Boston’s Artifaktori brings an eclectic mix of antiques and vintage clothing to Davis Square

BOSTON — Although fashion is known to take more risks in cosmopolitan cities like Paris and New York, vintage shops have slowly been making their way to Boston over the last couple of years.

In fact, vintage stores seem to have found their niche in Davis Square, which is now home to consignment and thrift shops like Poor Little Rich Girl, Goodwill and more recently, Artifaktori Vintage and the Buffalo Exchange.

In with the old; make it new.

In the fashion world, nothing ever stays in style for long. Something that’s hot one minute suddenly becomes passé the next. But what’s so great about fashion — or so unfortunate, in the case of the current leggings-as-pants fad — is that trends are always recycled. Every few years, designers find themselves reinventing old fashion trends and breathing new life into them with their modern-day interpretations, creating a chic, “new” look for the season. For those who can’t afford the latest designer goods, shopping at vintage stores is always a great alternative.

Most people would scoff at the idea of wearing anything old and worn, but as the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. These fashion throwbacks have inspired many young, style-savvy shoppers to embrace the clothing and accessories of the past. Looking for a bit of edge, fashion-forward individuals find themselves rummaging through their attics in search of their mother’s killer red-leather pumps from the ’80s, or sifting through thrift shops for a ’60s dress with a fun, bright floral print.

Bringing vintage to Davis Whether looking for that one-of-a-kind piece to make a bold statement or simply taking a trip down memory lane, Artifaktori Vintage in Davis Square is the perfect place to start. With its carefully crafted displays of vintage art, antiques, clothing and accessories, Artifaktori’s cozy space is filled with a myriad of treasures and blasts from the past in every nook and cranny.

Owner and curator Amy Berkowitz opened Artifaktori in Davis Square in the spring of 2008. The idea behind the shop originated from Berkowitz’s past experiences as an artist.

“While I was in art school, I got into antiques, and I just found that I was very inspired by historical objects,” said Berkowitz. “I think I’m just obsessed with the stuff and rescuing it, giving it a new lease on life kind of thing and seeing how it can fit into today’s day and age.”

Artifaktori’s selection ranges from turn-of-the-century Austrian vases and original prints to vintage clothing and accessories in a mix of vibrant colors and patterns. The charm and feel of the history behind each item is overwhelming — in the best way possible — from the first step into the store. Berkowitz selects pieces by means of estate sales, auctions, vintage wholesalers, consignment and house calls.

“We tend to like really crazy things,” said Berkowitz.

Berkowitz chooses her pieces with extreme care. According to Berkowitz’s assistant and Artifaktori’s jack-of-all-trades, Amanda Williams, “We rarely take anything that [was made] within the last 10 to 15 years just because it doesn’t really go with the image and vibe that we’re trying to create here. We admire a lot of the older clothing because of the craftsmanship, the thought and time that goes into it and the quality of the fabrics that they use.”

While other vintage stores have items arbitrarily strewn about, leaving customers without any idea as to where or what time period the items are from, Artifaktori puts tags with approximate dates on each of its pieces.

“We try to be more accurate about [what time period] we think [pieces] are from, and there are clues as to the way things are made, the type of fabric … I think it helps to give people a point of reference,” said Williams.

A fashion road less traveled With the current economic downturn, it comes as no surprise that people are skipping overpriced department stores and opting to rummage through vintage shops for their new fall wardrobes. According to Williams, shoppers are often attracted to vintage clothing because they like things that are a little bit different and “off the beaten path.”

Williams also noted that another advantage to buying vintage clothing is that it gives people a designer experience without the price tag.

While a good vintage bargain is always appealing to customers, Berkowitz finds that many people like “the nostalgia of all the old stuff or the weirdness of it, or [they like to think], ‘can you believe that people wore this?’”

What distinguishes Artifaktori from other vintage stores is the wide selection of merchandise offered. While the majority of the shop is dedicated to women’s fashion and accessories, there is also an expanding section for men. Although it may have a smaller space than more established stores like Poor Little Rich Girl, Artifaktori offers up a unique blend of handmade and refashioned items ranging anywhere from the ’20s to the ’80s.

“I think that most of the items that Amy picks have really interesting patterns, shapes and colors,” Williams said. “It’s not that you’re not going to find that in other places, but just the selection … and the grouping of it together really attracted me to the store.”

With the eclectic mix of antiques and vintage items on display at Artifaktori, the shop can be viewed as something of an exhibit in and of itself.

“Some people just want to come in because they [want to] remember the past,” Berkowitz said. “They aren’t necessarily our customers, but they’re having a trip down memory lane. They like to look at the stuff.”

Unique pieces, affordable prices In addition to the Artifaktori store in Davis Square, Berkowitz sells vintage housewares and clothing at a booth at the SoWa Open Market in Boston on Sundays whenever she gets the chance.

Artifaktori has also recently begun to sell items online through Market Publique (, an online Web site similar to eBay that deals exclusively with vintage clothing.

The prices for clothing at Artifaktori generally range from $12 to $70, though prices can rise all the way up to $145 for a few of the specialty antique items. Fortunately for Tufts students with tight budgets, Artifaktori offers the option of putting items on layaway.

Layaway gives customers who are strapped for cash the chance to purchase pieces that they absolutely can’t live without. By leaving a small down payment (usually a minimum of $5), Artifaktori generously allows customers to take home these items on layaway and make small payments until they are completely paid for.

“To us everything in here is a treasure, and you just want that person who’s going to come in here and get as excited about it as we were when we found it, and who’s going to really appreciate it, take it home and love it,” said Williams. “[This] sounds really cheesy, but if putting items on layaway can help them do that, then that’s awesome.”

Although Artifaktori’s current store has a quaint, homey feel, Berkowitz is hoping to relocate to a bigger space. According to Berkowitz, the store’s basement is stockpiled with 10 times more merchandise than what is already out on display. Williams explains that the items on display tend to get reshuffled every so often with the changing of seasons and newer items coming in.

“With certain things it just takes time, because there could be an amazing dress that everyone’s in love with, but there needs [to be] that person who can fit into it, has the event to go to and has the money at the time,” said Williams. “Sometimes you just bring [an item] back out again if it’s a really amazing piece, and you just wait for that person.”

With so many incredible antique and vintage items stuck in a basement, one can only hope that Artifaktori soon finds a new space that is big enough to house all of these pieces for customers to fully appreciate their value.

As Artifaktori brings some edge to Davis Square with its plethora of art, antiques, clothing and accessories, Williams summed the store up perfectly when she said: “Artifaktori is an opportunity for individuals to express their own personal style. It’s a vintage playground.”

Charissa Ng is currently a sophomore from New York City majoring in International Relations and American Studies at Tufts University. She is an Assistant Arts Editor for the Tufts Daily newspaper who enjoys writing, traveling and vintage finds.

Originally Published in The Tufts Daily