Rock Your Confidence and Style with Vintage Chic

 

Self-expression in the form of embracing the latest social trends such as fashion and music often limits us from truly being unique and different. Hilken Mancini is the epitome of individuality through her life’s passion as a punk rocker, thrift shopper, co-founder of Punk Rock Aerobics, purveyor of vintage chic clothing, and founder of Girls Rock Campaign. She fronted the Boston-based rock band, Fuzzy, in the 1990’s and developed an interest in thrifting for great finds at affordable prices during her free time while on tour. With a collection of fashionable treasure troves combined with the need to earn some cash, an opportunity arose for her to sell some of her finds in a small area of a men’s only thrift store, Gumshoe, before becoming the owner of the entire store renamed 40 South. Getting dropped from her record label, she decided to create an anti-exercise class, Punk Rock Aerobics, which led her to become passionate about rock camp. With this interest, Hilken traveled to Oregon during the summers to teach girls music at a rock camp where it serendipitously led her to find her business partner and founder, Nora Allen-Wiles, of Girls Rock Campaign Boston.


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                  Hilken Mancini, Owner of 40 South and Founder of Girls Rock Campaign 

Today, you will find Hilken inspiring and embracing self-expression through fashion at her carefully edited vintage boutique and music through the Girls Rock Campaign Boston both of which are located at 40 South Street in Jamaica Plain. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming display of rusted metal security shield on the windows with a big number 40 above the door. Once you walk in, you will find a hidden gem of fashion forward to classic pieces. In the back room is where the magic takes place with Girls Rock Campaign.

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Want to learn how to rock some confidence and style? Venture to Jamaica Plain to unearth some vintage and modern clothing and accessories at an affordable price, while supporting an economical and ecological lifestyle. At the same time, check out how their kick-ass non-profit, Girls Rock Campaign, that “empowers girls to believe in themselves by providing a supportive community that fosters self-expression, confidence, and collaboration through musical education and performance.” If you never had a chance to express yourself musically, the same organization runs Ladies Rock Camp Boston. Learn more about what inspires Hilken below.

40 South
40 South Street
617-522-5066
www.fortysouthst.com

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What inspired you to open your store? 

I was in a band called Fuzzy in the early 1990’s and I toured a lot. When you’re in a band, you don’t have a lot of money. You would get $10 to $15 for dinner and free time to go thrifting. I became inspired with the idea of discovering new things.

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This specific store was a men’s only vintage store that was never opened. The owner was my next-door neighbor, Otto, who became my friend. Otto gave me an opportunity to put a rack of women’s stuff on the side and he showed me the way around the business. I would continue my discovery of stuff, clean them up, and put them on the rack. Eventually, the neighbor moved on to work with higher-end apparel.

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What do you like best about owning a store?

Being completely independent. I also love clothing. When I find a vintage Pendleton dress, I get a high and endorphins are released. I love connecting people with the stuff and this is fun. When I had an important concert, I wanted to connect with the audience with the pieces that I found. I do have an Etsy store, but I like to connect with people more.

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Where do you source your clothes? 

The sourcing of the business is the hardest part. All vintage stores such as Oona’s and Artifaktori have their own ways of finding their inventory. I go thrifting, hunting for things anywhere, including from people who passed away.

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What makes your store unique?

I think every vintage store is unique. It’s because it’s mine and I find it and I put it out there. It’s my taste, my style, and my eye. When you have a store, you order pocket books from manufacturers, and it is your style but you did not make the piece. I find one piece for the store. Every person who has a vintage store has their own uniqueness in the way they source and find their items.

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How do you balance everything as a business woman?

I make it work even with a boyfriend, dog, a business, and an organization. I don’t have kids and this is my baby. I made that decision. 40 South is my first born and Girls Rock is my second born. I’m obsessed with both my store and organization, and think about them all the time. If I were to have a kid, I would have to give up one of my babies.

What inspires you?

People. I like helping people and I want them to look and feel good. That’s why I’m not good with e-commerce given the disconnect. I have an Etsy store, but there’s no connection with my customers there. Similarly with online, someone can buy my piece and I wouldn’t know who they are. E-commerce is cool, but it is unhumane. Women like to be nurtured, and I help them get there through my store and camp. Not having kids is probably why I nurture them.

What would you advise other women? 

I would tell girls and women not to compare themselves to anyone else. If you are looking to be like others and fit in, you have to remember that you have to be yourself and do it your own way.

How would you describe your store?

It is kind of trashy rock’n roll that has become classier throughout the years. Each piece is handpicked with a diverse collection of men and women’s clothing and accessories. My prices aren’t high because of that. I’m not a high-end vintage boutique. Since I come from a DIY and rock’n roll aesthetics, I will always find something and make it work with what I have.

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I have to keep the store fresh and up to style, and I’m always adding something new. Unlike unorganized thrift shops where clothes and household supplies were donated, I carefully curate, inspect, purchase, and clean the items before displaying the pieces in color-coded or styled specific sections of the store.

What is Girls Rock Campaign? 

I was doing punk rock aerobics in Portland, Oregon in 2000 at the original punk rock organization. While in Oregon, I met Nora, originally from Somerville, while smoking cigarettes, and we became smoking buds. Both Nora and I bonded. The second summer of the camp, we went out to lunch and said that someday we would do girls rock in Boston.  Several years passed and nothing ever unraveled from that conversation.  When I turned 40, my best friend, now Nora’s girlfriend, asked me now that I’m 40, where do I want to be. I said that I wished I could start a girl’s rock camp at which point I cried.  I told myself that I’m going to call that girl, Nora, and maybe she will move back to Boston and start a rock camp for girls with me. Both Nora and I were thinking of starting the camp, but we were scared to talk about it. On my 40th birthday, we did it.

IMG_4354                   Nora Allen-Wiles, Founder and Executive Director of Girls Rock Campaign

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