Austin’s Laissez Fair Vintage Market incorporates fashion and charity

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In a city full of farmers markets and artisans, some Austinites may not know about the booming vintage scene. So when Maria Oliveira found out that Austin lacked a market where vintage lovers could unite, she set out to bring the community together.

Oliveira moved to Austin in 2016 to pursue her dream of opening a storefront for her then-online vintage shop, Passport. In the spring of 2017, Oliveira, along with her business partners, started Laissez Fair, a market that draws thousands of people to shop for vintage jewelry and clothes. Besides helping Austin become more stylish, the fair also supports small businesses.

“We saw that there’s just so many vintage sellers that run their business online and mostly sell clothes that were looking for a place to express themselves,” Oliveira said.

The upcoming spring market will be held May 6, 11-4 p.m. at Space 24 Twenty. A year after its inception, the fourth Laissez Fair market has grown to attract around 1,500 people. The market’s name embodies an attitude of allowing everyone to find their own path. The name was coined by a co-owner of Passport.

“Laissez Faire matched the vibe of the event that we wanted,” Oliveira said. “It’s embodies the fun, easy event with community.”

Journalism sophomore Hanna Chung said she loves searching for vintage clothing, so when she heard about Laissez Fair on Facebook, she was excited to see so many vintage clothes in one place.

“It’s great having a platform for a vintage fair nearby campus with so many local stores,” Chung said. “I don’t have travel far to find quality vintage.”

As a Latina entrepreneur, Oliveira said she also uses Laissez Fair as a platform for activism and charity. Although the event is free, bar tips and donations have supported places such as Jolt, a local nonprofit, and Planned Parenthood. This year’s market will also include a voter registration booth.

“I’ve always been passionate about justice and I’m a co-owner of a fashion company, and at first it was like ‘how do I merge the two?’” Oliveira said. “Now it feels like it became a part of the brand, so it’s just natural.”

The vendors at Laissez Fair are also a part of Oliveira’s passion to give back and remember how she started. Oliveira said the vendors are selected to cater to varied price points, making vintage accessible to a wider demographic.

“What matters to me the most is that we can empower the vendors because they get to be at a really successful, busy market,” Oliveira said. “They’ll get a lot of attraction and hopefully they make tons of sales.”

Twenty-plus vendors will pack the venue, and even as the event continues to grow, Oliveira said they won’t expand the amount of vendors because it keeps the vibe intimate and special.

“We have had more vendors than space, but that’s really exciting so we can curate based on different styles and price points,” Oliveira said.

The influx of vendors and growth of the market wasn’t always like this. When Oliveira wanted to start Laissez Fair, she said many people didn’t take her seriously.

“A lot of people doubted that we could make a market that would have enough people come through, but I knew what I had to do to make the event successful,” Oliveira said. “We had several vendors say that they weren’t interested at all, and it’s funny because a lot of them want to participate now.”

Despite Laissez Fair’s success, Oliveira still wants the to stay true to what she envisioned — a gathering of vintage lovers and vendors.

“This is the best, most curated collection of vendors that is happening at one time,” Oliveira said. “Laissez Fair is just this incredible thing that happens a couple times of the year.”