Written by Noor Brara, March 17, 2016
Vintage curator Sami Miro is the next person you want to be friends with. A San Francisco native, she fell into fashion the way so many NorCal intellectuals seem to: By bringing her academic lineage and background in tech and entrepreneurship to L.A.
“I feel like I kind of did it backwards,” she says of her career trajectory, counting off the impressive master’s degree, international internships and brand building projects that preceded her fashion life. Well-aware of the fate of most L.A. hopefuls who start out with dreams and end up with desk jobs, Sami knew that “making it” was going to be a bit of a crapshoot.
“I like that I have something solid to fall back on,” she says, a little skeptical of her early success. “I mean, everybody wants to do fashion or music or acting, you know?”
Already an on-the-rise talent in the world of styling and vintage, Sami is refreshingly earnest, down-to-earth and passionate. Playing it cool is — quite coolly! — not her thing. When speaking of vintage, she talks about her early experiences in second-hand stores as though recalling a first-time meeting with a close friend. Following her shoot for Teen Vogue — which she styled, directed and produced herself— she sent over several raw images just because she was excited about how they had turned out.
On a typical day, Sami would describe both her style and schedule as atypical. “I wake up and usually check my email, which I know is not the answer you want,” she says, laughing. “But it varies day-to-day. Typically, there are some pretty cool collaboration opportunities I read through every morning; sometimes it’s styling and showcasing my personal vintage collection for editorial, sometimes it’s doing creative direction for other brands and styling their campaigns," she explains.
"I also enjoy styling personal clients — they’re all men, which I love, since I’ve always enjoyed interpreting men’s fashion. As the only girl in my family, it’s my go-to for inspiration. I’ve been wearing men’s shirts as dresses since I was 14 years old. Seriously, my style has not changed that much,” she jokes.
As offhand as she is about her extensive knowledge of vintage and the sartorial icons of yesteryear — “David Bowie really knew what he was doing,” she tells us — she takes her work very seriously, and chooses projects with conviction.
“I’m really picky about the people I choose to work with because I want the work to represent me, authentically. I want everything to tie back into vintage, because that’s the real me, and it’s always going to be the real me,” she says. “I don’t want anything to come my way because of superficial reasons, like who I’m with.” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s Zac Efron — though her relationship is probably the least impressive thing about Sami.)
From a guide to scouting vintage to general tips for girls in life and in love, read on for Sami's take on her incredibly cool life.
Teen Vogue: Your love of fashion began with discovering vintage at an early age. When did you start wearing it and what do you like about it?
Sami Miro: I grew up in a pretty wealthy, white neighborhood in San Francisco, but my family didn’t fit that mould at all — neither white nor wealthy. I grew up with kids driving fancy cars to school right when they turned 16, wearing high-end designer clothes. I couldn’t afford those things, so I really found vintage as an alternative means to be able to wear the same designers, but at a tenth of the price.
I eventually realized that vintage clothing is actually so much more special to me and has a sense of individuality that a new piece just doesn’t — I stopped caring about the brand part entirely. Now, it’s more about the wear and tear of an item, and how it has become what it couldn’t have been 20 years ago.
TV: What was the first piece you fell in love with?
SM: Lacoste polos! At the time, in high school, everyone was wearing those polo shirts and I found this rack of them for about $8 each. They had holes in them and the colors were all screwed up, but they still had the alligator, so I was like, “Alright this is cool!” [laughs]
TV: Your entry into fashion is, as you’ve said yourself, a little roundabout, since you’ve always loved it but studied marketing and global entrepreneurship in school. Tell us a little about how you got to where you are now.
SM: I think if you’re from San Francisco, you go on a path that’s pretty tech and business-oriented. My dad is an engineer and has a doctorate degree, my mom has been a professor of business for the last 20 years, and my brother is a Stanford Law graduate.
I wanted to be just like my family growing up, so I pursued a somewhat similar career at Santa Clara University, where I studied marketing. I went on to a really unique, incredible grad program afterwards, in global entrepreneurship, in which you spend a third of the time living and working in Barcelona and Taipei. That was really great because I got to experience what it was like working in America, Asia and Europe, across different markets.
