Second hand, but one of a kind

Vintage POP offers Montrealers a unique and highly enjoyable shopping experience

For the scores of audiophiles at McGill, the mention of POP Montreal conjures up heavenly images of going to see an assortment of talented artists perform for about the price of a Santropol sandwich. Although the music starts on September 21, POP-goers saw the third edition of Vintage POP this past weekend.

Vintage POP is held under the umbrella of Puces POP, the cultural segment of the international music festival. The idea is simple enough – 12 of Montreal’s vintage vendors bring together their hand-selected and curated collections. What they create is more of a gallery space than a store, and shoppers are presented with a variety of pieces to try on and purchase.
The result is stunning. The brightly lit yet cozy space is reminiscent of a boutique at its best, complete with a friendly atmosphere and tailored soundtrack. Displaying clothing from the 1920s all the way to the 1990s, the gallery somehow manages to present an eclectic yet organized melange of eras.

Tessa Smith, one of the coordinators of the event, told The Daily in an interview that “the idea is to showcase the collections of local vintage hunters.” Held as a back-to-school event before the start of the festival, it is a presentation of vendors’ fall and winter collections, and, said Smith, “the perfect place to find POP Montreal concert-going outfits.”

As Smith herself seems to note, fashion and music have become inextricably tied, even at a small festival like POP. From Lily Allen’s musical performance on the Chanel catwalk to Grizzly Bear albums playing at Urban Outfitters, music and fashion are often used to sell one another. Think of fashion product placement in music videos, and CDs sold at the checkout counter in Topshop.
As is the case with these mainstream clothing outlets, fashion appears to be an ever-growing part of POP Montreal’s identity. In addition to Vintage POP, there is Fashion POP, a collaboration of emerging Montreal clothing designers, to be held later in September.

When investigated further, however, there seems to be less integration of these two arts than is suggested on the surface. Despite Vintage POP’s affiliation with the music festival, shoppers are not bombarded with advertisements for POP or POP’s sponsors. In fact, apart from the old 1950s tunes softly playing just above the shoppers’ murmurs, there is little trace of the true musical purpose of POP Montreal.  In an interview with The Daily, Smith noted that Vintage POP’s affiliation is with Puces POP, the culture and DIY crafts fair, rather than with the music festival proper. This might explain the lack of promotion. Vintage POP’s relatively loose affiliation to the festival at large also results in a less festival-centric schedule. Though POP Montreal “is [their] busiest time of year,” noted Smith, she and her fellow coordinator also run “pop-up shops throughout the year.”

A four day thrifting event seems commonplace in a city like Montreal, which has a thriving second hand industry, but Vintage POP is not your typical thrift store experience. “The quality is so much better than sorting through bins at the [Salvation Army] or wherever,” said Smith. While larger second-hand stores do undeniably carry some high quality pieces, it can be a real task to find them. Not so at Vintage POP, where each collection is carefully handpicked. New finds are brought in on each of the four days, creating a constant flow of pieces. Vintage POP also provides a venue for the merging of virtual and in-store shopping – Smith said one of her favourite parts of the event is meeting “the online sellers who you know through their blog or Etsy shop”.

Vintage POP may be over for this fall season, but Puces POP has various other offerings during the festival itself – including Fashion POP and several other arts and crafts events. If all of these offerings are as refreshing and well-organized as Vintage POP, they will be well worth your attention during all that spare time between concerts.