Nostalgia is the overwhelming sense that one feels when visiting Grey Dog Vintage Boutique, whether it is a customer’s first trip or someone is returning for the third consecutive week. One can get no further than two steps through the front door without being greeted by Mara, the large grey dog that spends her days lounging on the sunny back porch of the small shop. On occasion, the aroma of freshly baked cookies greets visitors before Mara, wafting toward the door along with the soft sound of The Shins playing through the speakers.
These days, vintage clothes prove their worth by lasting long after modern, cheaply made attire has become worn and ragged. The high-quality materials used in past decades appear throughout the fashion world as styles that are recycled again and again. Opening a shop in Fayetteville that features these distinctive styles was a decision that had been attempted by few others.
Molly Clark, 37, the creator and owner of Grey Dog, began wearing vintage clothes at 19, drawn to the quality and details of her finds.
“Each piece has a story to tell and is one-of-a-kind: two aspects of vintage that I can’t get enough of,” Clark said, “so, that’s how it all began. I’ve always known I wanted to open my own vintage shop but my only concern was not knowing where I would find my pieces.”
Clark discovered her source while teaching English as a second language in Thailand, when she strolled into a market selling various styles of vintage clothing. She spent the rest of the year developing relationships with suppliers and purchasing dresses on the weekends.
Now that Grey Dog has been open for seven years, starting as renovated Airstream and then expanding its walls to the shop on College, Clark has travelled across the world for her finds, usually toting 600 to 800 pounds of merchandise back to the busy shop. Each of these trips supply Grey Dog with most of its yearly inventory.
“I travel to Southeast Asia twice a year and have a handful of suppliers who I buy from,” Clark said. “They carry Japanese, European and US vintage. Last year I expanded my searches and headed down to Oaxaca, Mexico. I visited textile weavers and purchased beautiful embroidered garments and handwoven wool rugs and blankets.”
Besides discovering clothes around the globe, Grey Dog is able to ship purchases worldwide to buyers who see pieces on social media. A large portion of sales are based off orders made from Instagram, where followers can comment their interests and questions about the various outfits posted.
“The biggest part of the job is putting together outfits to share online,” Lacye Parks, 24, an employee of Grey Dog, said. “We post at the top of every hour, so we need to be creative enough to put together several outfits a day. That’s probably my favorite part of working here.”
Customers that frequent the shop are often searching for items that they’ve seen in a post, or looking for an outfit that is guaranteed to be original.
“Every article of clothing is different than the one next to it,” said Sarah Steiner, 19, one of Grey Dog’s regulars. “It’s like every piece is the last of its kind and has a story behind it, and I want to be the person to continue its story.”
This view of unique clothing is shared by Clark, who supports the idea that vintage pieces are classic and easily updated or modernized to continue their journey in the present day. She thinks of the shop’s selection as timeless and not trendy.
“For example, women’s fashion was inspired by World War I in the ‘10s and World War II in the ’40s when women started taking over factory jobs,” Clark said of her favorite eras in fashion. “Women’s twist on masculinity was fresh and, to me, somehow incredibly feminine. High-waisted pants are one of my all-time favorite garments and I’m grateful to those decades for introducing them.”
Clark’s education behind her passion of clothing style began in Austin, Texas, where she went to school for fashion merchandising, and followed her to New York where she worked in Fashion Advertising for three years. Her knowledge of the topic makes itself apparent in the shop, where the walls are adorned with hand-woven blankets and detailed leather bags that come from all over the world. Jewelry and patterned headscarves from various countries are scattered throughout the store, each a different color and design.
“She knows her stuff and cares about her customers,” Steiner said of Clark, as they have often discussed their mutual interest in fashion while browsing through clothing racks. “I love small, local clothing stores where I’m not overwhelmed by the selection. If the people working start to remember you as a customer, you know you’ve found a good shop.”
The local and relaxed aspect of the shop is part of what attracted Parks to apply for a job, as well as the diverse selection of clothing that covers most every era of fashion starting from the 1910s.
“There’s something for everyone here,” Parks said, gesturing around the room. “All the unique pieces and different styles come together from every corner of the world to create brand new outfits with items from completely different times.”
Although she has a growing network of suppliers in Bangkok who import clothes from many other places, Clark is constantly thinking about how she can expand her travels to other parts of the world, though she knows it will be a slow process. The type of travel needed for moving merchandise is expensive and can be difficult to justify if the dollar isn’t strong throughout the different countries she visits.
“India, Turkey, Morocco and Peru are on my list,” Clark said. “Travel is vital for my soul and for inspiration. Being able to get out and see what’s inspiring people across the globe is something I will always be grateful for. It encourages me to bring something new and fresh back to the area and in a way, share a little piece of those travels.”