The TEll// By Thrift & Tell
Welcome to THE TELL//BY THRIFT & TELL: a celebration of fashionable women who dress as smart as they shop.
The week’s guest on THE TELL// is Nicki Clendening: interior designer, vintage curator, and flea market enthusiast. Whether she is designing a home, sourcing for Beetle, her vintage marketplace, or putting together an outfit, Nicki infuses everything she touches with personality. Her designs are not straight out of a catalog, rather they are bold, globally sourced pieces that tell a unique story. Her closet, of course, follows suit. As you will read below, Nicki gravitates towards one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, but also knows the power of a custom hat. (Note to self: invest in a custom hat.) Nicki’s dresses in a way that is cool, confident, and memorable. Her ability to fix a shirt “just so” is proof that style is innate. It’s like having a great voice- you either have it or you don’t. I should know: I can’t carry a tune!
I originally discovered Nicki through one of my favorite podcasts How to Decorate and, to this day, her interview remains one of my favorites. A woman after my own heart, she also the thrill of the hunt and travels the world to find one-of-a-kind pieces both for herself and for her clients. There is nothing better than a home that tells a story and Nicki uses these sourcing trips to create interiors that are welcoming yet distinct. With an eye for design, she dutifully sifts through flea markets, antique and thrift stores to find pieces with character and history.
It is such a treat to have Nicki be part of this series, and I look forward to hunting with Nicki in the future. Stay tuned!
//Your style in 3 words: Adventurous, authentic, & confident
//Staple Outfit: Vintage Levi’s, oversized white man’s long sleeve shirt (sleeves rolled and tied at waist), brogues and lots of jewelry!
//Style Icon(s): Anyone who dances to their own tune! Some women that embody that to me are: Maria Felix (the jewels alone!), Beryl Markham, Fleur Cowles, Iris Apfel, Lauren Hutton, Tilda Swinton, Daphne Guinness, Michele Lamy to name a few...
//Your First Big Purchase: A 1970’s Rolex
//Do You Still Have It? Yes, it reminds me to never waste time or take it for granted.
//Best Fashion Advice You Ever Received: It was from my mother and it was really more of a life lesson that she encouraged us to apply to our lives overall--be who you are and don’t care what others think. It gave me the freedom to be creative and take risks, be it with fashion or life in general.
//Types of clothing you invest in: Living in NYC for the past 18 years I would have to say I have learned to invest in great coats to survive the long winters.
//Types of clothing you save on: Swimsuits, but that is about to change! I’ve decided that it’s probably time at my age to invest in a suit that fits well.
//Your greatest extravagance: Jewelry, always!
//Brands That Will Stand the Test of Time: I think anything well made stands the test of time but some items I have in my closet and wear a lot are: Ferragamo’s classic Vara Bow Pump, vintage Fendi handbags, Bruno Magli heels, Yves St. Laurent jackets, vintage Armani pants, and vintage RL. I have a pair of beautiful RL leather shoes that are 26 years old; sister bought and wore for years and I wear them almost weekly.
//Favorite High-Low Brands to Mix: Because 99% of my wardrobe is vintage, everything is a mix of some kind. In recent years I’ve really stopped buying from brands that produce ‘fast fashion’ because even though they are cheap/fun sometimes, I believe it is better to have less than things you’re apt to part with after a season or two.
//Favorite Places to Shop Consignment: The Real Real is great fun (insomnia shopping).
//Favorite Places to Consign Your Own Closet: Can’t say I’ve ever consigned anything; when I’m done with something I tend to pass things along to others or donate to Housing Works in the city.
//Currently Collecting Dust in the Back of your Closet: A very fun, black cocktail dress from the 1980’s that has the most amazing off-the-shoulder neckline. It is so perfectly 80’s, which I generally don’t gravitate towards fashion wise, so I haven’t quite figured out where or how I might wear it yet.
//Your Closet Tried and Trues: A great pair of vintage Levi’s and vintage kimonos
//Most prized possession: Two things actually...a rose gold antique inspired necklace and a pair of gold snake earrings my family had made for me on two different birthdays.
//Best investment you ever made in your style: A good haircut (and custom made hats)!
//Style Choice From Your Past That Haunts You: Well, I grew up in the 80’s...so shoulder pads and big hair.
//“It seemed like a good idea at the time” a.k.a Purchase you most regret: That would probably be a car since I don’t spend a lot of money on fashion related purchases. I bought a 1983 450 SL convertible Mercedes when I lived in Charleston long ago that I had no business buying. It was a total money pit and I ended up parting with it only a few months after I got it.
//Closet From Which You Would Like to Borrow: Cleopatra, ha!
