One person’s trash is another person’s treasure
Some might dare to call Alice Bennett-Johnson a modern day treasure hunter.
But instead of scouring the ocean floor for gold, diamonds and rubies, she's pouring through thrift store racks in search of vintage finds from eras gone by.
Ms Bennett-Johnson recently opened up a pop-up shop on Water Street, St George's called ‘Dolly Pop', selling some of her unique fashion finds from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
She goes out and does the “dirty work” of finding classic clothing items in thrift stores here and overseas, then lets shoppers come in and browse through the pick of her spoils.
Gradually gaining a fan following, the store has already cropped up at locations like My Sereni-Tea and T K Hair in Hamilton, as well as Watford Sport's Club in Somerset.
It will be operating out of its current East End spot until the first week in September.
Ms Bennett-Johnson told The Royal Gazette she first got hooked on vintage fashion in the early 1990s.
“It was all about grunge and Kurt Cobain in those days,” she said. “Me and my friends would head to The Barn and find 60s and 70s stuff. Back then we didn't have any money but were really fashion conscious.
“We were also young and in Bermuda and wanted to be out of Bermuda, so this was a way for us to stand out and be different. We just fell in love with it.”
As time went on Ms Bennett-Johnson started to visit thrift stores in the US. Whenever she would stumble on great pieces that weren't her size she would buy them and gift it to a friend. Those friends weren't normally people who would thrift or hunt, however they really ‘dug' the items, she said.
“I had other friends who were really interested in 1920s or 1930s garments. They would be hunting for something, but then realised those pieces are hard to find, so I realised there was a niche there,” she explained.
“These days when I'm in the States I'm not in stores like Target, I'm at Goodwill looking for treasures.
“One piece I have comes from Delaware and someone spent hours crocheting it by hand. It caught my eye, first of all because it's bright yellow, but also because it has a story behind it and was probably made for an event and given as a gift.
“This piece can't talk, but someone obviously spent a lot of time and took a lot of care to create it,” she said. “It's art and if you take a look at it, it was obviously made for something and someone very special.”
Discovering those quirky and unique pieces is just one part of the equation. She also has to see the potential in the garment and make sure that it can translate for modern buyers.
But while some people would find rummaging for hours in a thrift store a painstaking task, Ms Bennett-Johnson said the process of hunting makes her “very happy”.
One misconception of some people coming to her store is that the vintage pieces can only be worn as a costume or themed party, but that isn't the case.
“Vintage is about wearing something from a period of time, making it relevant and wearing it with a flair for today,” she said.
“When we do fashion shoots we get the model to wear [a vintage dress] with Prada sunglasses and a fascinator and it looks phenomenal.
“My point is that, yes, you can wear it if you're going to a 60s party, but you can wear these things everyday as well.
“The thing about vintage is you have to have a fairly strong sense of self and be able to wear ‘magnolias' (a dress with flowers on it) and be able to rock it and own it.”
She described many of her clothes as “say something pieces” and believes they best suit people looking for something out of the ordinary.
Her collection is very different from what you will find in a city store and she likes it that way.
“I'm not trying to do what someone else is doing,” she said. “I want to specialise in vintage. It's a little more expensive because you have to go overseas and bring it in, but it's worth it.”
Ms Bennett-Johnson said “in a perfect world” she will one day be able to find every piece she sources on Island.
But in most cases Bermuda's weather and climate tend to be very unforgiving to vintage clothes, with the older pieces ending up mouldy or musty.
Dolly Pop Bermuda, located near to the St George's Post Office, offers a range of clothing in sizes 0-26. Store hours may fluctuate a little during the week, so visit the Facebook page or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.