Osvaldo Jiminez and Kara Mullins are the founders of La Petite Mort, a vintage boutique on the Lower East Side that reminds one of nothing so much as New York. Dedicated to the spirit of the 1980s and 90s, La Petite Mort reminds you of a time and a place so near yet so far you might think nothing had changed. Because La Petite Mort is built in the spirit of D.I.Y. the hustler’s anthem, find your lane and ride it for life.
Jiminez recalls, “We launched La Petite Mort on Black Friday, 2013. The store came about after a big argument about cleaning the bags of clothes in our apartment. We had stated the store as a website. We’d bust stuff, get models, take photos. People were interested. We got a Grateful Dead shirt for $10, sold it for $90. It was working. There were bags and bags of clothes in the house. We were always steaming in the kitchen. We were trying to find a two-bedroom apartment and decided to get a store instead. Here we are now.
Located at 37 Orchard Street, NY, La Petite Mort is located where old and new worlds collide. Situated on the same block as Hood By Air and Success Hosiery, Jiminez observes, “I’m either an anchor—or I’m part of gentrification. That’s why I keep it 80s and 90s. This is where I spent my formative years. I grew up in Spanish Harlem. I went to Art & Design High School. Bloomingdale’s was there. All my friends were Lo Lifes [editor’s note: The Lo Lifes were a 90s crew that used to exclusively wear Ralph Lauren Polo, all which they had stolen from various stores].
“They used to boost, but I didn’t. Instead I’d go to Canal Street, and I’d make my own things. I’d take the tag off and sew it on another piece. I made my own Columbia jacket once. I came up not having anything, and I’d go out and put it all together. When I went to college in 93, they’d say, ‘You are Eddie Bauer down!’ I knew where all the stores were, down here, around City Hall. I’d be able to press myself up. I wore all Hilfiger, with only one real piece of Hilfiger on. No one bothered me. If anything, people would try to rob me. They didn’t—otherwise they would have found out everything was fake and they would have blown me up.
“Since we came up in the 80s and 90s, we keep it that way in the store. I’ve lived here since 1988. This is where I spent my formative years. I remember the sketchy Chinese gambling spots on the street. All my friends are here. And so am I, seven days a week. This is my way of giving back.
“Nostalgia is chic. My whole thing comes down to being comfortable. I’ve been chasing fashion for years. I like to keep it clean, but at the worst point in my life, I was upstate New York, and I started growing dreds. The first three or four months are the worst, but I was confident. I didn’t are anymore. It’s the same thing with fashion. Even though I like it clear, having a stain on something reminds me that I am alive. I’m into that. Everything has it’s own story. That’s why I like vintage.
“At the same time we’re creating the new vintage. I work in music. I’ve bee managing The Flat, a bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for two years. We have bands play and I always buy a shirt and keep them. All these people are coming up, and every year I get to see a new graduating class.
“People buy vintage for the same reason people watch TV, read a book, watch a movie: everyone needs a reference. Our parents raise us but we still have questions. References give us an idea, and a sense of direction. I’m not trying to sell to the whole world, but to kids with a sense of history. I have something for people who want to go their own way. I have something unique to you. We all strive to be comfortable in our own skin, otherwise it’s going to be a real horrible life if you’re not.
“We get skater kids and gallery kids that buy from us. We’re niche, but we attract the young and the old. They know what they want and they know what they feel good in. That girl that just left bought an old, frayed t-shirt with ironing stains and pit stains! That what a look is. People pay for that. I’m not a designer. People aren’t paying for a design. They are paying for an idea. I represent what it is to carry yourself. I think that’s what I sell. It’s nostalgia. This is my taste. The stains represent a life lived and people buy a sense of story. La Petite Mort is my love story with Kara. That’s all I have is my story. It’s the only thing.”
Osvaldo Jiminez & Kara Mullins