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Maegan Hayward Does 'Art Through Vintage'

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

The owner of East Village Vintage Collective talks about her love of vintage and dealing with the coronavirus as a local retailer in NYC.

Photo: Michaela Zee

While isolating herself in her East Village apartment, Maegan Hayward recalled an ensemble she wore in the ’90s that was supposedly for her homecoming dance. In reality, she used the event as an excuse to purchase a new outfit.

“I wore a crushed velvet Betsey Johnson dress with platform shoes, and then a choker that had a cameo hanging from it. And I remember a few years back when all of sudden, people started walking into the store and wearing that and I was like, ‘It’s official, I’m old,’” Hayward explained over the phone. “It’s still weird to watch [trends] come back around. But I think that’s one of the cool things about vintage, and watching what eras become popular again.”

As the co-founder and owner of East Village Vintage Collective (EVVC), located at 545 E 12th St., Hayward has curated her love of vintage fashion and pop culture into one cohesive storefront stocked with women’s, men’s and kid’s clothes and accessories (plus toys and housewares). She opened her brick-and-mortar store in 2015 with the intention of owning a business that offers affordable vintage in the exorbitant environment of New York City retail.

“I’ve always been into thrifting and vintage my whole life,” she said. “I love that every piece is different, and the treasure hunting of it, and finding something so unique and hard-to-find.”

Born-and-raised in Florida, Hayward considers her father her main influence for her passion of thrift-shopping. The pair would frequent flea markets together when she was a child, with her father constantly “picking treasures out of the trash.” This continual exposure to antiquated items motivated Hayward to sell vintage pieces of her own on Ebay. Eventually, these online sales funded a portion of her move to New York City in 2004.

“I saw the movie Desperately Seeking Susan, and it always made me want to move to [New York],” Hayward said. “There’s a vintage store [Love Saves the Day] in that movie that was actually very inspiring to me, and was still open here when I moved here. I always loved the feeling that that store had, and the feeling the East Village had — it felt like a real neighborhood.”

Before opening East Village Vintage Collective in 2015, Hayward worked within multiple departments in the entertainment industry, including post-production sound and advertising. Although she viewed this as a side career, she ended up working in film and television for over a decade in New York City, but still maintained her devotion to vintage fashion through her first online business, Red’s Vintage Threads.

“I was the C.O.O at [Soundtrack], so I commandeered an office there and had all my vintage clothes kind-of shoved in the office and started [Red’s Vintage Threads] there online.”

In the eclectic, hipster neighborhood of the East Village, Hayward lived directly above a vacant storefront for over a year. Unfulfilled by her current job, she decided to take the plunge and develop a pop-up store with friends and fellow vintage sellers, including Melanie Ön and Claire Marston (thus the term, “collective”). Although several of these co-founders eventually went on to commit to other obligations, Hayward had one ambition in mind for her career: She reached out to her landlord to make East Village Vintage Collective a permanent residence.

For the past five years, Hayward has been the multitasker and driving force behind this vintage boutique. From photographing items for their online platform to sourcing new pieces for the store, Hayward’s routine is always unpredictable. “A typical day is that there’s no typical day,” Hayward chuckled.

Everyday, a plethora of customers and potential sellers enter EVVC; some come to shop, while others simply have conversations with Hayward and her employees. Hayward even considers EVVC the “neighborhood therapist” or a “bar with no alcohol.”

“I think what [EVVC] does is bring a fun, curated collection of vintage to shoppers for an affordable price, and keeps merchandise turning over quickly so there is always something new to see,” said Alex Carpenter, Hayward’s business partner and companion. “We live in the neighborhood and want all small businesses to thrive so that the East Village stays being the neighborhood we love.”

Besides her enthusiasm towards secondhand fashion, Hayward also collaborates with local artists and musicians, including selling their merchandise or displaying their work within the boutique.

“I’ve always been a big fan of art and music, so we try to incorporate those things into the store whenever we can,” she said.

Hayward enjoys supporting the arts through various mediums, and even co-hosts a YouTube show with Alex Carpenter called, Vintage Fashion Advice You’re Welcome (#VFAYW).

“Maegan is inspiring to me all the time in the way she so adeptly turns her great ideas into reality,” Carpenter said. “I love the challenge of editing together all the crazy ideas that get thrown out there, like making a time machine animation, or having someone shrink down and drive off in a pink Barbie convertible.”

For EVVC’s latest project, entitled Art Through Vintage, Hayward sends vintage garments from the store to local artists, where they embellish their signature mark onto the fabric. These customized pieces are then auctioned off on Ebay, with proceeds split 50-50 between the two entities.

“[EVVC] gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted to [their] shoes. I figured we’re all New Yorkers so the coffee cup just seemed to make sense,” said artist Elizabeth Saloka (a.k.a Betty Rubble) about her first collaboration for Art Through Vintage. “I have [also] spoken with them about collaborating on a line [of] Pop Art can purses.”

Last January, Hayward announced the expansion of EVVC by unveiling a second location in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida.

“Part of why we did that is so that we could see family more often, but also travel up-and-down the east coast and find more affordable treasures and stick with the philosophy — which is to have a more affordable vintage store,” she said.

However, in these unprecedented times due to the coronavirus, East Village Vintage Collective has halted to a temporary standstill in the past few months. In March, Hayward was forced to close both her New York and Florida locations due to lockdowns on “non-essential” businesses. As a local retail owner, Hayward’s storefronts are her primary source of income, making it a daunting time for her when it comes to rent payments and other finances.

“When you have a business in New York City, a lot of the time you’re not focusing so much on your online sales necessarily — you have a lot of foot traffic coming through,” she explained. “It’s hard to stay afloat. You know, you’re working hard for very little and when something like this happens, everyone’s scrambling.”

Hayward still lives directly above EVVC, allowing her to check-in on the store and its neighboring retail properties. As a member of the Local Merchants Association, she has attempted to seek out information about financial aid for local businesses, including grants versus loans.

“A lot of what they’ve offered in New York so far to small businesses has just been a loan, and nobody wants to take out a loan — especially in this current state of the economy,” she said. “But I also don’t want to not pay my rent and screw my landlords at either location.”

Carpenter also remarked that these “financial relief programs are still a total mess,” and are contributing to the “continued uncertainty of everything.”

Although Hayward cannot welcome customers at this time, she still updates the store’s website and Instagram profile in hopes of alleviating her stress about revenue. However, her online sales are not as consistent in comparison to her storefront sales.

“What would be nice of Instagram to do right now for small businesses is to make everybody who is a small business have the ‘swipe-up’ feature,” Hayward explained. The “swipe-up” feature directs viewers to the user’s desired link they’ve attached to their Instagram story, such as their store website. This tool is only offered to profiles with more than 10,000 followers, though, which for local stores like EVVC — which only has approximately 4,700 followers — can be difficult to achieve.

“The easier you can make it for somebody to buy something, the more likely they are to buy it,” she continued. “A lot of shopping when it comes to clothes is about more of an impulse.”

The uncertainties about the COVID-19 crisis and the state of retail lingers, and yet Hayward is maintaining an optimistic outlook. She is directing her energy towards her collaborations, like Art Through Vintage, to support herself and local NYC artists, as well as updating her inventory for her vintage store. In the end, Hayward is determined to keep East Village Vintage Collective afloat.

“I’m trying to think about the future,” she said. “You know, everybody’s dealing with the fact that we feel like we’re in the middle of a sci-fi movie. Who’d ever thought that this is something that would happen here? Let’s just hope that out of all the craziness comes some kind of good changes, even if it takes a while.”

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