With her electric pink hair and head-to-toe retro ensembles, Samantha Kuntz is a walking billboard for her business. The LA native and former buyer for ModCloth recently launched her own app Whurl, which acts as a go-between for vintage vendors and shoppers. Those hunting for specific items can post photos to their board, and then sellers can show their similar wares in response. It's pretty much the opposite of Ebay.
After a brief stint living in Oakland, Kuntz (and her adorable corgi Georgie) are back here in her beloved hometown, where in addition to continuing to hone her app, she's been teaming up with some our city's best vintage sellers to host cool pop-ups.
We chatted up the true-blue California girl as she enjoyed one of her fave healthy treats at Highland Park's Berry Bowl (a pink superfood bowl that identically matched her hair, of course), where she expanded upon why she's careful not to tell you what to wear, what's on her Whurl board (spoiler: it's a pink, crocheted poodle toiled paper cozy), and the thing that makes her instantly pull over to pose for a pic.
What are you drinking today?
I'm eating a Paradise Bowl actually. It's prickly pear fruit, pineapple, mango, raspberries, coconut water, and orange juice topped with granola, strawberries, kiwi, and coconut shavings. I drink juice sometimes but I prefer to have my fruit resemble ice cream as much as possible.
First thing's first. Where do you get your hair done?
This is such a secret! Because I'm an entrepreneur and completely self-funding my own business right now, spending money on hair is just something I can't get myself to do. Because of that, I found out that you can go to Paul Mitchell Hair School and get your hair done super cheap, and really well. I have a girl there I go to religiously now. You get paired up with someone randomly, and when I got paired up with her I was already like "Okay this girl looks amazing," and then we started talking and she tells me she wants to open a vintage hair salon. I'm like, "Oh my god! I love vintage. I actually have this app!" She says, "Actually I know who you are, I follow you." So it was a perfect match.
When you're not Whurl-ing, where are your go-to vintage shops around town?
I like Painted Bird in Silver Lake. They have really good prices and a good selection. I mainly go to flea markets, to be completely honest. I would say [Pasadena City College] is my #1 flea market, though I know it might be controversial to say that Rose Bowl is not the #1. At PCC I could go every month and not see the same stuff. It's also free and it's inside of a parking structure so it's never too hot.
Also, at the suggestion of [Cooking Channel personality] Georgia Hardstark, I went to Ozzie Dots last week for the first time in a while and was like mmhmm yeah, this is some good stuff! Obviously my aesthetic can be...well I don't feel out of place in a costume store! So going there was nice. I got this crazy hot pink floral jumpsuit and a green and brown houndstooth dress.
And another thing I will say is that I tend to drive outside of LA a lot for vintage. I like to go to Orange County, but I don't want to give too many tips away there! But I'm not afraid to leave LA and I think that's part of what I love about California in general. It's like, you can live in this place and have your whole life and your center here but you can also drive 30 minutes and be in a completely different world. And that's a constant weekend hobby. Me and my boyfriend are much more likely to be driving an hour away to explore than to go to Silver Lake to go shopping.
What are the best haunts in LA for retro vibes?
One place that I really like going, but don't get there often, is Hidden Treasures in Topanga because, first of all, you're walking up to a pirate ship. Topanga in general is such a magical place, it's like a fictional world. It's definitely one of those places that has differing prices. Some things are a little higher, but it's more about the selection and ambiance.
My favorite antique mall of all time is the Orange Circle Antique Mall in Orange. Inside is a booth that is literally like Sally Draper's bedroom. I think they even supplied things for the show. It's called Area 52 Vintage and a very exciting moment for me was when they recently became a seller on Whurl! I really value when people commit to an aesthetic. Having the kind of passion for vintage that they do is something I admire so much. You can tell just from looking at this booth that they have been constantly collecting and just are really, really inspired and intrigued by this time period.
Top spot for taking great Instagrams?
If I'm being completely honest I'd have to say my house. I have such a collection at this point. Or, when I'm out and about what I find most inspiring is seeing vintage cars. I wouldn't say I'm an enthusiast, because I'm not knowledgeable enough, but I'll be like, "Oh my god that's a Nash Metropolitan! I need to take a picture!" And of course anything palm tree related. I think mid-century houses and vintage cars and palm trees; I really love the feeling of a vintage California vibe.
Best LA food destination?
My favorite place to eat in all of LA is Hama Sushi in Little Tokyo. It is by far and away the best sushi and I will state that very undisputed fact! I don't think I've ever had Hama's salmon sashimi without almost welling up with tears at how fresh and soft and buttery it is. There's always at least a 10 minute wait, but conveniently two doors down is Pop Killer, which has a few racks of vintage. So it's fun go to and poke around in there while you wait for your table. There's also a Daiso nearby and then Cafe Dulce for coffee and Fruity Pebble donuts after.
Other than Whurl, what apps do you use most?
My friend Elsie [of A Beautiful Mess] just launched a brand new photo editing app called A Color Story. I actually helped her with the beta testing process before it launched, which was really exciting for me because as a fellow app owner it's cool to get to see that process from someone else's perspective. Before that I never used photo editing apps because I didn't think that I needed them and falsely thought they change the look of a photo too extremely. But with A Color Story you can shift the levels around a lot and the photos still end up looking natural. I can even use it when I'm posting clothing to sell on Whurl! It helps if I'm running behind and losing natural light or need to brighten up a print on a dress. Other than that I use Waze while driving around LA. It's also a great way to accidentally explore new neighborhoods.
Most overrated trend?
Everything I'm thinking would sound anti-woman and I just can't do that. Everyone's experience is unique and that's the thing that excites me most about fashion. The thing that bothers me most is the idea that everyone has to dress a certain way and that's hard for people who look at that and wish they could wear certain things and can't or people who are wearing things because they think that they should and they're uncomfortable. I dress for myself and I hope that other people do the same. If someone walks down the street and I'm disgusted by what they're wearing, that's none of their business and none of my business.
After leaving my job at ModCloth, I was looking for other things and felt so uninspired. I didn't want to work somewhere where I tell people what to wear. I just hate that. I hate the idea of taking young women who are so malleable and only becoming more malleable because of the culture we live in and telling them what they should and shouldn't wear. That's not for me to decide. On Whurl girls are constantly inspiring each other but it's not like a tell-you-what-you-have-to-wear kinda thing. It's just, "I want one of those too!" They're all just connecting on it.