Meet Sasha from Astral Boutique!

Get a big cup of tea or whiskey (good morning!)–this is a nice long interview with one of my favorite ladies, Sasha Soukup from vintage shop, Astral Boutique. Sasha is someone that I have so much in common with it makes my head spin. I’m also shaking my fists a little at the universe for not letting me meet this awesome lady sooner–it really seems like we should have met when we were teenagers. Happily, I got to meet her a little while back and had a lovely Thai food and gin-rose-lemonade picnic in a pretty old Portland cemetery. I can’t tell you how rare it is to meet someone else with the same vein of music obsessive disorder AND a massive love for vintage at the same time! I look forward to hanging out with this lovely lady more in November and for years to come. She’s a rainbow! Keep up with Sasha: Astral BoutiqueAstral BlogTwitterFacebook and make sure to listen to her band, The Horoscopes!

Do you have actual dreams that involve your business?
All the time. The other night I dreamt that I ate part of a shoe that a customer had already ordered. I didn’t know how I was going to explain it to them. I thought about modifying it into a sandal. (Let’s not analyze this too deeply, okay?)

♡ A Sweet Deal ♡
Use Code: HONEY10 for 10% OFF at Astral Boutique! Now thru 11/30/11!


Sasha and her mister, Chris, making the scene in Reno.

How do you unwind?
I listen to the Spacemen 3, I go for long walks on our local trail, I stretch, I dance around the house, and most importantly of all I watch Gossip Girl. If I am really wound up, the way I settle down is to write fiction. (editor’s note: it’s really strange how much Sasha and I have in common.)

#1 dream vacation?
I would like to participate in a real kava-kava ceremony on the island of Vanuatu. I feel like, in a former life, I was some kind of artist/adventurer who went feral in the South Pacific. I have a strange connection with that part of the world that I haven’t developed at all, though I dream about it a lot.

I also really, really want to go to Mexico City. I have heard it is the most artistic city in the world.

What’s your sign?
Sun in Scorpio, Moon in Aquarius, Capricorn rising, Mercury in Scorpio, Venus in Sagittarius. (That was off the top of my head… WHAT A HIPPIE.) (editor’s note: I’m Sun in Cancer, Moon in Taurus, Leo rising, Mercury in Sagittarius, Venus in Libra, Mars in Aries :D )

#1 pet peeve?
Man-made lakes. CREEPY!

Tell us something people don’t already know about you.
I used to be a goth. (See photos for evidence).

Who is your style icon?
A lot of my personal style comes from children’s book illustrations…. Arthur Rackham’s heroines and especially his elf and fairy girls have been with me since I was itty bitty. I recently realized that Ozma of Oz (illustrated by John R. Neill) is imprinted on me very deeply (I made my own Ozma costume for Halloween when I was 9). I love all the amazing starlets of the Ziegfeld Follies, the scandalous Gold Rush entertainer Lola Montez, Isadora Duncan, and the Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit.

I also like color, a lot, so I love Cyndi Lauper and the 80s English band Fuzzbox and Japanese street style. On the gothic side, I think Simon Gallup in the 80s had the best hair ever (I used to model my hair after his), and I pretty much copied Siouxsie Sioux’s makeup line for line back in the day.

The Cure Fan Club in Toronto. (Sasha is in green--Chris is in the parka.)

My most current style icon is my friend Toni (who now lives in Colorado and runs Moonchild Vintage on Etsy). She is the most stylish woman that I have ever met! I feel like she is a living painting.

Current snack of choice? Current fave restaurant?
I have a current obsession with that honey flavored Greek yogurt. I put it on everything. I know it’s not actually “healthy”, but don’t talk to me about that. I love the Sugarplum Cafe in Sacramento. It’s a vegan restaurant—I am not a vegan, but I am allergic to eggs, so they’ve got my number. Their red velvet cupcakes are to die for. Also, Bows and Arrows in Sacramento, which is a vintage clothing shop, recently expanded to include a kick-ass restaurant, bar, and gourmet popsicle stand.

What’s your poison? Current cocktail or soft drink of choice?
The Gin Buck: ginger beer (the strong kind) and gin with a dash of lime.

Hello, Miss Zazou.

