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January 1, 2021

Victory Garden Grows

Victory Garden at Mill No. 5

You may have noticed the recent rebranding of Mill No. 5’s vintage clothing and consignment shop on the 4th floor.  House of Redemption, is now: Victory Garden. A recent restructuring of the shop’s founding creators was the reason for the rebranding and what prompted a movement from what the shop was and into what is now a fresh, new direction and vision that partners Sean and Marianna have created. Not lost on design enthusiasts is the past/future reference of leaving a Victorian-inspired logo behind and welcoming a fresh new visual circa the 1940’s,.

The shop, which began as a weekend popup shop was only open for four months before the global pandemic hit, causing their doors to close temporarily. Marianna said she wasn’t even sure if a vintage shop was needed in the area because most of the shops she used to shop at when she was young had closed.  “What started out as almost a whim, has just kind of worked,” she says. And because she began shopping in thrift stores in High School and has continued shopping at vintage stores throughout the world during her travels, Marianna has figured out the look, feel and the vibe of the shop that the diverse customer base of Lowell appreciates. Typically vintage and thrift stores focus on ‘80s and ‘90s clothing by way of graphic rock & roll  T-shirts, but she gravitates more towards clothing from the ‘40s in the ‘50s -all of which tie into the rebranding of the shop.

The original shop name and the logo were created channeling the Victorian feel of Mill No. 5 but it is rare to find a vintage shop that carries Victorian clothing. Furthermore, few  people buy Victorian clothing to wear. It’s just not relatable. “It’s a time they feel is far away and for the shop to move up to an era of mid ‘30s through the first half of the ‘50s, that is something that people can touch” says Sean. “My mom was born in the ‘40s, a lot of people have relatives that can talk about that era, there are pictures, the clothing still exists and a lot of the stories still exist. History and culture have inspired fashion. Our customers talk about all of those aspects when they come into our shop. You can’t separate those aspects when you’re talking about the time period.”

When creating the visual as part of their brand identity, Sean created a button with wings in the shape of a V. Those wings are reminiscent of what a lot of airline and car advertisements were using back in the ‘40s. The typeface was widely used in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

The name, Victory Garden, harkens back to the time of WWI & WWII when Governments asked households to grow personal vegetable gardens. The thought was that it would be beneficial for households to grow their food to help reduce pressure on the public food supply and boost morale.

For Sean and Marinanna the name Victory Garden was really fitting because it  creates a synergy in the sense that people buying secondhand clothing and creating a wardrobe that is stocked with secondhand clothing as much as possible is like their own Victory Garden. It’s their own way of helping to take the strain off of the system and the planet, which is one downfall of the fashion industry constantly creating new clothes.

Marianna herself has made a commitment to shop only vintage and second-hand, and has kept that promise for many years, except for a few necessities and basics that she couldn’t find at the vintage shops. “In terms of sustainability, we need more and more of them.” She says. “There’s a need for it. There’s tons of old clothes floating around and people just don’t know what to do with them. They’re moving to a smaller place or they’re like why am I holding onto this? And that’s where we step in.”

When asked about their customers, Sean and Marinanna  both say that their base is diverse in Lowell. People consign their clothes because they haven’t worn something in a number of years or they just need the extra money that consigning will bring to them. They have also reached out to the senior community as sometimes they have clothes in the back of their closet that they just don’t know what to do with. Those special pieces never really go out of style and even though it may take a little while for certain pieces to sell, it’s not because the piece isn’t worthwhile, it’s only because it hasn’t found its right person yet. 

“Something we worked really hard on from the beginning is that we wanted everyone to feel welcome in our shop. A lot of vintage clothing is not plus size so we’ve really gone out of our way to find a variety of sizes and find male clothing to balance out what we have.” Adds Marianna.

Sean continues, “We are very supportive of anyone who comes into our shop. When people ask if this piece of clothing is for a man or a woman our response is, ‘if it works for you, it works for you.’ We don’t want them to feel uncomfortable in our shop. We are for everyone. The best part of the job is being in the shop and watching someone get excited about an item that they found that works for them and they got it for a great price. There’s nothing more satisfying. That’s the best part of the job.”

As for the future of the shop, they both say that the goal is to increase their audience. “We definitely want to grow but we want to keep it simple, step-by-step, as we have that need to grow and we can, we will.” Says Marianna. Sean adds, “Maybe in the future we will branch out but I never want it to be too big that it is not manageable. I want it to be superior quality. I don’t ever want to lose that vision. We care about our community and I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. I am constantly thanking our community for their support. For them coming into the shop when it’s open or donating an item just because they want us to have it. I just feel so grateful.” 

@victorygardenlowell

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