Today we’d like to introduce you to Saida Carter.
Hi Saida, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In 2018, Saida Carter launched ERA Vintage, bringing together her interest in fashion, vintage, style and art as well as her experience in literature and design to create a business that would celebrate freedom of expression and a sustainable retail experience of the future. She spent years organizing, shopping and dreaming of being a business owner before taking the first steps. In 2019, Jillian French began as a model, soon turned partner and stylist due to her passion for fashion. Together they form ERA Vintage, a small business with a big vision that focuses on pre-loved, handpicked, unique items with precise styling. Saida was an educator for 14 years prior to transitioning into fashion. She went from an English teacher to winning Teacher of the District (HISD) and a Curriculum Writer. During her tenure, she was always quoted as being one of the most stylish teachers by administrators and students. She often stretched what it meant to show up entirely as yourself versus what a traditional teacher looked like. This was nothing new as she’d always questioned certain rules and ‘dress codes.’ She felt it was imperative to fully express herself in order to remain authentic to who she was. She wanted to grow and stretch herself into another space. So she began exploring the history of how style and clothing told stories and connected and expressed beliefs and ideas in ways that language sometimes lacked. Her love for literature, style, expression and individuality bubbled into the creation of ERA, which stands for Everyday. Repurposed. Apparel., as well as the clothing of various eras. She figured all those years teaching, motivating and inspiring students to go after their dreams; it’s time that she did the same. She woke up one day and became a full-time business owner. Since then, ERA has received tons of love, support and many donations.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Let’s say that I thought the challenge of transitioning careers and leaving the consistency of a salary and dedicated insurance was riddled with anxiety. But that toppled with being a new business owner without a business degree and the looming pandemic might’ve been a struggle. I’m living with the belief that this rocky road could possibly lead to a smooth destination if I remain steadfast and consistent. It’s been a very introspective journey. I didn’t expect being a business owner would be this way but it really forces you to see yourself and ask deeper questions about your purpose. It requires that you maintain a vision and an unshakeable belief in yourself at times. If you are not careful, you can start comparing yourself, your path and your business to someone else’s. As it relates to the business, there’s often a struggle with advertising in such saturated markets, so we’re constantly keeping things fun, learning new social media strategies and apps. And when the pandemic hit, it made us shift our language around selling and we became overly conscious of people and their predicaments. And everyone knows that sometimes businesses and corporations can come off to be money hungry and without feelings. So we did lots of games and giveaways to brighten peoples’ days during the pandemic.
It’s funny because we sell pre-loved and vintage clothes and accessories. Sometimes, people are not familiar with what that means and will often ask when we are getting more of a specific thing. That is sometimes a challenge when you think about other boutiques that sell multiples of one thing and look for that same service. We try to remind our customers that you are getting the most amazing, hand-picked, unique, one of a kind items. Not many people will have the same outfit as you. That’s something that sticks in the back of our minds, like should we just be a boutique-like most people. But then we go back to our purpose and the reason we started. We loved unique finds. We love vintage patterns, fabrics and the stories that they tell. We appreciate contributing in part to preserving the earth as much as we can. We go back again and again to the 5 R’s of fashion – Reduce, Repair, Recycle, Repurpose, and Reinvent.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
ERA Vintage was built on the premise of handpicking and selling vintage and vintage-inspired items from various eras to reduce waste and increase style. We specialize in reworking and upcycling thrifted and vintage items into modern pieces but still telling a story. We are known for our bursts of color, dress code-breaking, and maximalist approach to style. One thing we’re known for is styling our clothes to give our customers ideas and to show them that we can look like any fashion runway and save the planet at the same time. We are most proud of the community that we’ve built since our launch. It’s really exciting to hear reviews from our customers about packaging, clothing quality and fast shipping. It’s even cooler to build relationships with customers and listen to them. They’ve helped our business grow. We are self-taught designers and learned to sew and create in a very short period of time. We’ve created several editorial styled commercials that we are extremely proud of that rivals some of our high fashion established brands. We’ve styled and consulted organizations, photoshoots, and performances this year. We’ve collaborated with different artists and models to keep our ideas fresh and ever-evolving. We created a new family of people in the midst of our introverted ways. Our company is black-owned and women-owned. We exist to rethink who controls what dictates fashion. We believe in body positivity and empowerment. Our mission is to be a platform for bridging yesterday’s throwaways into the future of rethinking fashion.
Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
One of ERA’s goals is to be a platform for bridging yesterday’s throwaways into the future of rethinking fashion. There’s a Ghanaian symbol called Sankofa which means to go back to the past and bring forward that which is useful. Going forward, we want to create educational courses about sustainability in the fashion industry and how our decisions affect our future. It’s is my dream to own a brick and mortar in Mid Houston as well as maintain the e-commerce business. I think ERA’s future is much larger than the clothing itself. And having a physical location, we can design, organize, connect, and have photoshoots, classes and create a fun, safe space for style and sustainable clothing. I am interested in seeing our clothes enter social and political conversations.
Over the next 5-10 years, I’d like to see ERA host a major Sustainable Fashion Week in Houston that will someday rival New York, London and Paris Fashion Week. I’d like to see how that message reverberates around the world and people know and understand how fast fashion affects our communities. How are we rethinking the future of fashion to benefit everyone? ERA will be more involved in the local community. This year we’d planned a Prom Dress Drive for the seniors to receive donated prom dresses. While we collected a few dresses, we were unable to continue due to Covid 19 and school restrictions. Lack of money should never interfere with anyone not being able to show up to one of their most memorable moments. We plan to make this happen as soon as we’re over the pandemic. Along with the students, we want to find a way to connect with women shelters and nursing homes to hear their stories, style them and do photoshoots with them. In the future, ERA will have a full team: stylist, designer, scouter, videographer, photographer, make-up artist, set designer, and models to continue the vision of rethinking fashion.