Inside Blue’s Hard Goods

Tara Papanicolas, Andrew Nguyen and Dafna Steinberg. Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What inspired you to create Blue’s Hard Goods?
“Because of personal changes that happened to me last year, I decided I needed a change in my business life, as well. So starting last summer, I began to alter the interior of Rue 14. Vintage clothes have always been my preference in terms of style and fashion, so taking my own clothing business in that direction only seemed natural.” -Andrew Nguyen, owner
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Can you describe the three collections you carry in store?
“The separate collections complement each other in their differences. Tara likes the dark romance of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Dafna is all about the Southwest with a little bit of 1980s flare. I incorporate all those themes into my own collection. I am also very into bikers and motorcycle culture.” -AN
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
How did you come to collaborate with Dafna and Tara?
I’ve known Tara for about seven years. One day last year, she came into the shop and noticed the change. She told me about her idea to start a vintage store online, and I asked her if she was interested in collaborating with me.
Art has always been a passion of mine, and seeing Dafna’s re-creation of the Southwest in her collage work really inspired me. I invited her to create an installation because of my love for cowboys and the American West. I knew she sold vintage because I’d visited the DC Flea pop-up shop a couple of times. After she installed the pieces, I approached her about setting up shop.” -AN

Photograph by Lauren Joseph.

What inspires you?
“Everything. Everything I look at, touch, feel. Which is how the entire concept of Blue’s Hard Goods came about. I wanted to create a space where others could feel inspired. That’s why our tagline is “It’s not just a store. It’s a story.” We want people to leave not just having bought something, but having learned the history of what they bought, as well.
My daughter, Morgane, is my biggest inspiration. She inspires me every day to keep on going and doing what I love.” -AN
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
You specialize in high-quality denim. How did you get interested in that?
“Denim is the biggest and hottest fashion category. It never goes out of style. Everyone should own a pair that looks and feels great on them. Coming from the fashion industry, denim has always been a staple in my personal clothing collection. But within that, I never wanted to have just any kind of denim. I’m a huge supporter of American-made products. Unfortunately, a number of the well-known American denim brands are producing offshore. Interestingly enough, the Japanese have started reproducing American-style denim and are now one of the largest providers of fabric to high-end denim brands that make clothing in the US.” -AN
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
You carry only five sizes of each denim style. Why is that?
“One of the great things about having only five sizes is that you don’t have the whole city looking and wearing the same. It also gives our customers the satisfaction that they are getting something unique, which is one of the most valuable feelings when it comes to fashion.” -AN
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Tara Papanicolas
Name of her collection: Los Gitanos vintage
Describe Los Gitanos in 3 words:” Dark. Romantic. Well-traveled.”
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Why the name Los Gitanos?
“Los Gitanos means ‘gypsies’ in Spanish. Two of my aunts on my mother’s side—or my ‘gypsy aunts,’ as I call them—are huge travelers. One of them has traveled around the world. She had a boutique in Georgetown back in the ’80s, and I spent lot of time there. My aunts have always been a huge inspiration in my life. I’d like to think my collection is well traveled just as they are.” -TP
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What inspires you?
“When clients walk in the shop for the first time and comment on the decor. It’s inspiring to me when people understand my realm of creativity. They get it and that makes me happy.” -TP
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Describe your customer.
“My customer is one with an open mind, a bit eclectic but yet still classic. She is not afraid of change; she’s fearless.” -TP
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Which decades is your collection inspired by?
“The collection dates back to the 18th century. I have pieces on the racks anywhere from the early 1920s until the late 1970s. I try to stay within a particular period. If there is a piece from the ’70s that resembles the ’40s I will pick it! The walls of the shop are filled with Victorian pieces. Those are my babies and more for ‘show and tell.'” -TP
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Can people rent the clothing for a party or an event?
“Yes, you can rent from the collection! For a small percentage of the retail price you can pull pieces for, say, a ball, a wedding, or maybe just a night out. We have a rental contract at the shop, and pieces can be on loan for two to three days.” -TP
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What is your favorite piece in the store?
“One piece in particular is very special one—a Victorian dusty yellow silk chiffon dress. It was photographed on a model I styled a few years ago. She was very close to me, and she passed away in a tragic accident. It hangs on the wall in memory of her.” -TP
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Dafna Steinberg
Name of her collection: I Found That Vintage
Describe the style of your collection in three words: “1980s cowboy chic.”
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What inspires you?
“Can I say everything? There’s just so much. As an artist, I try to find inspiration everywhere. This influences not just my art, but my vintage line as well.” -DS
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What decades inspired your collection?
“I grew up during the ’80s and ’90s and the fashion from those days influenced my own personal style. The bright colors, the dramatic cuts—I can’t help myself when I go hunting for things. I end up with a lot of clothes in neon pinks and purples and with shoulder pads.
I am also inspired by a lot of the television programs that were popular back then. Shows like Murder, She Wrote, Dallas, and The Golden Girls have inspired my women’s collection. It’s also inspired by the Wild West. There’s something about Americana lore and legend that has always fascinated me: old Westerns, Native American folklore, etc. There’s also something very American about bikers. Think Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider.” -DS
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What about your menswear collection?
“For my menswear line, I definitely tend to gravitate toward clothes that could be worn by a man to whom I would be attracted. I joke that I basically want to date cowboys, bikers, and sailors. It’s why, in my inventory, I have a lot of cowboy shirts, rock T-shirts, and clothes with a fun-loving sensibility about them. In other words, clothes with personality to fit a guy with personality.” -DS
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
What are some of your favorite pieces in the store?
“Currently, there are a couple of cowgirl dresses I adore, some fringed leather jackets. There are also some men’s cowboy shirts, including one with a patchwork pattern, and a denim jacket with leather appliqués cut into the pattern of a man on a horse.” -DS
  Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Where do you scout most of your items?
“Everywhere. I travel quite often and every trip turns into a picking trip. I went on vacation to Paris last fall and ended up bringing back a huge duffel bag of clothes. Same with New Mexico in February. Traveling always leads to the most interesting pieces.” -DS
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
Who is your customer?
“Someone who likes to stand out in a crowd, or who likes to walk to the beat of their own drum.” -DS
Photograph by Lauren Joseph.
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