Vintage store owner’s Ponsonby rental filled with Japanese antiques and American biker

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Alison Reid is a photographer and designer. She is the proprietor of Search and Destroy on Ponsonby Road (previously called The Cross Street Market) specialising in vintage denim, rock’n’roll, French, Japanese and New Zealand workwear, vintage homewares and pottery. Reid fills her home with artefacts and artworks from her travels, and paints them with gold if they break. She has rented on College Hill, Ponsonby for 21 years. As told to Mikaela Wilkes.

I was flatting in Parnell with 13 other people, and I had to get out. In those days, rentals were advertised in the paper. I saw: Bach on College Hill. Cheap.

I turned up at 10am and met the most delightful mum and dad landlords. I took the little shack out the back. That was 21 years ago.

They have since sadly passed away, and their kids took over. They still come and collect the rent, which has hardly ever gone up, every Sunday. There are three dwellings on the property, and my partner and I now have one of the bigger ones.

Alison Reid describes her personal style as gender-neutral and nondescript. She likes beat up old leather jackets.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Alison Reid describes her personal style as gender-neutral and nondescript. She likes beat up old leather jackets.

Our neighbours are an Italian family and Allison​ Rothville, the owner of Vixen Vintage on K Rd.

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Pre-Covid, I would travel to Japan and San Francisco on buying trips.

I was trying to get around Japan as fast as possible, and allowed myself half an hour to browse shops in each city. I went to the “American Triangle” in Osaka, which stocks mostly American vintage. I found a French fishing bag, but the store owner was closing and turning off the lights. He asked for $1500-$2000.

I said that’s too much, took a blurry photo and left. I got back to Auckland and obsessed about it for the next year.

On my next trip, I went back and showed the shopkeeper my photo. He had put it away in a cupboard.

A French fishing bag bought from the “American Triangle” of shops in Osaka, one year after Reid first saw it.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

A French fishing bag bought from the “American Triangle” of shops in Osaka, one year after Reid first saw it.

I refuse to sell my antique textile baskets because they remind me of Japanese kindness.

I would catch the fast train, then an inland train to a farming village outside of Yokohama to get to this massive textiles market. I had one suitcase, which I filled pretty much instantly. I saw some baskets and could not fit them, so I put them on my head in 40-degree heat. A sweet stranger, who spoke no English, helped me carry them to the train and repackaged everything I had bought.

Japanese baskets from a massive textile market in a farming village outside of Yokohama.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Japanese baskets from a massive textile market in a farming village outside of Yokohama.

My goal is to collect a piece of pottery from each of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.

Potter Mark Goody is a friend of mine, who gifted me the Japanese pinch pot from Shigaraki, that sits on a 100-year-old woven Chinese stand.

The Japanese pottery in particular, is so beautifully and painstakingly crafted. A lot of these art forms have been passed down for generations. The care taken to produce these pieces is extraordinary.

I also like to take a textile home from every city I go to, to remind me of my travels.

A Japanese pinched pot, gifted to Reid by her friend Mark Goody.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

A Japanese pinched pot, gifted to Reid by her friend Mark Goody.

Antique Chinese rice paddy clogs from the Huan Province.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Antique Chinese rice paddy clogs from the Huan Province.

A piece of antique French pottery picked up at a San Franciscan fair.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

A piece of antique French pottery picked up at a San Franciscan fair.

If something breaks, I’ll glue it together.

Kintsugi is the Japanese skill of repairing broken pottery by putting lacquered gold over the crack. If something breaks, I kintsugi it, and then it’s a new piece. I’m pretty careful, but the cat has broken stuff before.

I think there is a natural, understated beauty in the simplicity of the Japanese aesthetic. The patina or specific wear and tear of a piece of clothing or an object is the evidence of a life, or even several lives, it once had. I’m deeply attracted to that.

My style is best described as gender-neutral nondescript.

I don’t like designer labels or embellished details. I like clothes plain and simple. For me, detail is added to a look with a wrap, a paint splatter, or a distressed feature of some sort. I would prefer to wear a garment with a history than something brand new.

Honestly though, I get more comments on my hair. I got nicknamed “crazy cat lady” because of it. There are about eight products I put in there every morning, and a lot of hair spray. I’ve worn it this way for so long that I don’t notice the weight.

Alison Reid’s personal wardrobe. Strangers don’t often comment on her distressed jeans because they’re too distracted by her big hair, she said.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Alison Reid’s personal wardrobe. Strangers don’t often comment on her distressed jeans because they’re too distracted by her big hair, she said.

The best advice I have for anyone really into vintage is go and talk to the shop owners.

There are lots of good ones on K Rd, and a handful on Ponsonby Rd.

Find out what kind of vintage you’re into. Are you a band T-shirt person? Or a vintage Ralph Lauren person? Or a French work-wear person? Talk to the person sourcing the things you like, and get a gauge from them on where to find the special pieces, and what they’re worth.

Reid and her partner rent one of three houses on a family property on College Hill in Ponsonby.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Reid and her partner rent one of three houses on a family property on College Hill in Ponsonby.

It’s interesting to me that chain stores like Glassons now have a vintage section. Because 10-15 years ago, the attitude was very much that only poor people went into op shops.

Now, people are more aware of fast fashion and the ethics associated with making new clothes. You could buy a new pair of jeans and they’ll f… out in a year, whereas vintage clothes were well-made and have lasted and will last.

Over the last 10-12 years, Reid has made contacts with vintage suppliers in various American and Japanese and European cities. She tells them what she’s looking for, and they send her product for the store direct.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Over the last 10-12 years, Reid has made contacts with vintage suppliers in various American and Japanese and European cities. She tells them what she’s looking for, and they send her product for the store direct.

I do almost no cooking.

I have good intentions, but no time.

The house was stark white when I moved in, and that wouldn’t do. A white house, to me, is the same as sleeping in the dark with no noise. Horrible. I’m constantly painting new colours over the old ones.

Old Japanese spice and herb jars found at an auction.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Old Japanese spice and herb jars found at an auction.

I have no idea of the provenance of my herb jars. I just loved the thought of someone trying to put that much rosemary in a pot, they make my heart sing. I couldn’t ever display a rectangle chopping board, I like the form of the round ones together.

The house was stark white when Reid moved in, and that wouldn’t do. She is constantly repainting all the walls and cupboards different colours.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

The house was stark white when Reid moved in, and that wouldn’t do. She is constantly repainting all the walls and cupboards different colours.

Alison Reid is Costume Designer for Auckland Theatre Company’s season of The Haka Party Incident by Katie Wolfe, returning to the ASB Waterfront Theatre 2-10 October, followed by a nationwide tour to Gisborne, Hastings, Nelson, Tauranga and Taranaki. atc.co.nz

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