsey Johnson stylists-turned-professional vintage collectors Amanda Dolan and her business partner Meagan Colby, who began the online store four years ago after leaving Betsey Johnson's showroom to strike out on their own. They've been approached by designers like Steve Madden looking for inspiration among their antique pieces. Recently the duo have begun pop-up stores in New York City, and today marks the final day of their Nolita location, open until 9 PM tonight.
Pieces range from $12 to $1200, available in store and online, and include everything from hand-painted Madonna jackets, to vintage Isaac Mizrahi embroidered pantsuits, to holographic club kid spandex, and beyond.
We caught up with the posh pair to find out how this glorious treasure of a brand came to be, what makes their fashion spirits tick, and what they want to do with their store in the future.
Out: What initially inspired the idea for this store?
Amanda: Meagan and I have been collecting vintage together for years. It's what bonded us together as best friends. So we've been selling online at SparkPretty.com for four years, and with the '90s coming back in style, we thought it was time to expand. We were already having fun as friends taking road trips across the country to find pieces and building an incredible collection of our own. Let's just do it ourselves! Why have a middle man? Girl power.
Did you have any favorite vintage stores you found on your road trips?
Meagan:We've gone all over, but we love Florida, because there's some crazy shit down there. We went to Nashville... it's hard to say one place, since we've been to so many. But the South in general... upstate New York, California....
A:Once a year I go to England, and there's some sick shit over there too.
M:But we're always looking for our personal aesthetic for the brand. It's got to be outrageous, it's got to be sparkly. It's got to have textures and patterns.
Have you two been thrifting since a very young age?
A:I'm from the New York/ Connecticut area. And we were both teenagers in the '90s--I remember when people were asking for Gap or The Limited, I was asking my parents to take me to local consignment shops so I could find a pair of '70s bellbottoms.
M: I was wearing corduroys twelve sizes too large, and flannels, and old T-shirts.
A: It's literally been in our bones forever.
Have your personal styles evolved? Were there different eras?
A:I think no matter who you are your personal style evolves as you age. For me, I've always held through to unique, very bright colors, and a lot of glitz and glams, but I used to love vinyl, and now I don't. You go through the phases but I think you keep your spirit aesthetic--it travels with you.
M: I have to agree. I've definitely gone through some growing pains. I had dreadlocks once upon a time. And I would make my own clothes, and do a lot of thrifting. I'd wear giant pants with a patchwork shirt that I made.
A: We're all constantly evolving, but trends come and go, and I've always like things that are different, unique, from a different time.
M: '90s icons--we're both obsessed with Kelly Bundy. Christina Applegate circa 1992 on Married... With Children, rock and roll babes. Fran Drescher in The Nanny, we both are obsessed with. We also worship at the altar of Courtney Love--talk about style phases. Her style evolution is incredible, but she's always stayed true to that bleach blonde tattered babydoll kind of thing, but was also the face of Versace. We both love David Lee Roth, but only early '80s, '90s David Lee Roth. Video vixen girls from the '90s. Currently we both share a love for Jeremy Scott, with the pop culture references, and the bedazzlement. His assistant has shopped with us.
Where did the hand-painted jackets you guys have come from?
A: I went to art school, and Meagan went to fashion school--we're just drawn to them. They've come from all over--some from Europe when I'm traveling, some from the coasts; we've got Madonna, Janet Jackson, Rocky Horror, Barbie...what's so cool is that there's a story behind each jacket, because someone who loved Madonna, or Rocky, in 1989 spent there time painting and hand-setting it. So to me, it's not like we're selling a jacket, it's like we're selling a piece of history.
M: You're not buying something where 7,000 were made. We appreciate that crafty, one-of-a-kind aesthetic.
A:It's really great when you see people open the door, and their faces light up, and they go, "Wow." It confirms for us that we're on the right track, making people happy through these historic pieces.
Do you feel sorrow as you say goodbye to some of these pieces?
A: Sometimes, yes. But also happiness. Sometimes we'll find a piece, and think, 'How are we going to let this go?' But seeing it come to life when someone puts it on, and it's made for them.... Yesterday we had this guy come in, and he had hot pink hair, and he tried on this Janet Jackson jacket with pink and purple in it, and seeing his face light up...it makes it easier to let the pieces go to their next home.
M: Amanda and I have become such close friends, and we love a backstory, so when we find some of these pieces we're like, "Well, this woman's name was Debby."
A: If there's not an actual backstory, we like to make up our own.
What do you look for in pieces?
A: With vintage, the pieces have had a life already. We're not a thrift store, we're curated. We don't want to sell ratty clothes.
M: We only take a piece that has damages if it's incredibly amazing. Typically we look for items that are in perfect condition.
A: As far as aesthetic--denim, painted, beaded forever. High waisted jeans forever.
Any plans for the future?
A:We do love to embellish things, maybe we'll do some more. A permanent location is a wonderful dream down the line, but the excitement of a pop-up shop is cool, because we can think of ideas for each location. And it's exciting for the customers, because they can follow us and find something new. So there's definitely more pop-ups in our future.
Can you choose a favorite piece?
M:There are definitely pieces right now we are goo-goo ga-ga over.
A: We have the exact red dress that Cassandra wore in Wayne's World. We have one of those early '90s windbreakers made of that paper material--and Kurt Cobain wore one of those. We love sets; we have a couple two-piece hologram Spice Girl club kid looks.
Is your clientele mostly women? Men and women?
A: We have a lot of men come in and ask, "Do you only have women's clothes?" No! All of it can be worn by whomever. We have a big gay, and drag clientele. We've even made a hashtag for our male customers, #SparkPrettyBoys.