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What’s Selling at Retail: Passport Vintage

Finding the right pair of vintage jeans has long been the luck of the draw, but Passport Vintage wants to simplify the discovery process for shoppers.

The Austin, Texas-based outpost, which was founded in 2014 by American Apparel alums Ryan Lerma and Maria Oliveira, started as an online Etsy shop specializing in vintage garments. More than 4,100 sales and 800 reviews later, Passport Vintage remains a key source for specially curated vintage garments, including jeans, online and offline.

Denim was added after Oliveira, who admired how fashion bloggers rocked their vintage Levi’s, set out to find her own pair, only to find that there was a void in the vintage market for this buzzy wardrobe item.

Passport Vintage, which still has a presence on Etsy, opened its first brick-and-mortar store with unique mix of vintage denim, T-shirts, outerwear and accessories that retail from $6 to $248. The shop has opened new opportunities for the Passport Vintage team to help consumers find apparel based on their cut, fit and decade style preferences. The aim of the store, Oliveira said, is to provide consumers with the right vintage items while providing these by-gone garments with a second life—even if that means alterations.

“We focus on ’60s to ’90s styles and we aren’t afraid to modify the jeans to fit modern needs. In our humble opinion, it is better to modify jeans to fit today’s aesthetics and get them sold, therefore recycling the denim, than to preserve it and leave it unworn,” Oliveira added. “There are definitely special pairs that ought to be preserved, but for the bulk of denim, our focus is to give them new life.”

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Passport Vintage

At Passport Vintage, consumers can find a myriad of vintage Levi’s and Wrangler jeans, including vintage Levi’s 512 jeans, vintage ‘70s Levi’s Prospector jeans and Wrangler high-waisted jeans.

The longevity of garments is dependent on their quality, but the shop focuses largely on vintage Levi’s and Wrangler jeans as both are known for their high-quality materials and durability.

“The quality of the cotton is super important to us. We want to make sure that everything we sell has a life of at least another several years or more with normal wear,” Oliveira said. “Which is a huge promise we are making.”

Consumers can also find other popular retro brands, including Guess and London Fog, for their individual wardrobe needs.

“Passport is fashion-forward and ever evolving. We are constantly inspired by new music, art, and travel and we love to breathe that air into vintage curation,” Oliveira said. “We are not purists, we feel like there are a lot of amazing people who specialize in preserving and collecting vintage denim but we don’t compete in that lane.”

Rivet caught up with Oliveira to discuss Passport Vintage’s journey, key vintage denim trends and why consumers are craving iconic jeans now more than ever.

Rivet: Which vintage styles are performing the best at retail right now?

Maria Oliveira: Light wash denim, the majority of customers that come in are asking for light wash jeans specifically. They are perfect for the spring/summer season or year around in places that stay warm most of the year.

Rivet: What are some trends you’re anticipating to be popular this spring and summer?

MO: Spring and summer are synonymous with vintage cut-off jeans, what changes about them is the cut and shade that may be in for that year. The angled cut towards the sides of the legs is still super popular, it is super flattering. Also, we are noticing our customers gravitating toward a looser fit.

Rivet: What is the best vintage brand you’ve added to your store recently? And what makes it a keeper?

MO: We have added vintage Wrangler jeans full time to our selection. Wranglers are super popular in Texas and we didn’t understand that fully until we opened our brick-and-mortar shop in Austin. The classic Wrangler fit is very unique, so we love to always have a full size run in stock.

Rivet: What is your best-selling vintage brand?

MO: Levi’s are definitely the best selling vintage brand, the brand is iconic. Vintage Levi’s jeans are highly sought after not just for the fashion, but also as collectible items. We carry a large selection of vintage Levi’s and have become a go to source for finding your new favorite pair of vintage jeans for that reason.

Rivet: How about your best-selling vintage fit?

MO: Our top selling fit for women is the high waist with a slim leg, which has become super hard to find lately. For men, our top selling fit is the straight slim leg.

Rivet: Which vintage styles are starting to slow down or fall out of fashion?

MO: For a while, the cropped bell bottoms were really hot, but I have noticed that they are slowing down a bit.

Rivet: What is the average price that customers are willing to spend on a pair of vintage jeans?

MO: It really varies, our jeans go from $68 to around $150. Customers are willing to spend as much on vintage jeans as they are for new jeans. They know that vintage denim is made out of quality materials, the proof is the fact that they still hold up and they may be 30-40 years old at the time they are purchasing them.

Rivet: If you had one request for denim brands, what would it be?

MO: Please bring back 100 percent cotton to women’s jeans as an option. It has become nearly impossible to find 100 percent cotton women’s jeans that are made out of high quality cotton.

Rivet: Looking at the state of retail, what is your prediction for 2018?

MO: We predict brands will continue to focus on making their brick-and-mortar more an aesthetic experience, making it an extension of their online world. We want to keep growing our community through social media and focus on providing a consistent positive in-store experience. It is very important to us to connect with our customers not just in-store, but also online.