After I graduated, I interned and worked in marketing and sales for a startup that grew to be a multi-million dollar company from just two dudes with an idea. I handled communication with all of our retailers as well, so I would do a lot of traveling, and worked with big companies like Apple.
I got really used to the traveling part, so one day, jut on a whim, I decided to move to L.A. I made friends with people who were trying to do the creative stuff — it made me realize that I had been suppressing my own creative instincts. I just knew if I didn’t start pursuing those interests right away, I would regret it. So now, it’s great to be able to combine my love of vintage with my business acumen. It really pushes me to combine the creative and more technical sides of what I’m trying to do, from styling and design to business, marketing, and press (all of which I handle on my own).
TV: What’s your work/life motto?
SM: Sometimes things you want are terrifying, but if you don’t just go for them, you’re going to look back on it one day and all you’ll remember is the chance you didn’t take, not really the fear part. You really have nothing to lose. That’s my motto for everything in life — I also tell this to my shy girlfriends when they have trouble expressing interest in a guy they like. What’s the worst that could happen? You tell someone you like them and they say they don’t like you? You’ll never see the guy again, you know? [laughs]
TV: Agree! For readers who have never shopped for vintage before, how do you suggest they get into it? It can be a little overwhelming walking into a vintage or second-hand store for the first time.
SM: It’s really exciting for me if I find a huge, messy place, but I totally understand that very few people feel that way. I suggest going in looking for a very specific thing. Whether it’s jeans or a vintage t-shirt or jacket, go in and start in that section. See if you can survive it. If you can, then walk around and explore, but as a starting point have only one thing in mind and look for that piece.
TV: What’s in your own closet?
SM: I have a pretty hefty closet, so I like to keep a large selection of things — what I’m feeling that day is going to determine what I want to wear. So it’s nice to be able to decide, like, “I’m in a boyish mood today,” and have go-to baggy clothes. There are definitely some pieces I incorporate more frequently though. Jackets and coats are definitely my favorite vintage items, especially coming from San Francisco where it’s layering season all year. Basically, my entire apartment is a closet and it’s gotten to the point where I’ll create little installations with my clothing and accessories because there’s no space in my actual closet.
TV: Do you have thoughts on vintage fur?
SM: I do. I’m really against wearing real fur — the treatment of animals is crazy and watching those videos will make you want to throw up and never wear fur again. Good quality vintage faux fur is hard to find because it’s pretty plastic-y and synthetic, but when you do find it, it can be great. The demand has increased for it now, too, and they’re finding ways to make it better and more affordable.
TV: Who are your style muses?
SM: I love old rocker guys from the '80s and '90s — David Bowie, back in the day, was always on point. It depends what time of year it is. I’m also pretty inspired by grandpas at the bus stop. They’re so swagged out. They don’t even know what they’re doing or why, but I think they’re great. [laughs]
TV: Fly grandpas at the bus stop, okay [laughs]. Finally, do you have any advice for readers hoping to join the industry?
SM: I think for every career path, you can’t half-ass — can I say that? — anything. You have to give it 110%, whether it’s an internship or an actual job, give them the same amount of time and attention. That’s another thing for people pursuing creative careers: Internships are everything. You learn what you don’t want to do, and your relationships are built early. Those can be hard to start to form later, so it’s great to develop a network as soon as possible. Work hard, do internships, learn to be good at representing yourself, and speak to people properly and with respect. Be curious!
Creative Director: Sami Miró
Stylist: Sami Miró
Photographer: Anouk Morgan
Makeup: Cherish Brooke Hill
Hair: Colleen Duffy & Daisy Ontiveros
Leather jacket look: Sami Miro Vintage (vintage leather jacket, vintage levis, vintage rhinestone high neck bathing suit); Office look: Sami Miro Vintage velvet dress and beret, Ferragni shoes; Faux fur jacket look: Sami Miro Vintage (vintage faux fur coat, vintage red gucci sweatshirt, vintage burgundy trousers); Leopard shorts look: Sami Miro Vintage bomber, GCDS bodysuit, Lazy Oaf shorts; Leopard jacket look: Sami Miro Vintage (Faux fur leopard coat, vintage tee, and custom denim skirt); Pink look: Sami Miro Vintage (70’s pink high neck dress w/ matching cropped trousers); All jewelry: Sami Miro Vintage