All the Cool Kids Shop at Bloda's Choice
Story by Justin Moran / Photography by Anna Bloda
Under the TikTokification of lower Manhattan is a renewed interest in vintage, with local resellers all feeding a demand for nostalgic style. Where some are fresh to the scene, Polish photographer Anna Bloda has been at it for years with her independently owned store Bloda’s Choice, now located in Chinatown (75 East Broadway) next to fellow vintage go-to James Veloria. Inspired by “club kids and youth culture,” Bloda’s Choice focuses more on Y2K brands — from Juicy Couture to JNCO jeans — but you can also find designer tags depending on her most recent haul. “I’m shaking those streets like crazy and hunting for good vintage,” she says. Learn more about Bloda’s Choice, below, and visit her site for more info.
Looking back on your life, how did you develop an interest in vintage clothing and reselling?
Growing up in communism, I didn’t really have choices to dress up. Clothes in stores weren’t good quality or fun. That’s why Poland never developed Polish vintage. When I was a child, we were smuggling some stuff from Turkey to Poland and from Poland to Russia. It was all about gaining things we didn’t have access to. My first banana, for example, came from Germany and instantly became my fetish. When my mother left for America in the '80s things started to change. She was sending us huge boxes of used clothes and the real obsession began. We had the whole basement filled with clothes and I loved to dive into them. As there was no internet back then and no access to knowledge about designers, I wasn’t able to recognize the names, but my taste was influenced by those unique silhouettes, extraordinary designs, the fun approach to fashion. In the '90s when I went to art school to study photography, I was spending a lot of time in Vienna and it became another market for me. I loved thrifting there, bringing goodies to Poland and shooting my models in it. Collecting clothes at first was just an urge to express my love for fashion, but also to style my models.
What criteria do you have when looking for clothes to resell? Is there a specific perspective you bring to the market?
Because my focus goes around club kids and youth culture I’m into Y2K vibes, but I never say no to good classics like Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gucci. My attention goes to quality fabrics, joyful prints, flashy colors, because as a child I was denied access to them. A lot has changed on the vintage market; these days we are more conscious about Mother Earth and the ways to reuse clothes. I personally buy everything used because wasting things feels like the worst possible activity for me. I buy glasses and plates second hand, blankets, pillows, books. It became a norm for me to fix things and give them another shot. I tie-dye silk blouses, draw on stains, OxiClean bathe old tees.
Are there certain designers, eras or styles that you’re seeing be more in-demand recently?
Anything vintage made in USA is super valuable for me. At the time it was produced, people really cared about making something reliable and lasting. Then, when production was moved outside of the country to produce things faster, cheaper, in larger quantities, things started to decrease in quality. I love American vintage and how far it goes. It’s so fascinating that some Levi’s pants from 19th century can be found and all these band T-shirts from the ’50s or so. I’m into Japanese designers as well for the same reason: quality, but also different designs.
Where do you typically look to find the good stuff for reselling?
I’ll tell you in secret: my favorite stores are outlets where you gotta dig to get that honey. I’m literally addicted to digging as it gives me the feeling of gambling and winning — when you pull up to the spot with empty hands and you never really know what’s waiting for you. One pull and it's Jean-Paul Gaultier; another pull, it's Gucci. Dopamine hits hard. Some people say thrifting is therapeutic for them. It’s thrilling to find unwanted clothes and give them second life. You never know when in front of you will land up a bin full of Chanel suits. Also, finding a variety of old designers and uniqueness of clothes is pretty inspiring. Quite often I find stuff that needs to be mended to be saved.
How are you enjoying your new location and its community? You’re surrounded by a lot of amazing spaces in there, like James Veloria and Eckhaus Latta.
New location is fire. It’s a true gem, indeed. Being located in the heart of Chinese culture is an everyday lesson. The whole space seems hidden, like a secret, but all units on our floors are already taken. We have a lot of awesome vintage down here, a few art galleries, a couple of independent designers. Place is pumping with the blood of Chinatown. It’s also a favorite spot of TikTokers and fashionable tourists. It’s just fantastic to be surrounded by all these vendors and art sellers because every day seems like an adventure. On the other hand, it’s a bit scary to see how gentrification pushes out local vendors to be taken by art communities, I’m very aware of it. But it’s really hard to escape life’s constant push for growth and change. It’s obvious that Chinatown is the new hub on the New York City map.
What do you love about the style and fashion in New York, right now?
I love the most "I don’t care style" maybe because I represent it. But truly, you can look dope using anything you have at home: garbage bag, tape, you can also transform old clothes. I love to see young creative people playing with it. It’s easy to go and shop, but much harder to recreate from what you already have.
How do you describe your personal style? How is your store a reflection of that?
When you meet me on LES streets, I’m a home girl. But going out I have all range of looks. My favorite look is slut look as porn star character — my alter ego. I love classic elegance too. I wouldn’t mind rolling in Chanel suits a few times in week. It all depends where I’m going to though. My daily look is a comfy look because I’m shaking those streets like crazy and hunting for good vintage here and there.
In what ways do you hope to expand your store in the future? I know you’ve also held events like photo shows.
Yes, I decided to play with the concept of a traditional vintage shop and make it more of a personal space that young people can express themselves in. I dedicated one wall only for photography shows. As the first one we had Matt Weinberger that turned into a spectacular success and the upcoming exhibition is Yoshiki Murata, a Japanese photographer residing in NYC. My speciality are both pop-ups with newcomers and established designers and closet sales with celebrities.
Throughout May, PAPER will roll out our final projects under the most recent editorial team. These pieces continue pushing forward our mission to provide a platform for fresh talent and important stories too often overlooked. From the subjects to the creatives behind the images, our hope is for you to discover new things and be inspired by what you see. As always, thank you for showing up and being part of our community. –Justin Moran, Editor-in-Chief
Photography: Anna Bloda
Models: Bayla, Selly, Atinka and Pauli