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Pin Up Queens turns hobby into new career

Giana Stanigar, along with her partner Jessica Fechner, opened Pin Up Queens, a vintage clothing shop, in Astoria last year. Photo by Bianca Fortis
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For Giana Stanigar, vintage clothing is about much more than style.

She and her business partner, Jessica Fechner, opened Pin Up Queens, 22-03 Astoria Blvd. in Astoria, aboutique featuring authentic vintage styles, in September 2012.

“I really enjoy connecting people with the pieces in the wardrobe that they’re going to treasure and keep forever,” Stanigar said. “Sometimes it’s like the ‘Missed Connections’ page on Craigslist in here.”

Stanigar began collecting vintage clothing when she was in junior high school in southern California, which had a strong vintage and rockabilly scene.

But her first exposure to fashion came from her family.

She had family members who were beaders for the Ice Capades in the 1940s, and her great-aunt worked as a pattern maker for a California couture label called Addie Masters.

She was drawn to vintage clothing because the garments are of higher quality than new clothing produced by “fast fashion” brands and allowed her to stand out from others.

Stanigar later moved to New York, where she worked in the corporate world, but she continued to collect and sell vintage clothing on the side.

After being laid off from her full-time job, she focused her energy on her online shop and found she made more money than at her previous job.

“I had to work 60 or 70 hours a week, though,” she said. “But it didn’t feel like work. I liked it.”

She said she wanted to open the brick and mortar store to become more invested in the neighborhood.

Stanigar met Fechner when she went to her studio to buy clothing from her.

Both had personal studios from which they sold clothing. Both were interested in opening up a brick and mortar shop.

“When I met her, it was like finding the missing piece of the puzzle,” Stanigar said about Fechner.

Stanigar and Fechner found the space for their business in Astoria close to where they both lived. They spent months renovating it and transformed the spot into a boutique for authentic vintage wares.

Stanigar is constantly on the lookout for pieces to resell, she said. She scours estate sales, antique malls, flea markets, barn sales and other vintage collectors.

She said vintage in the city is “picked over and overpriced,” so she prefers to look as far away from New York as she can get.

She even searches for items while she is on vacation.

“I will go to the ends of the earth looking for things,” she said.

Stanigar said she and Fechner keep contemporary trends as well as classic styles in mind while stocking the store.

Demand changes with current trends. The release of the movie “The Great Gatsby” as well as the TV series “Mad Men” both influenced what customers wanted.

From re-beading to removing difficult stains, both Stanigar and Fechner spend hours on garment restoration. Stanigar said she prefers to buy garments that are already in near-perfect condition, but will sometimes take a chance on something.

“Once in a while something comes along that breaks my heart so much I have to fix it regardless of how long it takes,” she said.

Stanigar said she finds it rewarding to find a new home for old pieces.

“Our memories get attached to the things that we wear,” she said. “I think that’s another reason I like vintage. It’s like the clothes have a past life, a history, a bit of energy about them.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 12:00 am, November 20, 2013
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