A blast from the past: Twin Cities Vintage Fest celebrates sustainability, community and nostalgia

The festival on Oct. 2 highlighted the best of the 80s and 90s through fashion, toys, music and more.


Image by Alice Bennett

Customers shop at the Twin Cities Vintage Fest at Familia Skatepark on Saturday, Oct. 2. The Vintage Fest went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and featured clothes from the 80’s and 90’s.

by Macy Harder

As shoppers sporting biker shorts, baby tees and leather pants filed into Familia HQ Skatepark for Twin Cities Vintage Fest (TCVF), one thing was exceedingly clear: certain trends from decades past have withstood the test of time.

The festival on Oct. 2 commemorated the best of the 80s and 90s — over 50 vendors offered a curated selection of clothing, toys and other goods for those looking to expand their vintage collection. TCVF brought businesses and shoppers together to celebrate sustainability, tap into nostalgia and strengthen the Minneapolis vintage community.

The event was jam-packed with retro goodies and shoppers on the hunt for rare finds. TCVF is Minnesota’s largest 80s and 90s vintage event, and it’s much more than the average shopping experience — nestled beside the booths and clothing racks were food trucks, interactive photo backdrops inspired by 90s teenage bedrooms, a vintage arcade and a mobile record bus spinning vinyl all day to set the mood.

Sarah Emerson is a co-owner and marketing lead for TCVF. Emerson and her husband, Andy Emerson, own Green Threads Vintage, a clothing brand that specializes in vintage T-shirts, crewnecks and “grandma style” sweaters. When the chance to throw a vintage flea market came up, they jumped on the opportunity.

Sarah Emerson poses for a portrait in front of her shop at the Twin Cities Vintage Fest on Saturday, Oct. 2. Emerson is the owner of Green Threads Vintage and the co-owner and marketing lead of Twin Cities Vintage Fest. (Alice Bennett)

For Sarah, her interest in vintage clothing has various foundations. “I’ve always been a collector of trinkets and things that make me happy, and it eventually just sparked into clothing,” she said. “As a plus size person, I’ve always struggled finding vintage clothes in my size, then the 90s T-shirt movement came through and I could finally find clothes that fit me that were comfortable and cool.”

For younger generations, Sarah said she thinks the appeal of an 80s and 90s-themed event is rooted in the longing for an era before their time. “I think the 90s specifically is the last golden age before the internet,” she said. “It was very unplugged…it’s just that nostalgic feeling for a simpler time.”

For some, the condition of vintage clothes is also part of their appeal. “I like clothes when they’re aged and kind of ratty,” said Tony Zuchora-Walske, a shopper at the festival. “Like, you can tell it’s been around for awhile.”

But the large turnout at TCVF events goes beyond aesthetics. “I think there’s a huge movement for sustainable, eco-friendly anything,” Sarah said, “and vintage clothing is a great opportunity to find really unique pieces that are sustainable or secondhand.”

Sarah noted that bringing sustainable clothes to the masses plays a large role in what TCVF hopes to accomplish, and this is recognized by vendors and patrons alike.

Festival-goer Ethan Malenfant said that the sustainability of vintage clothes is important to them, in terms of how it compares to the practices of the fashion industry today. “I think that fast fashion now makes clothes a lot worse quality,” he said.

TCVF also works to support and strengthen the vintage community in Minneapolis. Sarah noted that renting a booth is much cheaper than a storefront, so the festival provides an entry opportunity for people who want to kick-start their business.

“It’s been crazy, I’ve watched people pay for college, pay off medical bills, all kinds of stuff from these and other events around town,” Sarah said.

Marissa Melhorn, owner of Guiltless Vintage, has experienced this impact firsthand having been a vendor at two TCVF events. “It helps me pay my rent, and it helps get exposure for my business,” she said.

Sarah describes the local vintage community as a family that TCVF wants to take care of. At the end of the day, they’re all connected through their love of old and vintage goods, and the festival provides a place for this connection to be fostered.

“When we come here, we all see each other and we meet each other,” Sarah said. “It’s been a magical thing, it really has.”