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Nasty Gal's Vintage Buyer on Scoring Killer Retro Kicks in LA

Photo via Nasty Gal
Photo via Nasty Gal

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Before Nasty Gal was a must-stop for futuristic apparel and accessories, the booming LA-based e-tailer was a vintage eBay store. Founder Sophia Amoruso keeps those retro roots alive by maintaining a dedicated category on the site for nostalgic shoppers.

Filled with throwback must-haves like Moschino moto jackets and Versace miniskirts, NG's crazy-good curation can be credited to Liz Franczak, the company's star vintage buyer. A true retro footwear fiend, Franczak sat down with us to reveal her secrets to shopping heirloom-worthy shoes in our city.

What vintage shoe styles are the most coveted?
"Almost everyone I know is always looking for the perfect pair of vintage boots. Actually, most people can never buy enough! Everything from '90s ankle boots, lace-up roper boots, '70s motorcycle boots, well-worn Doc Martens—it never ends. Vintage designer shoes will always be on everyone's radar, especially Versace and Chanel. Gianni made some of the coolest motorcycle boots with heavy gold hardware. And Chanel, well, it's Chanel."

When's the best time to scavenge for vintage shoes?
"All the time! Seriously, it takes dedication. You'll have to be willing to look through a lot of regrettable Charles David strappy sandals (unless that's your thing, no judgment) in order to find the perfect '90s Manolos."

Who has a better selection of styles: flea markets or vintage stores?
"It depends on what you are looking for. Flea markets will have more options, so if you're looking for Doc Martens or patterned Converse, you'll probably be able to find about 30 pairs at the Rose Bowl to choose from and at a cheap price. But, the quality tends to be a bit rougher; you'll mostly likely have to spend some money getting them re-soled. The good thing about vintage stores, particularly buy-sell-trade stores, is that someone has already done the picking for you, so you are more likely to find better quality items. However, these come at a higher price and they tend to be pretty picked over. Chances are, there's a couple of other people looking for the exact same thing you are. So, it's a trade-off."

Is Goodwill a good place to score footwear treasures?
"Goodwill is hit or miss. It depends on location. The Goodwill in Los Feliz isn't going to have the most amazing stuff because it's right around the corner from three vintage stores and is on a major strip. You're going to have better luck going to a Goodwill or a Salvation Army out in the middle of nowhere. Not going to reveal any secrets, but there are some pretty major thrift spots out in the Valley."

How should you clean/refresh your vintage shoes once you buy them?
"I tend to err on the more liberal side of this question: I just put them right on. I mean, I also tend not to purchase super-worn vintage shoes. But, if you do find the perfect pair and they are not in ready-to-wear condition, take them to your shoe guy and have them re-sole them and add new heel taps. They will most likely buff and shine them free of charge, so they will come back completely and totally re-born."

What is your most treasured vintage pair and where did you score them?
"I have a pair of '80s Gianni Versace motorcycle boots that are very near and dear to my heart. They have huge, gold Medusa medallions on them and chain boot straps—they're super intense! I haven't worn them in years, but I love them. I also have like five pairs of Chanel ballet flats that need to be brought back from the dead via my shoe guy (if I ever get around to it). And I definitely had a Carrie Bradshaw moment when I found the original Manolo mary-janes."
· Nasty Gal [Official Site]
· Nasty Gal's Sick Spring Swimwear Makes a Futuristic Splash [Racked]
· Christos Garkinos' Guide to Shopping Men's Shoes Like a Pro [Racked]
· Topshop's Shoe Specialist On LA Shoppers and the Best Boots [Racked]