Snake Q&A 016: Kathleen Sorbara/Chickees Vintage
Russian ballet, Tokyo shrine market, a Craigslist love letter, brutalist sconces, Henry Miller
Now at Snake: Every other Friday or so a free interview with a person in good standing of the newsletter whose taste in vintage, furniture, collectibles and adjacent fields is worth celebrating and learning from. Sellers, buyers, set decorators, artists, adjacents, etc…
Here’s the 16th…
Kathleen is one of the biggest hustlers I’ve ever met and it all shows up in the work; the Chickee’s men’s store is heightened, elegant and fresh, the women’s store is shoulder to shoulder with most anywhere else… together the two have a part in how vintage has been elevated into something quite refined, literary and understated these last couple years. Below her heightened taste…
Fav flea market?
The shrine markets in Tokyo. One of the best feelings about my job is that calm before-sunrise moment, at the flea market, no matter where you are in the world. Nothing like rummaging through junk with like-minded junk rummagers. That feeling hits a little differently in Tokyo, though. Feels otherworldly.
Best flea market day ever—what did you get?
A few years back, I was at a flea market and someone was clearing out this insane estate — it was as if a French grandma’s boudoir had exploded. Really unique textiles, lace and early 20th century slips were in that buy.
Best eBay purchase?
This creamy John Coltrane tee with a big illustration of his face, underneath it reads, “I would like to be a saint.”
Best Craigslist find?
This antique beveled edge mirror that hangs above my stove now. I purchased it from a woman in New Jersey who inherited it from her best friend who had passed earlier in the year. Our text exchange was so sweet. After I texted her a picture of the mirror hung up she shared a little history about her friend and passed along the sentiment that she would have been so thrilled that it ended up in a good home.
[Oh, Kathleen, I am so pleased. It looks great (how did you affix/hang it on brick?). My late girlfriend would so so thrilled, as am I. Many, many thanks for sharing this photo and for giving the mirror a good, hip Brooklyn home. My girlfriend was born and raised on Rockaway Parkway, a building in a section of Brooklyn that was largely populated by immigrant Russian Jews (like my girlfriend’s parents) in the 1910s-1960s. Stay well, Holly]
Best LiveAuctioneers find?
The girls were FREAKING over Joan Didion’s estate. Her personal shell collection? Hello? (https://www.bidsquare.com/online-auctions/stair-galleries/group-of-shells-and-beach-pebbles-4176242) Everything felt so understated— I loved her white slip covered sofas.
IG seller account you hang out on/look at their stuff the most?
Thing you most regret passing on?
This 1998 Kusama poster from an estate sale in LA:
And in 2020, I found these Felipe Delfinger brutalist sconces for the store, and the package was stolen out of my apartment building’s hallway. The items that get lost in transit always sting.
Best thing you got for insanely cheap?
This wild American Ballet Theatre 1984 shirt from a three week tour that they did in Japan. I paid $19 on eBay. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1984/11/03/the-light-fantastic/46716f7b-4f3a-46a7-8515-6c6edc4a9589/)
Best thing you overpaid for?
A copy of Henry Miller’s “To Paint is to Love Again.”
Favorite piece of furniture you own?
I worked with Ellen Cooper (@ellenecooper) to make Japanese style Noren curtains for my home. My railroad-style apartment doesn’t have any doors and I wanted something to separate my bedroom and my kitchen. The fabric I used was sourced upstate— the curtains were made from antique Japanese boro cloth.
What’s one thing you own that you won’t ever sell?
My banged-up big gold hoops from my grandma— she wore them for probably 30 years and I drunkenly coaxed her into giving them to me at happy hour the last time I was home. I love them. They make me feel sexy and beautiful.
Piece you have now that you despise and want to replace?
We have some pretty standard Uline racks at the men’s store. I’m currently working with Ryan Jones on making some simplistic clothing racks to replace them.
Who do you think sold more records: Nelly Furtado or Three 6 Mafia?
Secret spot that you love but won’t tell anyone about? (please describe as judiciously as possible while omitting any identifiable characteristics)
I don’t have a relationship with this person anymore, but I used to go to this archivist’s home and dig through piles of clothes all over his loft. He would buy full estates and let me rummage through the things he didn’t want anymore. He has the most exquisite taste and style— we’d spend hours chatting about different corners of culture while digging through the craziest relics I’ve ever seen. Some of my favorite personal vintage items are from him. The vintage game is so emotional.
Rarest/most canon vintage thing you have but never wear?
I have this chocolatey 1930s crochet dress that I honestly want to be buried in, here’s a Tiktok of me trying it on.
Most jealousy-inducing thing you’ve seen? (e.g. I saw a guy in Foremost jeans once in 2012 and I’ve never gotten over it)
Recently a friend posted a picture in an old, fucked up Townes van Zandt T-shirt and I was pretty jealous.
Favorite Russian novelist?
How about favorite Russian ballet dancer? I’m better equipped for that answer. Maya Plisetskaya.
Is there a field of collecting are you looking to get into in the near future? (Furniture era/paper/autographs/stamps/model trains/computer shirts/90s Harley shirts/digital watches/lighters/slot cars/faberge eggs/Amish quilts etc)
Rare records and Italian couches
What’s the item that’s been on your watchlist the longest without you having pulled the trigger?
French costume illustrations by Georges Lepape, published in 1927. I rented an Airbnb for an editorial photoshoot for the shop in 2018 (don’t tell anyone) and she had all of these Georges Lepape illustrations all over her house— I did an eBay deep dive after that rental. He illustrated for Vogue in the early 20th century, but also collaborated with the French theater for costume and set designs, as pictured in this book, which kill me. His colors feel so ahead of his time.
Is the best vintage/furniture online or in the wild?
Depends on what you’re looking for…
Has all the cool shit been discovered? (Yes or no answer only)
Any vintage accounts you want to rep or boost? Furniture? (feel free to include local spots)
Bonus content for fools who read all the way to the bottom:
Items ending this weekend:
Stoppino nesting tables $225 NJ (red, obvious, amazing, ideal)
Fussell PINK stacking drawers, pair, $375, NJ (never seen these before ever)
A dozen Bellini chairs, $6,000, Fl. (nuff said)
Two duck calls, $50, Mich (auction that’s all duck calls and decoys—not bad)
Signed Mangiarotti Saffo lamp, 475, Mass. (breathtaking…)