Good news for vintage fashion junkies: Shabbat Rusciolelli, clothing designer and owner of Nettle and Violet Vintage Store on Main Street in Rosendale, has opened a second location on the corner of Church and North Front street in New Paltz. Shoppers can expect to score classic-name gems of trends and fashion from Gunne Sax to Armani, as well as Rusciolelli’s newer, upcycled original designs.
“I love New Paltz’s lack of sprawl and colorful little streets full of one-of-a-kind shops,” she said. Rusciolelli recalled first landing in New Paltz in 2007 at age 22 with six-month-old twins and the exuberance she felt pushing her stroller along the colorful storefronts on the Village’s steep hills.
“When we first got here, we were so poor we couldn’t afford the tolls back down to New York City. We had to fill out IOU papers at every booth.” Rusciolelli said she sold clothing to vintage stores for gas money and then worked at the retail shop Groovy Blueberry until 2008, when her younger sister was killed in a car crash. As tragedy often shifts one’s life focus, Rusciolelli felt catalyzed into starting her own line of upcycled clothing that she sold on the street in front of 60 Main Street — now Bside Grill — and from her house while tending to her twin toddlers.
Rusciolelli sources the authentic and playful vibes of the creations by British clothes designer Vivienne Westwood as influential in her own work, explaining that Westwood’s commitment to being herself “while the business world rounds peoples’ edges” has resulted in a lack of originality and multiple versions of the same thing. Dries van Notten, Givenchy, Nanette Lepore, and Post-Soviet, well-structured European brand Flax (known for their self-affirming phrases printed on a tag inside every piece) are a few examples of the pragmatic, built-to last-classics hanging on Nettle and Violet’s racks. Rusciolelli says her philosophy is to dress for the party you want to go to. “Clothes are a form of art we each create everyday” Well-cut dresses, jackets and bags with tags from Mara Hoffman, Dolce and Gabbana, No 6 and more reside within the store.
Rusciolelli is intrigued by how strongly Japan influences American culture and forecasted the next fashion wave to hit the states will come from the East. “I see tonal, gender neutral, oversized pieces moving forward. Also the last 30 years we saw throwback fashions from the thirties to the nineties and I’m like….what’s next? It’s the Twenties again and I can’t wait for innovation.” Rusciolelli is certain that “fast-fashion and disposability” are out, believing the fashion industry does not want to continue the current level of waste. She points at large fashion houses looking to upcycled and reclaimed textile design, such as Eileen Fisher, Patagonia and Filson.
Rusciolelli’s backstory is as unique as her creations. She was born in an international traveling “hippies-for-Jesus free-love” cult called the Christ Brotherhood in Portland, Oregon. She was two years old in Mexico, three in Spain, four in the Canary Islands, with lots of stops in between. She entered the Israeli school system at the age of six once the cult ended and her parents became a “normal” nuclear family unit. She then lived in Minneapolis, New Mexico and then Brooklyn in 2003 at the age of 19, where she returned to her preteen enjoyment of altering clothing. Lacking a sewing machine, she challenged her skills and creativity by designing with a sharp pair of scissors. She later taught herself how to sew.
Allowing her upcycle designing skills to develop at their own pace, she sold her wares at the Rosendale Street Festival and other craft fairs, as well as the on artsy clothes racks in Rosendale’s Big Cheese gourmet deli and vintage shop. Rusciolelli was able to focus on balancing her other gifts as a singer/songwriter and working as a fabricator and designer of ceremonious garb and regalia for sacred spaces, such as Sundance and the Native American church.
The New Paltz store is the same, she added, only includes her rare finds and is also open for consignment by appointment. “Everyone should be able to get new fabulous things without creating waste and also know they can make money back on their gems. That’s why vintage is vintage…it doesn’t fall apart…people, decade after decade, fall in love and then pass it on. We’re really just borrowing everything anyway.”
Rusciolelli refers to her Rosendale and New Paltz shop locations as “love vortexes;” striving to create an atmosphere where one can “instantly be your whole self.” She encourages her shoppers to come in and “explore versions of themselves in a relaxed, colorful and expressive environment.”
Mariabella Rivera-Todaro of New Paltz, who heads up the local nonprofit Millions of Butterflies is a longtime fan and customer of Rusciolelli’s designs and taste in vintage pieces. “In [Rusciolelli’s] collections there’s something for everyone,” she said. “To try and describe it with one word would be too hard because they’re trendy, but not like they’re purposefully trendy, she is not following every fashion show rule but she definitely has her eye on them, she has a lot of variety.” Rivera-Todaro said that she has scored a cross-section of very classic, chic, modern stuff, as well as some hard-to-fine eclectic items.
Nettle and Violet is open Saturday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed Tuesday and Wednesday.