Perfect timing! My birthday falls on an uncertain and exciting time of year when things are changing winter on its way out and spring is moving in, one day its warm and the next it is cold, winter projects get wrapped up and the spring swing begins. So here I introduce to you my beloved project Modern Thrifter in the Old World . . .and myself of course, Gina Marie Pagnella.
Name tells it all Italian-American through and through, but please do not be alarmed. This will not be a sappy blog about me finding my old-world roots, sobbing, eating, falling in love, no . . .well . . . there may be some eating. What I will be sharing with the world is the part of my life I want to shout form the rooftops; my thrifting adventures and artisanal discoveries. The wonderful things I find, the quirky people I meet, material manifestations of the way things were.
I grew up in a small town in California very aware of my Italian-ness just to move to Italy where it was made very clear that I was NOT Italian and everybody knew it. I have now been here for way too long to call it an ‘experience’ as my mom would like, and can legally call myself Italian. I ended up settling in a town that is suspected to have a magnetic force buried in the sea in front of it that attracts the crazies. Makes sense. So if my writing or punctuation seems untamed and sometimes incorrect, blame it on the magnet, or just bilingual creativity.
As I am sure many people can relate to, I grew up mapping out garage sales on Sundays with the very select that would get up at dawn with me, you know who you are. If that wasn’t enough, we would go to the benefit shops that populated the main street in my hometown. It is hard to stop once you have started!
I have always loved the way things are laid out in a thrift shop. Dresses in one area, a basket of shoes in another, skates, belts hanging in a not-so-straight line next to the colorful neckties. Old displays and even older employees. The detail in the skilled hand stitching of vintage pieces, the elaborate tags, heavy fabric and bold patterns. No two things alike, and the excitement of what could surface after moving or picking something up. The stranger that thing is the more likely that no one had the guts to touch it and there is something really cool behind it! As I got older this passion became impossible to ignore as it manifested itself in all parts of my life, my home, work, and the inevitable, my closet.
Once I inherited my 1980 lipstick-red Volvo, I developed my ‘loop,’ spanning across 3 towns including Goodwill, Salvation Army, church shops, family owned second hand stores, etc. It took about all day and I have some of my most indelible pieces from my early adventures . I have naturally developed these thrift tracks everywhere I have spent a decent amount of my time in my life and always enjoy revisiting them.
So you can imagine where this is leading. Now that I live in Italy and have other European countries a cheap flight away, my loops have gotten bigger and much more interesting. I have gained confidence in open air markets, church shops, and second hand stores, memorizing their limited schedules and hours, getting to pat-on-the-back status with the vendors, know what they are good for and what I might find. Same goes with little hidden bottegas and artisans that make things exactly the way they were back in the day. I am ready to share this all. Document the beautiful familiar faces behind these crafts. Create a map that will preserve these relics of hand-made quality craftsmanship and timeless style, making them accessible to the world so you can help me keep them alive!