Raxx Vintage West made no changes to the space they currently occupy on the corner of 37th and Walnut. There was no renovation, no paint job, and few pieces of furniture added—save for the necessary tables and racks for the merch. Honestly, if you stepped into the store for the first time without knowing what it was, you might have just assumed that American Apparel got way cooler. This is not, however, what happened. What happened was that American Apparel just got replaced by a way cooler store (Ed. note: Rest in peace, American Apparel).
The store is vibrant and filled. The right–side wall is lined all the way across with denim jackets and little piles of hats stacked on top of one another. The center is filled with racks of old varsity jackets, hot mom jeans, ripped jorts, baggy overalls, graphic button downs and tie dye. The t-shirts are color coded; the circle racks they hang on look like scoops of rainbow sherbet.
In the back left corner, there’s a section for fine art pieces done by local Philly artists. Right now, there are abstract paintings hanging, all bright colors and big brush strokes. The featured art and artists will be switching roughly once a month. “We wanna support Philly folk,” says Julie Winkler, one of the assistant directors. “We’re city–connected.” This is clear from just one lap around, as the store features tables from various other Philadelphia vendors and designers. Philly vintage brand Hoof & Antler holds a section for its well–known vintage home goods, and FRILLYGURL has a corner for its graphic feminist tees and whimsical dream catchers made of pink ribbon (amongst other things). RVW features a selection of Philadelphia jewelry artists as well; if you’re lucky, you might stumble upon the “JAWN” pendant next to one of their many bowls of pins.
It makes sense that Philadelphia culture is so heavily featured, given that the store started about 10 years ago in its South Street location. “It’s cool for us coming up from basically downtown,” Julie says, though she notes that being in the Penn location isn’t necessarily all that different. “Philadelphia people are Philadelphia people.” Still, the store is thrilled about the recent influx of students and have been getting positive feedback so far. When college kids walk in for the first time, the excitement is visible on their faces; many people can be overheard remarking on how much better this place is than American Apparel (Ed. note: Again, RIP).
Because of the size of the store, it feels neat despite the hodgepodge of items. It’s organized chaos.
“It was fun for us to have the space to play with,” says Julie. Their items hold each other together; stacks of vintage prints cover a vintage table, a vintage bowl is filled with vintage window charms – a sparkly vintage soup. The wide layout and huge volume of merchandise invite exploration. People don’t just move methodically and boredly peruse – they wander.
Penn students are involved with the store as more than just consumers, too. Angel Chapman (‘19) is a member of the RVW staff herself; she gets to add to the vibes from the other side of the counter. But if you want to work there, “You’re gonna steam a lot,” Julie warns. Both of these women and the rest of the staff clean, steam, and mend every piece of merchandise. The merch itself is hand-picked by managers from a wholesale vintage warehouse in Frankfort. According to Julie, anyone hired to staff is required to have an honest interest in the industry and in vintage clothing itself. If she and Angel are any indication, this is true.
RVW will be here at the corner of 37th and Walnut through January, but as of now, the store is technically pop—up; after January, there’s no guarantee that it will stay. Depending on how business goes, University City might be lucky enough to have it for longer, but until that’s for sure, you should definitely check it out before it’s too late.