A barrage of charmingly unruly curls, springy and full of life, sit atop Adrienne Baskin’s head—projecting a sense of rebellion that matches her energy. At 72 years old, Baskin looks likely to run riot in her hand sewn Kiss sweatshirt, thick black eyeliner and punchy red lipstick.
With her off-hand charm, pension for vintage tees and an eye for beautiful things, she is a refreshing and creative force in the Chicago vintage fashion scene with her boutique, shopNOV.
ShopNOV is a collection of saved treasures, ranging from original 1920s tulle shift dresses to brown suede 1960 hot pants that elicit the boutiques sentiment, “vintage never looked so now.”
ShopNOV was born out of an everyday errand she was running for her kids. The unexpected shopping hunt has evolved over the last 15 years into the dealer of vintage items it is today, but the boutique found its roots in vintage rock tees.
“I started collecting vintage t-shirts during a trip to Florida with my mom because my twin-sons thought they were cool,” says Baskin. “At salvation armies I would find t-shirts, rock-n-roll t-shirts, of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles—those were the days when you could still find everything digging through the bins.”
What started as a fun mother-daughter activity to indulge her children’s current whims, soon become something much bigger.
“I set up shop in my basement and I would have my kids and their friends come over and they kept buying them. Word got out and I ended up with 100s and 1000s of vintage t-shirts,” says Baskin. “I got racks and a tent, and I would start selling them in my front yard where teenagers would just flock to buy them up.”
At one of the infamous yard sales, Karyn Dethrow, owner of Dethrose Vintage, made her way to the suburb of Highland Park to try her luck at the sale.
“I heard through a group of friends about this amazing woman who was selling a load of vintage tees in her front yard, and that was when I first met Baskin years ago,” says Dethrow.
The popularity of the sales was driven by Baskin’s unique selection and eye, and she knew she had to expand her store from just t-shirts.
“Originally I don’t think I had a name. People started calling me the t-shirt lady, but I didn’t want to be called that in business,” says Baskin. “So we sat around, my family and I, and we started playing with words and names. We came up with a contraction called NOV for now + vintage—vintage never looked so now.”
While shopNOV has an online Etsy shop, the heart of the business and the main outlet for sales is at the markets in and around Chicago.
ShopNOV has a permanent booth at Randolph Street Market year-around. Director of Marketing and Partnerships, Paula Guiliano, says RSM “looks for classic and traditional products that we know people love. We vet 1,000s of applicants to ensure each vendor is unique, interesting and has innovative items that we want to showcase to our audience.”
The upscale market offer a corrective to dusty flea malls uncritically flooded with Confederate trinkets and dusty contraptions, both of which Baskin has dealt with in her travels.
Baskin remembers countless early morning, or more accurately described as middle of the night, trips to markets to scour for finds.
“If you want to see insanity, go to a vintage warehouse. I am sweating, I am digging, I am knee deep in bins until you are this high in t-shirts and dresses,” says Baskin as she illustrates the estimated height to stand just below the level of her nose, approximately 5 feet. “But that is where all of the designers and product development people go for inspiration.”
Apart from the vintage warehouse auctions, Baskin travels to the west coast for the Rose Bowl, Fairfax Flea Market, Long Beach and Santa Monica, and she travels to the east coast for the Brooklyn Flea and Brimfield. “Really, wherever I travel I always look up local markets or spots,” says Baskin. “I’m always on the hunt for the perfect item.”
Vintage clothing are physical pieces of the past that show the decline of quality in the patterns and construction of clothing.
Back in the day, “there were a lot of real fabrics. In the 70s polyester was introduced, but still I believe things were just made better,” says Baskin. “Of course, if you walk in to any luxury store today you will find some decent, decent quality, but fast fashion has found a space in the market even if the item may fall apart in the wash.”
Wearing and choosing vintage clothing also keeps these items from filling landfills and contributing to polluting the environment during the textile manufacturing process.
One experience that stood out to her was the time she flew to El Paso for a factory warehouse auction. The warehouse was located next to the border of Mexico and the United States and was filled with old, thrown away items. Spanish music was playing in the background as 100s of people were sorting the gazillion items coming off conveyor belts from inside of the old, beaten-up factory. “You paid $450 for a 100-pound drum of things, and after sorting each one you’d yell for another. It was like an addiction,” says Baskin.
Vintage contemporary second-hand clothing is the antithesis of throw-away fashion in the sense that these pieces are rare, covetable and tradeable. NOV is a sustainable business because it doesn’t contribute to fast-fashion or unethical factory standards because it is recycling or repurposing clothing that is already in the consumer market.
ShopNOV acts as a physical and wearable archive of the past fashion trends. The fashion editors and designers that flank the runways during fashion week aren’t creating the new trends out of thin air. The trends of today are recycled versions of history, and shopNOV offers an edited collection of the original classic silhouettes.
“You don’t have to play the game of ‘remember when we went shopping and it was so and so in the fall of such and such,’ instead you try to buy classic things,” says Baskin. “These are the clothes you can buy and you don’t have an event right now, but you could wait three years and when you put it on—it’s dynamite.”
Videography by Nicole Ross — Copy by Sarah Julien