When every one of us pretty much owns everything, the product itself is not enough anymore, says Juho Pihlajaoja, the founder of Helsinki’s most distinctive vintage store, Variety.
“I couldn’t even open my phone without seeing Rihanna wearing a vintage band t-shirt, or Drake in second hand Stone Island. I started to see the change in how people were dressing. It was the change in the zeitgeist and in whole consuming, really. I just knew that there would be demand for well curated secondhand — even in Helsinki.”
It was around 2012 in New York when Juho Pihlajaoja, the founder of Variety second hand & vintage store got the idea to start selling curated vintage gear in Helsinki. When he recognised that even celebrities were in this phenomena, he became convinced vintage was just not for collectors anymore. It was the turning point when the attitudes towards buying second hand changed. It became something special. Pihlajaoja decided to sell his record collection, that he had been collecting since the age 12, and open the store.
Great style equals self-expression
Now in the beginning of the new millennium, more than ever, great style is about self expression. “The whole idea of being fashionable has changed. If you see a guy wearing the latest Balenciaga puffer and trainers, it might look pretty dowdy to be honest, but when you combine some exciting and unexpected elements to the mix, it makes the whole outfit look more interesting. I would love people having more courage in their styles. That’s what good look is all about: being confident in your own skin. That’s beautiful to me.”, Pihlajaoja thinks.
He believes in the bigger change in consumption of second hand fashion. And it has nothing to do with nostalgy. “We’ve gone a long way from wanting the same shirt everyone else is wearing too. Still 15-20 years ago, Finland was a very different country; only punks and goths were buying second hand clothes. That stigma has disappeared completely. People want to find something that looks like themselves. Something they can stand behind. The product itself is not enough anymore. When we all already pretty much own everything, no one needs more stuff in their lives. Pure consumption feels so utterly outdated, don’t you think? People want stories, experiences, something that feels like their own”, he says.
The ever changing Variety
The assortment of Variety is a great mix of vintage band shirts, designer archive pieces, army surplus and unique pieces like motocross trousers. “Who am I to say what people should wear or what is fashionable. There’s absolutely no logic in how I curate the clothes I sell. Variety is a supplement of my current hunch and feelings. I could wear every single piece here. Everything is pretty much unisex.”, Pihlajaoja says.
Variety has always been an extension of the mind of its owner. Juho Pihlajaoja never wanted Variety to be just a clothing store: “I aimed for the atmosphere of skateboard stores of my childhood. A place where you were always kind of dreaded to enter but yet it felt so enchanting, almost something mystical. I want the store to be something more than you can just see. People can come here, hang out and meet each other. We also arrange book launches, events, art performances, gigs... this is what the store has become organically.”
3 x Juho’s eternals
“I love band t-shirts. They are so much more than just t-shirts. They’re part of our cultural history. Just think when someone’s staple belt has left its marks on the hem. I still have the original Girl Mouse t-shirt that came with the first vhs. It's absolutely scattered.”
“Now when I think about it, I really like cotton … and Champion sweatshirts — the mother and the father of all sweatshirts accompanied by cultural references, through music videos and movies. Champion was one of the first sweatshirt manufacturers ever. These good old versions still had long welts and super dense and thick reverse weave material that no one can afford to produce these days. A true fashion icon”
“I like things that simply delight me. Things that have made a mark on our popular history. I like to explore and discover objects. It can be a Keith Haring’s Radiant Child yo-yo or Astro Boy-figure – one of the first Japanese manga characters. I found him lying on the street in Bangkok.“