//Last Time You Splurged? A really exceptional Georgian-era diamond ring I saw in Florence, Italy last year that I walked away from but couldn’t stop thinking about. I got home and decided I had to have it.
//Currently Saving Your Pennies For: Generally I’m always saving for two things-art and travel.
//A Deal for the History Books/Your T&T Personal Best: Last year I stopped by a antique/junk shop in upstate S.C. near where I grew up and found the most amazing embroidered silk vintage coat that I think is from Uzbekistan. It didn’t have a price tag on it and when I took it to the shop owner he said he’d have to call someone to get a price. When he got off the phone he said “well, how about $5?” I said “SOLD!” I’ve worn it over jeans with a silk tank top, belted as a dress with gold wedding shoes I got in Marrakech, over a leather dress with heels...and on and on.
//Advice to someone looking to define their own style: I firmly believe that you have to figure out what you’re the most comfortable and happy wearing because there’s nothing more alluring than someone who’s confident in their style...no matter if they are a jeans and t-shirt or dressed-to-the-nines kind of person.
//Trend you wish would go way? I am not a huge fan of the off the shoulder/cut out shoulder trend. Or those huge, clunky tennis shoes that are currently all the rage.
//You feel great. What are you wearing? I’d say it is less about what I am wearing and more about how I’m feeling. Generally that means it’s the summer and I have some color, I’ve let my hair dry naturally which means it’s a bit wild & curly, bright red lipstick, and I’m probably wearing a really great vintage, white linen shirt dress that my sister bought me for $10 at a thrift store in Italy, with simple sandals, and lots of old turquoise jewelry.
//Occasions when you splurge: On a great custom hat! Once you have a hat made for you, there’s no going back.
//Occasions when you save: On workout clothes. I can’t bring myself to spend money on buying clothes to exercise in.
//Home Decor Style:If I had to sum it up in one word I would say global. Everything I own (with the exception of my sofa) has been purchased at a flea market or thrift store. I have a Belgium armoire from the early 1800’s, a beaded African chair, a dowry chest from Afghanistan, an antique Italian painted bed, a camel saddle from Egypt, embossed metal dining chairs from India, old rugs from just about everywhere, lamps from Morocco, and lots of art from all over the world.
//Favorite place to hunt for home decor: Flea markets and thrift stores!
//Go-to for unique items, whether it be clothing, accessories, home or art: My sister lives in Italy which has the most incredible thrift stores and antique markets so we do a lot of facetime/remote shopping together; and my mother lives in France and when I’m there in the summer we spend weekends driving all over the area to hunt at brocantes. In NYC I’ve been shopping the 25th Street flea market in Chelsea since I moved here almost 20 years ago; I have found so many amazing pieces from dealers there. The Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford is a summer-must on my list, as is going to Round Top, TX for the spring market (too hot to go in October). I’m also excited to go to the big flea market in Lambertville, NJ this summer as I hear it is great too! Housing Works in NYC, A Current Affair in LA and & NYC are also places I routinely shop and find great things. And if you’re looking for something really special fashion-wise, Marlene Wetherell at Showplace Antiques in NYC is a must. When I’m in LA, I shop Wertz Brothers for myself and for clients.
//Your fashion motto: Dress for yourself.
//Your life motto: Just say YES!
Fill in the blank:
//A woman should invest in- anything that brings her joy (and a great face cream). //You’re never too old to—try something new. //A woman can never have too much— jewelry//Bury me in- a great vintage caftan. // True or False: More is More- TRUE! //Fashion is- subjective (like most things in life). /Style: is being confident and comfortable in your own skin.
//Music: Afrocubism (Orchestra Baobab; Geoffrey Oryema; Bembeya Jazz National)
//Food: Anything fresh and vibrant! I make a lot of tomatillo salsa and eat it on everything...eggs, chicken, steak! And oysters, always.
//Drink: A citrus/black tea/spiced rum punch that I have been making by the bucket full and freezing so it has a slushy consistency when served. It is highly addictive!
//TV: Have never owned a TV but I love anything on PBS--especially “Chef’s Table”
//Designer: BSides denim
New York City-based interior designer Nicki Clendening's love of all things old began at an early age. Born into a family with a passion for art and antiques, she went to her first flea market at the age of eight and was hooked.
Whether shopping the fields at Round Top, Texas, picking up vintage french linens at a brocante in Bordeaux, buying antique jewelry in Italy, or discovering gems at flea markets in Los Angeles and New York, Nicki is always on the hunt for unique jewelry and interesting objects. With a keen eye for the unusual and the exotic, Beetle was born out of a desire to share her finds with others.