"Independent. Eclectic. Layered. And funny." These words describe Humboldt style, according to Nancy Tobin, owner of Arcata clothing boutique Vintage Avenger (1101 H St., Arcata). "I'm looking for natural fibers, anything embroidered," as well as "the 1980s stuff, which has the laugh factor." Also key: "Not trying too hard. The attitude here is not anti-fashion but anti-big labels." The Humboldt way to approach a look is to find "some cool, old, one-of-a-kind embroidered piece" and start from there.

This is not difficult to do at Vintage Avenger, where you can get motorcycle pants in pebbled oakbark leather so thick the hanger clips can't contain them; silk caftans Aretha Franklin and Talitha Getty might have coveted in colors like aqua and camel; and belted dresses featuring graphic 1980s prints in tropical-weight wool by Japanese cult designer Hanae Mori. There are brothel creepers, fascinators, western shirts, ponchos, waistcoats, monocles, drug rugs and polyester disco wear. While the selection of stout Pendleton flannels alone could outfit a lumbersexual revival of Oklahoma!, there is also enough mirrored spandex, gold lamé and spirit-animal latex masks to prep all of Arcata's citizens for Burning Man.

click to enlarge The shop’s interior, filled to the brim with unique, hand selected items. - AMY KUMLER
  • Amy Kumler
  • The shop’s interior, filled to the brim with unique, hand selected items.

Tobin, a multimedia artist who exhibited her work last year in a solo show at Eureka's Black Faun Gallery, describes her practice as "shopping-based." The boutique itself, in the great tradition of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Sex, is a "shopping installation" that is constantly being updated. Oftentimes, the vintage purchases Tobin makes for the shop overlap with the upcycled and repurposed materials she uses in her own installation artworks.

Vitrines containing Tobin's goofy/surreal pop tableaux are situated here and there among the clothing racks. The soft, pale, bell-shaped sculpture suspended over the boutique entrance turns out to be constructed from thrift-shop bras. If you look up even higher, you'll see cascading waterfalls of collaged textiles looped from the ceiling rafters of Arcata's old Pythian Castle, soft compositions that started as netted shirts and crocheted tablecloths. These are spinoffs from Tobin's art. "I'm definitely materials-based," the artist-slash-curator said. "I find something cool and then that spins an idea."

At Vintage Avenger, you can follow suit.

Pin It

Related Locations


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Latest in Shopping

About The Author

Gabrielle Gopinath

Gabrielle Gopinath

Gabrielle Gopinath is a critic who writes about art, place and culture in Northern California. She lives in Arcata. Follow her on Instagram @gabriellegopinath.

more from the author

© 2023 Humboldt Insider

Website powered by Foundation