For over 20 years, vintage addict, style blogger and Refinery29 contributor Dree Harper has thrived in the fashion industry. From retail and management to styling and designing, she has done it all.
interview ciara bird // photography kaitlyn rondolino
When did you first realize you had an affinity for fashion? I realized at a very early age that I loved to express myself through fashion. Like most young girls, dress up was a fun time for me. I raided my mother’s closet daily and created styling shoots with my friends in elementary school. It’s funny to look back at some of the shoots and see how grown up I wanted to be at the time.
Who influences your personal style? After years of styling and experimenting, I can honestly say my personal style has evolved to the point of knowing what I like and more importantly, what works on me. I draw heavily from 70s style icons like Jimi Hendrix and Ali MacGraw to current day muses like Chloë Sevigny and Natalie Joos. I’m drawn to people who have their own distinctive point of view while keeping it fun and light at the same time. You can tell when someone is comfortable with who they are by the choices of clothes they throw on. Effortless and chic is something I aim for when I’m getting dressed.
Are there any key pieces you find yourself wearing constantly? My father’s vintage gold Seiko watch, always. He passed away in November and it’s even more of a keepsake for me. Casually, I’m a denim girl. Distressed, flares, skinnies … I like ‘em all! Right now, it seems a pair of MiH cropped jeans and Habitual bell bottoms are getting a ton of wear. Summer, you’ll find me sporting long maxi dresses from the 70s and in the winter it seems I’m always wearing boots – fringe ones in particular! I also wear this vintage 70s tortoise and gold pendant necklace that has a large letter M on it. It stands for Marjorie, my real name and Mommy.
How did you get started in the fashion industry? I started in sales at the age of 15, working for Mr. Rags in Seattle, Washington. Turns out my passion cranked out sales for the company and I was hooked. Helping others look good and getting paid for it? I thought it was the best gig ever.
How did you transition into becoming a stylist, personal shopper and eventually an HSN fashion expert? I stumbled onto my first styling gig at the age of 20. A friend of mine wanted me to bring my vintage collection of clothes and accessories to a shoot. When all the models were dressed and the shoot started, it suddenly dawned on me that this was my element. I began my personal shopping gig after I retired from running my online vintage shop “theURBANcollection”, shortly after my son was born. I wanted to continue buying vintage for some of my clients that needed amazing one-of-a-kinds and it was a service I could do without sacrificing the time needed to raise my newborn son. The HSN Fashion Expert gig was offered to me after I was discovered by a production team that wanted people in the industry to help represent some of their on-air brands. I helped rep denim, but after the denim gigs expired, HSN decided to sign me on as an on-air fashion expert that could assist hosts and help viewers see the potential in the pieces they were looking to purchase.
These days you collaborate with Refinery29 quite often, what’s that like? Fantastic! The team is incredible and the environment is highly charged with creativity. I love visiting the office when I’m in New York. Connie Wang (Global Editor) and Christene Barberich (Editor-in-Chief) are probably the coolest ladies in the industry. Very sweet and loyal which is quite refreshing to find in the industry!
Your “Pinner of the Day” feature is a personal favorite; what things do you look for when making selections? I look for a great overall presentation as far as board titles and images. I like to highlight people or companies that give off that certain vibe that Refinery29 readers jive with. And if I find a pinner that has a unique angle or infuses humor into the game, I’m intrigued.
Of all the places you’ve lived and visited, which holds the best memories? The best shopping? As far as traveling, Paris for the food and coffee. And don’t get me started on the flea markets there! LOVE. Cinque Terre, Italy for the hiking and pesto! As far as living, Aspen, Colorado for the skiing and mountain biking, Seattle for the city shopping. Naples, Florida and Palm Springs, California for killer consignment and vintage shops. And of course, there is New York for my two favorite city experiences: eating and shopping. Hard to beat!
Do you think that “shopping vintage” is a trend that will go out of style or will it always be original and fresh? I think it’s always going to be fresh simply because much of fashion is inspired from the past, so you’ll see designers drawing their inspiration from people on the streets that are spinning vintage in new and creative ways. I also think the high/low effect of a thrift store piece mixed in with current designer labels is always appealing as well as sourcing vintage from major fashion houses like Lanvin, YSL, Dior. There’s always going to be a celebrity or two that finds that perfect vintage gown and wows the masses.
What do you see for yourself in the years to come? The way my career has evolved, there is no telling, but I’d love to continue working with people who love what they do! I can see myself in front of the camera again at some point, but the idea of writing a book in my pjs is just as appealing. I’d love to style from time to time, and traveling to NYC for Fashion Week is always a highlight for the year. We shall see! Family is first so as long as I can keep things balanced with that formula, I’m game.
This interview was conducted late 2012.