Where do you live? What is it like?
Grass Valley, California- it’s a small city in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. We have several wild acres as our “backyard” and I get to have close encounters with the local deer during my photo shoots. We live in an unusual community in that it is a kind of artist’s colony mixed with (super hick) descendants of the Gold Rush era miners and, more recently, a wave of retirees. It’s a strange scene downtown on a Saturday night. I have actually seen someone ride their horse to the bar.

Where are you from?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area (San Ramon—which is in the East Bay) and lived in San Francisco and the East Bay for most of my life. Escaping the city for the country is a cliched dream of the artist in the urban environment, and when we picked up and moved to the sticks, we honestly thought we were paving the way for all of our friends in San Francisco. After absolutely no one had joined us a few years into our “experiment”, we kind of sat down and realized—OH, MY GOD we actually live here now! At the time we both worked local jobs, and we didn’t even have the means to go back even if we wanted to. That’s when we started to build our local community in earnest.

It is a total paradise here in the warm part of the year—it’s the winters that are hard, at 3,000 feet. But now we are spoiled for peace and quiet and a swimming in a pristine river all summer long, and I am not sure we can ever re-enter “civilization”. (editor’s note: this isn’t going to stop me from trying to get them to move to Portland!)

Do you collect some specific things for your own home?
Our place is pretty small, so most of the collections get nipped in the bud…. although I have a total weakness for late 1960s Japanese-made big-eyed sculptures and dolls. It has been pointed out that my house is full of big eyes. I don’t know exactly what that says about me. Chris (my hunny) collects trolls. He has a lot of trolls. When our friends with kids come over, they go crazy. (editor’s note: good crazy or bad crazy??)

The walls have eyes. Big eyes.

What are your fantasy design scores for your home and closet right now?
I am currently obsessed with lights- we live in a “tree hole” that is pretty shady all winter long, so ambient indoor lighting is a must. I am obsessed with these lamps on Etsy: Buddleia of Suburbia Handmade Lampshade, Deer Nightlight, Hanging String Light Sphere, Hyphae Lamp and this Claylight Pendant Lamp.

For my closet… I really need a great pair of winter boots. I am lusting after knee-high lace-up campus boots. I also want a winter romper (long sleeved, made of wool- if one exists, I don’t know about it, so I am going to have my friend who is a seamstress make me one), winter shorts made from upcycled vintage sweaters, and thick cable knit tights. I wear tights 24/7 all winter long!

What do you regret NOT buying that one time?
Hmmmmm. This one pair of knee high brown riding boots that was at Nordstrom a few years back. Of course they were the most expensive ones in the whole shoe department. They were actually on a pedestal. Still–why was I being so moral that day? I regret.

Any vintage shopping pro tips?
Don’t judge a piece of clothing on the rack or in the context of a dingy thrift store/yard sale. Some of my very favorite pieces looked like nothing when I first saw them. Go for good fabrics, flattering cuts and colors, and find the styles/eras that work for your body and your lifestyle and stick with them.

Porcelain goth dollies going to prom!

What designers do you admire?
I don’t really follow high fashion that much, but I like early Yves St. Laurent, John Galliano, and Anna Sui. Basically, I park myself in the International Magazine store’s fashion section in Sacramento once a month and speed read until my eyes are spinning… that’s how I do my modern fashion homework.

I am always excited about I Heart Norwegian Wood’s designs and I Heart Fink!

Dream concert. Living or dead, Top 5 bands who are playing for you.
The Cure, The Cult (Electric era), Spacemen 3, Serge Gainsbourg (with a heavy dose of songs from his reggae album), and Bongwater.

Top 5 albums of all-time that you would have to have if you were stranded on a desert island.
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me by The Cure (it’s hard to pick a Cure album, but this one is double, so there’s more bang for my buck, and it covers the whole spectrum of emotions from pissed off to slap-happy), She Hangs Brightly by Mazzy Star, Ramblin by Lucinda Williams, The Roots of Chicha, Volume One (Barbes Records), Donovan, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden.

What are some shops online that you love?
My neighborhood is Etsy, so that’s where I spend most of my time obsessing: Arabesque Aromas, Milo Creative Studios, Tomorrow Is Forever, Chez Moi, Wild & Free Jewelry and Detroit Dolly.

