When Layla Shapiro and Emma Harris decided to embark on the journey of opening their first store, RATSTAR, it wasn’t without years of hard work and experience. The pair would spend every day driving around Los Angeles looking to score the best vintage clothing and accessories that weren’t only quality products but extensions of their unique personalities. After selling vintage clothing online, Harris and Shapiro were well equipped to take this operation to new levels, even if they were intimidated at first. Thankfully, they had a serendipitous experience opening their first store, thanks in part to finding a space that was a blank slate for them to curate however they wanted, their harmonious working relationship and their commitment to creating one-of-a-kind experiences and a welcoming atmosphere.

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The duo is open about the fact that they will not carry anything in their store that they wouldn’t wear themselves. They’re also on a mission to keep sustainability a major factor in all of their operations. Fed up with trends and the negative sides of fast fashion, the pair are leading the charge in the next generation of vintage clothing as young, forward-thinking curators in an industry that’s often oversaturated and in desperate need of new and compelling voices. The space is also a home to foster the local arts culture, as they regularly will have DJ performances, designer pop-ups and artist installations. RATSTAR is a space where you are encouraged to be yourself, spend time and become part of the community they are helping to cultivate.

What inspired you to create this space? 

EMMA HARRIS: We wanted to make the store an experience and not just a store. A lot of my friends have said that it’s very much like our homes. It’s very us. Once we saw the space and saw that it was an all-white room, we knew we had to paint it all black, even the floors.

LAYLA SHAPIRO: It was really spontaneous and last minute, but there hasn’t been a moment where one person wants this and one wants that or any arguing. Once we saw the all-white room, we were like, “Perfect.” [Laughs.]

The vintage pieces you carry are just as good as new high-fashion products because it’s so well curated, and there’s this element of sustainability with what you do. Would you agree? 

HARRIS: I think both of us only buy secondhand unless it is designer. I think fast fashion is doing big damage to this planet, and honestly, they are just copying old things, so if you can find the actual old thing, that’s so much better. 

What kind of music do you play at the store? 

SHAPIRO: I like to play Creed, Nickelback and Deftones. Those are my top three. I’ve also been listening to the new Corbin album on repeat.

HARRIS: I like the Cranberries [and] Ethel Cain. I play her all the time in the store, but I also love playing early 2000s pop punk like Pierce The Veil and Good Charlotte

How long has the store been open, and what was the process like getting it set up? 

SHAPIRO: It’s been open for one week. It started with us in our car thrifting all day and just putting shit on Depop, but [we] figured that we should just open our own store. The next day, we went on Craigslist to find a retail space because I had no idea how to rent a space, but it was easier than we thought. When we first started posting the store on TikTok, everyone was like, “Oh, they have rich parents and just got a loan,” but we paid for this ourselves. I want people to know that this is totally affordable, and though we put thousands of dollars of our own money, everything in here was thrifted, and we did everything DIY ourselves with some friends, down to the painting and decorating. People should know that it is totally attainable to have a store if you want to do that shit.

HARRIS: We did not hire one person to do anything. Even my boyfriend did all of the construction work. We didn’t have to buy any new clothes since we thrifted everything, and we made it affordable. If you think about it like that, you can definitely do it.

I feel like we need more spaces like yours in the vintage clothing industry because you are the next generation. You have a unique take on things and aren’t following trends.

SHAPIRO: We definitely do not follow trends. Emma and I have similar styles, but also very opposite, but we do not put anything in this store that we wouldn’t wear. We honestly started this store because we’re addicted to shopping. [Laughs.]

HARRIS: We just want people to feel at home. We want people to come and chill, be themselves, wear whatever they want and dress however they want. We have it all.

What does 2022 look like now that the store is finally open? 

SHAPIRO: We want to have a lot of events here. We have so many friends who are artists and want to put on for them. I want to DJ here. We want to do pop-up tattoo stuff and have our friends who are designers take over the store for a weekend and have their stuff in here.

When you go out thrifting, what are your favorite things to look for? 

HARRIS: Anything from the ’90s. If I can tell from the tag that it is from the ’90s, I’m like, “Wow, this is so good.” I also love vintage slips and dresses, anything with lace or silk.

SHAPIRO: Anything leopard just fucks me up. If it’s a velvet, soft leopard coat, I try to keep one for myself and the rest for the store. I also just love a really good vintage band T-shirt with the soft cotton that was washed so much and some holes — you know the material. [Laughs.]

This interview first appeared in issue #402 (22 for ’22), available here.