Stop whatever you're doing and prepare to meet BABE IN CHARGE Shari Gerstenberger. She owns Charm School Vintage; the shop you've been dreaming about since you were 6 - the vintage is whimsical, playful and bold, and she shares the building with a hair salon and wig shop. I've had the pleasure of visiting her home, where I am happy to report there is a room teeming with clothes and jewlery that made me want to play dress-up for the rest of my life.
Hello Shari! Can you tell us about Charm School Vintage and the sorts of things you do and sell in the shop?
Hi! Charm School opened in 2010 in a little white bungalow on East Cesar Chavez along with a wig store and hair salon as a little temple to all things fun and beautiful and feminine. We carry a curated collection of ladies' vintage clothing and accessories, apothecary products, and contemporary small designer-made jewelry, and we also serve as an art gallery and host openings every two months, throw day shows during SXSW and EAST, and also trunk shows and movie nights and yard sales and lots of little fun parties throughout the year.
Do you have any favorite Austin designers/makers?
For clothing, I love what Stephanie Villalobos is doing with her line Dust and Drag, and Bekah Dubose with her line Kulturegeist and the one off pieces she makes for Feathers. I don't know her personally, but I'm also a big fan of Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers, who is doing really impressive things with natural dying and quilt making and really reviving these old traditions and making them feel really exciting and relevant. My friend Kathie Sever of Ft. Lonesome is doing something similar with chain stitching, and we're actually doing a collaboration this summer where I'm picking really special vintage leather and denim pieces for her to work her magic on, and then they'll be available in the shop.
Tell us what you like to wear during the summer.
My summer has been all about not wearing makeup or washing my hair, so I've liked to wear big round sunglasses and lots of dry shampoo, with long shellac-ed nails so I still feel kind of polished. As for clothes, my uniform is usually a very short shirt and very short shorts, but I've also been loving really long, dyed silk slips and short Afghani and Indian cotton dresses, always with platform Kork Ease sandals from the 70's. I have them in four colors.
You've been having very successful art openings in the shop! What do you think makes a good art show?
The first step is just to have good art, and to find artists whose are taking their work really seriously and who I can get passionate about. The shop is my home away from home, so I don't usually offer someone a show unless I would be excited to have their art hanging in my house. There are so many talented people doing great work in Austin right now, it's been really exciting for me to interact with people in that community and give them a place to get their work off the computer screen and let people interact with it in person. Also, our building was an art gallery before we took over, and I think it came with some residual good art juju that we're hopefully adding to.
Can you tell us a little bit about the show you have coming up?
Our next artists are Caleb Owen Everett and Ryan Rhodes of the design duo LAND, and the opening reception is this Thursday the 24th from 7-10. I've admired their work for a long time, it feels sacred and mythological to me, like they're tapping into the iconography of an ancient religion, and I'm really thrilled to finally host a show for them. Plus, a few of the pieces are Ft. Lonesome collaborations, and I'm really excited to see those.
Who are the members of your "lady team" ( a selection of women - either cultural icons or close friends or both - that you inspire and motivate you)
Oh man, this list is long. There wasn't much happening on the east side when we opened up in 2010, but now there's a whole crop of amazing ladies with amazing businesses over here, and I'm super inspired by Mikaylah Bowman of Farewell Books, Veronica Ortuno of Las Cruxes, Amber Abramson of Busy-Being, Katie Friedman of Solid Gold, Jill, Jade, and Mercedes of Friends&Neighbors, Laura White-Uhlir of Olive, YOU (Jenny Mulder of Sister), and the other ladies running amazing vintage stores like Emily Hoover and Christina Simon of Feathers and Audrie San Miguel, Emily Larson Orth, and Sarah Evans of Prototype, Masha Poloskova of MOSS, not to mention my partners Allyson, Charlotte, and Johanna, and then all the talented photographers, models, hair stylists, and makeup artists that I'm lucky enough to shoot with like Katy Shayne, Jackie Lee Young, Ana Mercedes, Courtney Chavanell, Tamara Lichtenstein, Briana Purser, Dagny Piasecki,Alexandra Valenti, Kaiman Kazazian (also my awesome employee and I'm thankful for her everyday), Sara Skinner, Kathleen Carmichael... there's no way I could list everyone so I'm going to stop there. I'm not even going to get into all the other ladies outside of Austin. I know so many amazing women who are just killing it, who are creative and smart and engaged and passionate and creating really strong communities and I'm just really grateful that we all get to do it together.