The art of the pop-up shop

interview by Joshua Nhan

“People thinking about fashion can change the world when they think about their choices as consumers. We do have a hand at the wheel, as much as we don’t feel like we do.” –Rylea Wissink

Rylea Wissink grew up shopping second hand, turning an exercise in frugality into a passionate side hobby and hustle. Acquiring a taste for the fine and vintage, she accumulated a vast collection of valuable textiles, clothing and accessories.

Now Wissink sells her treasures at the Bamboo Ballroom pop-up shops around the city, and online under the brand, Rylea Coyote Vintage.

As wardrobe stylist, her unique collection of clothes and jewelry has appeared in AGAR!MO Magazine and Shuba Magazine, Her styling and modelling were seen in an issue of Luxia Magazine. Wissink also provides one-on-one styling services in her showroom located in the Lumiere Rise building on 124 Street and 111 Ave, where she also hosts pop-up events.

She informs us that Edmonton is thriving with “little vintage sellers, all so unique, one or two person operations rather than the store model. These are vendors starting from their Instagrams, colocating and creating temporary markets and hubs, which has been a really big move here and not so common in Vancouver.”

These pop-up shops are often held in beloved spaces, like The Aviary and the now closed Salon Blunt and Korner Lunch Cafe, where locals will visit simply to support the community. Lawless Vintage and Whyte Avenue Vintage are two Edmonton-based thrifters that you may find selling their curated vintage wares at one of these events.

Fashion, Wissink says, is an “important and intimate expression of individual identity. It’s a symbolic way of communicating yourself to others, both in distinction, but also similarity and connections. It’s a mechanism that we use to be a part of society, interacting and engaging with one another.”

She approaches it with ethics, breaking the chain of exploitive industrial practices laden in the fashion industry by avoiding buying things new. Encouraging the mending of clothes, thrifting and reselling, Wissink believes we can begin creating sustainable and fair trade.

She talks about Fashion Revolution, a great resource for information on the transparency of the industry, helping their readers understand the realities of its (un)fair trade, environmentalism, cultural appropriation, and inclusivity of all people. In large part, Fashion Revolution is a response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse that occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013, where 1,134 people were killed and 2500 injured. Most of the victims were young women.

Wissink is critical of large scale brands like Zara, H&M, Forever 21and ASOS, but she stresses the importance of not contributing to cancel culture. Boycotting and the shutting down of factories also mean thousands of garment workers lose their jobs. Instead, she advocates holding these companies accountable by joining “the movement of demanding transparency.”

There is a “commerce and government sphere downtown,” but she praises “young, artistic pockets of scenes and creatives [that] we do a good job supporting, and it comes out in fashion.”

Mentioning the Calgary Stampede, she admits to an influence of a “western style”, loving to sport cowgirl boots and fringed leather jackets: an extravagant yet practical style, suitable for Alberta’s harsh, continental climate.

Wissink laments the closure of Decadence and Divine, brick and mortar staples for vintage consignment stores in Edmonton. She is envious of the dozens of vintage shops set up in Kensington Market, Toronto, that operate in the conventional store model.

Edmonton has upscale consignment stores like Vespucci and nu2you, but Wissink aligns herself and Rylea Coyote closer to Fish Vintage and Swish Vintage, praising their museum-like inventory and knowledge.

In a one-on-one meeting, she ensures a safe space of inclusivity and accessibility, encouraging others to be comfortable while having the option to be experimental. Her vast wardrobe and eccentric styles, stocked in all sizes, make it a field trip for those curious about a new look.

“It’s not about me prescribing how I think [others] should look, it’s about providing them an environment and the tools to try out different things,” Wissink states.

Pop-up event at the Lumiere Building

Wissink encourages her clients to challenge the gender norms of fashion, claiming to often “dress more androgynously, or use masculine pieces, or be more conservative and cover up or not. We do make choices about that, and it’s an interesting thing to play with and get to participate in.”

I’d have to admit to agree with her, as after accompanying on a few thrifting trips, I saw that my wardrobe now contained checkered, houndstooth and leopard patterns, bejewelled denim, silk, suede and fringed leather– all picked from the women’s section. Wissink holds a genderless classification of clothing as a principle of her philosophy.

She states the importance of being conscious of cultural appropriation in the choices of what we wear, but also to be aware of the corporations doing it for profit, like in the case between Urban Outfitters and the Navajo Nation.

Wissink, styling on set

“The way that we value clothes is changing. We’re not paying as much for pieces that have a lot of labour and love put into them. We’re paying very little, for a lot of crap.”

Wissink stresses the importance of having conversations about sustainable fashion, to “look behind the veil” to notice things that have now been normalized. The troubling reality is that clothing is being made for as cheap as possible, at the expense of labourers in developing countries, to be used once and discarded, in the midst of an environmental crisis.

She understands that some people, “because of their socioeconomic position, shop those brands because they provide them affordable means of accessing those styles… and for a lot of people, it’s not an option to step outside of that.”

Rylea Coyote Vintage lets you bypass the drawn out process of thrifting, flipping through thousands of items and often coming out empty handed. Wissink provides an affordable way to spice up your wardrobe with one-of-a-kind items, while also feeling good about it. Her inventory is updated weekly.

With COVID-19 putting a hamper on normal operations and the frequency of pop-ups, Wissink is most active utilizing social media, particularly her Instagram @rylea.coyote, to sell her gems and set up meetings.

Rylea Coyote Vintage
Lumiere Building
11034 124 Street
Edmonton, AB, Canada T5M 0J3

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