When Miranda Campbell returned home to Kitchener in 2011 after working on an organic farm in California, she decided to act on a dream that had always lingered in the back of her mind. At 24-years-old, she decided to turn her love for vintage clothing into a business she could be proud of. For the first five months after returning, she worked as a server at a Waterloo restaurant and saved enough money to open White Tiger Vintage Boutique, a vintage clothing store in downtown Kitchener.
Now, seven years later, Campbell’s store is recognized as one of the staple vintage stores in the city, and business is only continuing to grow.
“My grandma would always take me shopping [and] thrifting, but I started getting into it more when I was in high school. I started getting more into vintage, and stopped buying new clothes, gradually. Then I just kind of started collecting,” Campbell said.
“By the time I left [for California], I had boxed away a bunch of stuff. I was just travelling and I just wanted to do something. So, I had this idea — I could go back to Kitchener [and open a store].”
Campbell explained that she originally had her sights on a smaller spot, but when that fell through, she ended up leasing 248 King St. E., where the store still stands today. The space was a little larger than she had originally envisioned, but nonetheless, she took the risk.
“Where the store is today, is a lot different from when it first started — there was a lot less, but I managed to make it grow over time,” she said.
Campbell cited memories of shopping as a child with her mother and grandmother as the spark that ignited her love of thrift shopping. She remembers frequently going to Worth A Second Look on Victoria St. with her family.
“I just have memories of going there all the time as a kid and buying second hand stuffed animals and thinking it was so cool, just because everything was so different from one another,” Campbell said.
“You can walk into a mall shop, and there’s multiple of each size. But if you go thrifting or vintage shopping, there’s just that one, so if it actually fits you, it’s like destiny.”
But it isn’t just the thrill of destiny that fuels her passion for vintage, there’s also the sustainability factor of shopping second hand.
“It’s great [that new clothes] can be cheap, but it doesn’t really create value for the item. People are more likely to buy more, but not appreciate it as much, so the likelihood that you might give it away within a year, or not wear it at all — the chances are higher,” she said.
Campbell explained that she really cares about sustainable fashion and that she hopes to foster that through her store.
“For clothes to be created that quickly, there’s a lot of environmental harm in the process … so how quickly it is produced versus how quickly it takes to break down. I’m really into sustainable fashion … that’s what I like to bring through vintage shopping. I try to bring in fashionable items for people that are current and unique, as well,” she explained.
Since White Tiger Vintage is not a consignment store, Campbell travels to various cities or states throughout the year in search of items to sell both in her store and on her online Etsy shop. Recently, she’s traveled to California and Montreal to shop.
“I like to ultimately look for good materials — cotton, silk, leather, denim — but then of course all the fun ‘70s polyesters and acrylics,” she said.
Campbell’s favourite items generally come from the ‘70s or ‘90s and her favourite material is definitely denim — which is made obvious the second you walk into the store.
Although Campbell said the downtown construction did slightly affect her business, the store is currently in great shape.
“I feel like it came to be in the past while; it’s gotten a lot busier. I’m just really impressed,” she said.
“It would be great to have a bigger space. I have so many clothes that I would love to have more space.”
Beth is the former Editor in Chief of the Community Edition. She held this position from October 2017 - November 2019. When she's not writing, she's usually knocking back too many coffees at Princess Café, searching for new craft beer in the Region or forcing one of her foster cats to love her. Follow her on Twitter @angryelbows.