Meet Joanne Gambale: vintage stylist and sustainable fashion enthusiast
From her eclectic home in Sydney’s inner west, vintage stylist and personal shopper Joanne Gambale runs her business Slogue: dedicated to helping her clients get their fashion mojo back and embrace vintage and sustainable fashion choices.
The colourful and fun Jo is a regular contributor to Vogue magazine and the former chief sub editor at Vogue Living.
From her beautiful home that she shares with her husband and two daughters, Jo shared with me what she loves about vintage fashion and treasures, and how much she likes to help others find their own personal style and relationship with vintage and pre-loved clothing.
Read my interview below and you can also watch her in action in this Instagram TV video filmed at her home in which she shares some key fashion tips and tricks with vintage clothing.
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I had the great pleasure of interviewing @joannegambale about her vintage styling business Slogue. Jo, a Vogue magazine contributor, is passionate about vintage and sustainable fashion choices. She now helps other women to find their own vintage vibe, revamp their look and rethink their approach to fashion with some creative tips. #vintagetravelkat #vintagefashion #joannegambale #Slogue #sustainablefashion #vintagestylist #vintagetips #vintagedresser
How did you first get into vintage and second-hand fashion? How old were you and do you remember that one item that first got you hooked?
I grew up broke! Mum made half our clothes and we op-shopped the rest. The only time I minded was when my rich bestie had a stonewashed denim jacket in 1988 and mum dragged me round the op shops of Sheffield, north England, only to find a 70s jacket (not yet ‘vintage’, and not cool to my mind) that had conveniently been splashed with bleach in one place!! “That’ll do!” said mum as I rolled my eyes and wore it anyway. I got hooked on vintage for real a few years later. I was about 15 and loved wearing bits of 60s with my grunge while watching my drummer boyfriend in his band Little Miss Strange!
Can you tell us a bit more about Slogue and what drove you to launch this business?
I should have followed my instincts and done this years ago, so now I’m going at full speed to make up for lost time! My interest in fashion grew every decade and by the time I’d had two kids and was close to 40 I felt I’d finally found my ‘thang’, clothes wise: a lot of vintage from various eras, a bit of simple modern, and I knew all the shapes, styles, colours that suited me in a way I hadn’t before. I’d get comments every single day, mostly from other mums who seemed to think I was unusual in the way I put myself together. It occurred to me last year, as I read Clare Press’s Wardrobe Crisis, that I could do something to help educate people – especially women my age – by showing them how to avoid fast fashion, fast trends, cheap shit, impulse buys… and how to wear what they already have, how to op-shop, shop vintage and style it for everyday life. That last bit is my favourite: I want to see more women (especially 40 something mums) having fun with their image and taking care of themselves too.
What services do you provide to your customers through Slogue and what can customers expect?
I offer a two-hour in-person session at my studio where the client brings a suitcase of clothes they want to wear more often, plus their core pieces like jeans, and we have a lot of fun trying on new combinations they’d never thought of, but also trying on pieces that I’ve sourced for them (I’m building good relationships with vintage dealers) or ones I have in my own, growing collection. We play with ideas and I share my styling concepts and remind the client of all their assets and encourage them to try new things. We come up with a shopping list and I follow up by sending links to online finds that fulfil that list. More clients are booking in follow up sessions now for some vintage shopping and more trying on. I keep the cost accessible so it’s possible to build the relationship session by session. You see, shopping and styling slow fashion is of course not a quick-fix process!
I started an online version when Covid kicked off and had a few sessions with a client in New York, who still sends me pictures of her wearing outfits I came up with. It was fruitful finding great vintage in New York’s online community!
What are the biggest misconceptions do you find that people often have towards vintage clothing?
That it’s just ‘old stuff’; they don’t see the value of longevity and of stories told and of the beauty of ageing. Also, that if you wear a piece from one era you must style it as prescribed by that era’s mode. Fine if you’re a vintage purist, but not at all necessary. My favourite vintage looks don’t represent one era – and don’t particularly look vintage – just original.
Which era of clothing or particular items do you love to work with the most?
If we’re talking for contemporary wear, I couldn’t choose one era, I’d choose a mix. If I had to choose one (at gunpoint!) it would be the 30s. The sailor tops and high-waist pants and drapey gowns and delicate fabric. In a mix I’d pair it with masculine early 90s. I do have core items that I source again and again for myself and clients; the 60s wool kilt, the 80s leather A-line or full midi skirt, the 30s kimono-robe, the 50s broderie anglaise blouse, the 70s Hawaiian barkcloth and pussy bow blouse – the list goes on!!
For anyone new to vintage fashion and quietly curious, what advice do you have for them on how to start incorporating vintage clothing into their wardrobes?
Only wear one overtly vintage piece per outfit to begin, make it a top and wear it with jeans and flats. It might be a 70s blouse or 80s lurex knit, which looks kooky on the hanger but can be styled really simply for a quieter statement. That’s ultra modern too, mixing high and low. Gradually you might dare to layer but my preference is layering with various eras. Then again, if this someone new is keen to do the rockabilly look, or pure punk, then who am I to argue?? It’s all wonderful really, because it goes against the mass of beige.
After interacting with Slogue, what do you observe in your customers in terms of their vintage and fashion journey and their confidence? What type of feedback have you received that puts a spring in your step and reaffirms your commitment to Slogue and vintage in general?
Women of my vintage – especially mums – don’t like to be super visible, which breaks my heart. Often because their bodies have changed since babies, and I think in general there’s a lot of judgement around mums putting too much effort into their appearance. But I see what I call the ‘Slogue strut’ after a few successful try-ons; the moment they realise they’re still super cute and relatively young and goddamn they can have fun getting dressed and getting compliments. One client told me I was like her therapist after one session, another that she’d made friends with ‘cool mums’ the first day she wore Slogue to school pick-up. I’ve made a couple cry, but I think in a positive way! I have a spring in my step every day at the moment because I’ve truly found my calling.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of shopping vintage and pre-loved?
The circular nature means it’s the most sustainable way to shop, so we can do it guilt free. It allows you to be way more creative and to stick up the middle finger at the fat-cat corporates who think they can tell us what to wear, it’s waaaay more fun if you know what you’re doing – and of course it’s cheaper, which means you can focus on good quality secondhand (high end labels included) for long-term wearing.
What do you see the future of the fashion industry looking like, say in 10 or 20 years – for both mainstream and the pre-loved market?
I’ll give you my utopia: only the mainstream brands and labels that seriously adapt to sustainable and ethical practises will survive but be shrunken, the best designers will bring out no more than two micro collections per year, done as intimate shows for an online audience, ‘fast fashion’ will be obsolete, the mass markets will be secondhand and the money and new business opportunities will be in repairs, maintenance, upcycling, trading all the millions of great secondhand garments and of course styling – because how else can the Average navigate a giant preloved market? I think there’ll be loads of stylists making the purchasing of clothes an interactive, considered and creative process.
Do you personally collect any one type of vintage item and if so, what is it? Is there one vintage item that you own that you’ll absolutely never part with?
I love coats. It’s crazy because I’m not in London anymore, I’m in sweaty Sydney, but I still love coats. I’ve managed to adapt to lighter versions like vintage blazers now, and the addiction is getting bad again. As for that one item I’ll never part with, a 1920s beaded collar that you can clip on over anything. It is the most beautiful thing and I intend to wear it with a crew neck vintage t-shirt this summer.