Snuggled next to Domino’s Pizza on the corner of Guadalupe Street and Martin Luther King Blvd, Monkies Vintage is a second-hand retail shop that buys and sells a curated collection of old-school fashion finds.
Story by Adriana Rezal
With stores like Urban Outfitters and PacSun capitalizing on the current 90s fashion trend, Monkies Vintage offers a selection of real-deal throwback fashion pieces. The shop holds classic brands like Guess and Supreme in addition to one-of-a-kind pieces like this vintage 90s U.T. jacket.
In addition to maintaining the shop, Monkies also participates in local events like the Space24Twenty Yard Sale put on by Urban Outfitters on April 14. At the yard sale, Monkies employee Juan Hernandez told ORANGE that Austin’s vintage scene, while small, is slowly gaining traction.
"It's a growing thing,” Hernandez says. “I think with time it'll be a lot better but for now it’s just this new little community that's just getting started here in Austin, but it’s good."
Monkies moved to its Guadalupe St. location around four years ago from McCallen, Texas. What started as selling clothes on Ebay has since then turned into brick-and-mortar locations in Austin and now San Marcos.
Hernandez started at Monkies around two years ago and says his Mexican identity plays a role in his experience in working for the small business, especially in today’s social climate. He says he and two other Monkies employees are proud of their Mexican identity in a way that poses resistance against current talks of walls and borders. "We don't want to hide that we’re Mexican, we want to make sure people know,” he says. “We have people that speak Spanish that come in and don't expect us to speak Spanish but then we do. It's an even better experience for all of us."
Although not all of the five Monkies employees come from a Mexican background, Hernandez says they all click well together because of their common identity and passion for the shop. "We're brown and (the shop is) independent and we're locally selling,” Hernandez says. “We're getting traction and people are supporting, which is great."
Monkies’ success as a brick-and-mortar shop is somewhat of a curiosity, given that the U.S. is currently experiencing a “retail apocalypse,” with thousands of retail stores closing or going bankrupt as a result of online shopping.
According to Vice News, vintage consignment shop Round Two reached empire-levels of success most likely due to an online presence that continuously brings in a lot of customers into the store. Similarly, Monkies maintains an active online presence by posting regular Instagram stories of their merchandise to their 12.3 thousand followers and also by selling on websites like Depop and Grailed. "[Monkies is] super excited and grateful that people are coming in and recognizing us," Hernandez says.
San Antonio native Jonabelle Timms, who attended the yard sale, says she’s always enjoyed buying second-hand clothes because of the uniqueness a one-of-a-kind piece can offer.
"It's honestly so much better to spend money on clothes that might've been already used or passed down than spend money on something new,” Timms says. “You can get the same look, or even something more unique, for cheaper. I've always believed in thrifting, so when I came [to Austin] and saw Monkies on the side, I went inside and just got hooked."
While buying second-hand clothes can be good for the environment or serve as a consumer’s choice against the negative effects of fast-fashion, some aspects of the ethics of thrifting and vintage resale have been brought to question. Thrifting in large quantities can clear out a community’s supply of good quality, affordable clothing. Vintage stores in particular have been criticized for taking part in the gentrification of thrift shops.
However, the labor involved in finding valuable pieces and curating a collection contributes to a vintage shop’s mark-up of an item. Yard Sale vendor R.J. Robinson says his shop makes it easier for people who want to find unique pieces without having to search for them in thrift shops. "I think it makes it a little bit easier for other people to have someone shop for the cool stuff for them,” Robinson says. “Thrifting is hard and it'll drive you nuts. There's times when … we’ll go to thrift store after thrift store and find nothing like two weekends in a row, but there's one day we come home and we spend 300 dollars, so you never know."
Hernandez says Monkies’ employees have also spent months searching for pieces that people might want. He says despite the competitive market, Monkies is often willing to cut a deal with customers by negotiating prices and buying their pieces. In any sense, it seems there is an art to curating a collection of clothing according to what people want to wear. "We're really trying our best to have the best prices and curate to our best capability,” Hernandez says.