Are you reading or watching anything lately that inspires you?
I just finished the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel (starting with The Clan of the Cave Bear and ending with the latest book which she put out this year, The Land of the Painted Caves). It’s about life in primitive times (the Neanderthal era) and it’s great if you like anthropology, herbalism, geology, sociology, animals, and psychedelic root beverages. Basically, there is something for everyone… I mean, me and my dad both love this series. It’s also perfect if you want to learn about primitive living skills without actually having to get your hands dirty!

If you could have a super power, what would it be?
I would magically fix all the signs on the world’s freeways so that they gave real, complete information in a timely fashion so that people who might not have been born and raised in the area could switch lanes in time and know where to exit. It would save so much stress… hell, it could spark world peace. I speak as someone who spent approximately 48 hours of 2011 getting lost on the road. I know people have GPS these days, but I don’t, and I’m not alone. Louisiana, I am talking to you.

What is your ritual for settling in and doing your shop updates?
When I really have to get to work, I crank the mid-day show on KALX or KEXP (internet radio) and close my personal e-mail and Facebook windows on my computer so that I won’t be tempted. Listing new things on Etsy is the hardest part of running the shop, because I want to not only give all the details and the measurements, but I want to explain what I love about the piece in particular.

What would you say your shop focus/specialty is?
California bohemian looks from the 1960s and 1970s, especially psychedelic/gypsy/ethnic dresses.

Sasha in one of the caftans that were featured in Italian In Style.

How long have you been dealing vintage?
3 years. I started an Etsy shop with a friend, Violet Folklore, in 2008. Then I opened my own shop, Astral Boutique, 2 years ago. I am a one-woman operation. I shop for the clothes, style them, photograph them, model them (I use a self-timer), list them in the store, pack them and ship them. My husband is my moral support, of course.

How did you get into your field?
My dad has always been a flea market/thrift store hound, and he used to run a business selling antique toys in the 80s. My mom has amazing style, and she kept a big trunk of all her mid-60s swinging San Francisco mod clothes for me to play dress up with when I was little. I started getting into vintage in junior high school, when I wanted to take a time machine and travel back to 1957 (I was obsessed with the oldies—I was a nerdy junior high school record collector, specializing in East Coast doo-wop 45s.) 50s prom dresses were pretty easy to find in the 80s so I would swan around in them and dream that Johnny Angel was going to call me. He never called. When I got into “alternative” music in high school, I used to hit up all the great vintage clothing shops in the Bay Area and get a new-to-me dress every time I was going to a concert. Many of those dresses were literally worn to shreds… I will never forget the death of my favorite dusty rose lace princess-cut 50s gown at a My Bloody Valentine concert in 1991. It was the sauciest, steamiest mosh pit ever. More like a Writhe Pit.

Who did you admire that helped mentally get you started?
I was really late to the online commerce party…. I didn’t even get a computer until like 2005. It took my friend Amber telling me “we can do this!” to even get me thinking about selling vintage. I really looked up to Rachel at Mousevox Vintage, and she was kind enough to give us some advice about starting up. She is such a nice person. Taking time out to help out total newbies—now that is generosity! I try to return the favor whenever people write me for Etsy advice.

Do you have any special announcements?
Hmmmm…… Astral Boutique was recently featured on Italian as part of an article spotlighting vintage caftans!

What is the #1 most awesome thing about owning your business?
Sleeping in!

Thanks, Sasha!

Back to School Ghoulies.

5 Responses to “Meet Sasha from Astral Boutique!”
  1. This was such a fun interview to read on my lunch break (at my desk at work, so sadly no whiskey!). I love interviews with small business owners- they’re so inspiring!

  2. Mia* says:

    Oh great! she just had her Mercury Return and is about to have her Venus return. Found personal truths is going to lead to expansion+adventure and a new creative venture!

  3. Sasha says:

    Jen, this made my day and my week and my year! I love the way you put this all together…. you made Interview Magic! It is so nice to be on this planet with you at the same time, with an absolutely crazy-surreal number of things in common. A million kazillion thanks, and Happy Halloween!!!!!!!!! xoxo Sasha p.s. I am about to have my Venus Return? oh my gosh, that sounds huge! I think I ought to buy some new makeup for that one.

  4. Melissa says:

    Awesome. I love goths (former and current).

  5. Jess says:

    This is fantastic! Sasha is a true beauty, inside and out. She has been a huge inspiration to me and my Etsy business. I want to go dance and frolic with her at 3,000 feet! ;-) Love and Light, my friends. ~Jess