Williamsburg, Brooklyn is many things. It boasts amazing shopping, incredible food and pretty people. It’s also crowded, overwhelmingly trendy, and full of stores peddling overpriced items.
But if you squeeze past the throngs of humans on Bedford Avenue and make your way over to 119 Grand Street, you’ll find a warm little gem of a shop called Antoinette…
Visiting Antoinette feels like “vintage” Williamsburg — back when hipsters were not yet associated with Urban Outfitters and artists could still afford to live there — in the best possible way. The merchandise is carefully curated and the prices won’t break the bank — nearly everything in the store is under $100. Best of all, despite the cool vibe, there’s no snobbery to be found. Owner Lexi Oliveri is always happy to offer suggestions and advice, and even provide stories behind some of the pieces for sale.
Whether you live near Brooklyn or not, Lexi was kind enough to answer a few questions that we can all benefit from. 🙂
Did you always want to open a store?
No. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, then a veterinarian, then an environmental scientist. I started out working in fashion, and it took many years of my mom and her constant reminders that I could open a store with all the clothes she’d kept for decades in the attic.
(Fun fact: young Lexi wasn’t that far off in her ambitions. She is also a professor at FIT!)
Your skin always looks absolutely amazing. I won’t share your exact age, but you seriously defy it. Do you have a secret miracle product?
Eye cream!!! Eye cream. Mario Badescu eye cream.
What are the three vintage pieces every woman should own?
1) A great denim jacket – My early 80s Lee denim jacket goes with me everywhere. It’s that dark indigo denim that’s timeless and goes with anything, as opposed to that cheesy washed denim from the early 2000’s. No matter how you slice it, early dark denim can truly go with everything.
2) A sheath dress – In whatever color you love. My uniform is black; I have a great black sheath from the late 80s that’s timeless and goes with everything. A sheath is so versatile – you can layer it, wear it with a great necklace, pair it with a statement piece. If you’re looking to invest in a great piece, then black especially goes with everything
For women who are a little bit apprehensive about vintage, I think a sheath is a wonderful piece to start with. I get a lot of women in the store who are afraid to wear vintage, and they don’t understand that they don’t have to look like another decade is throwing up on them. It can be more subtle than that. Mixing old with new is how I live my life.
3) A great silk scarf – Whether you tie it as a headband or wear it around your neck, silk scarves are always worth buying. I love my amazing Cartier scarf from the 60’s; I’ll never let it go. But I think any great scarf — whether it’s a designer scarf or just an interesting print — can spice up any outfit.
Who are your top style icons/inspirations?
Gosh, without sounding like a complete cliché, Carrie Bradshaw. Or maybe the original “cool hipster girls of Williamsburg” circa 2003.
Vintage sizing makes absolutely no sense. What is up with that? And can you help decode it?
It really does depend on decade. If you’re buying something that was made as late as the early 90s, the sizing can be anywhere from 2 to 6 sizes different! The early 90s was the end of odd sizes. You don’t see sizes 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 anymore, right?
A skirt that’s a size 10 from the 90s would probably be the equivalent to a size 8 now. A size 10 from the 80s would probably be more like a size 6 now. And something from way back in the 40s that was labeled a 10 would now be a size 2-4. (!!!)
So the moral of the story is, when you can, try it on.
Do you have a buying philosophy?
Since pretty much everything in my shop is under $100, I aim to buy at low price points, but quality is always the most important. If there is something that I don’t have in my inventory and I go out on a buy, I don’t like to purchase anything with rips or stains unless it’s an absolute “must have.” I also prefer to purchase items made in the USA. As far as decades go, I don’t sell anything post 1994.
What’s been the most surprising thing about owning your own business?
I would have to say the amount of press the store has gotten since opening less than three years ago!
Any words of advice for people who dream of opening their own retail venture?
SAVE! Save enough money (I would suggest a year’s worth of rent and expenses) and draft up a plan. Maybe not a full-blown business plan, but you definitely need a plan. The more specific you can be, the better.
Thanks so much, Lexi!
You can follow Lexi — and Antoinette — on Instagram.