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Maasaai owner of Vintage Alchemy

Maasaai, Vintage Dealer-Stylist, Owner of Vintage Alchemy Speaks Inspiration to Fashion.

Maasaai is a model-dancer-choreographer. He is a long time fashion fanatic with a wealth of knowledge and experience in multiple industries of cool. His early inspirations and muses came from his parents style and closet. Maasaai share’s his impact on others and the fun he’s had along his journey as a vintage dealer, stylist and owner of Vintage Alchemy and certainly is one of LA’s hidden gems.

By LaMar Anderson | February 11, 2021 | 6:00am

Please tell us your name, the name of your business and about yourself, and how long you’ve been in business.

My name is Maasaai, and my business is Vintage Alchemy. I’ve been a picker since the late eighties to early nineties. Let me take it back. I started wearing vintage clothes in high school and raiding my dad’s closet wearing all the sharkskin, the sixties, suits and skinny ties, hats, you know, swapping with my friends.

Was this your inspiration and start of interest in fashion?

That was the inspiration. Well, I had a roommate who worked for a prestigious vintage clothing company here in LA, Wasteland. He would always have such awesome pieces. I am a fashion fanatic and would be in awe of the things he would come home with, and I noticed he would take stuff and trade it in. I was like -wow, you can do that? I thought, okay, this is a good way to beef up my wardrobe and make a little money at the same time. I started to do that; I would say around ninety-four-ninety-five, maybe. I just really got into it; it became something very fascinating for me to source and sift through all the different eras of fashion.

Vintage clothing has a very wide range, and you can get so many different looks from so many eras. I particularly love anything from the sixties up to the early two-thousands.

What are you offering today?

Well, I have a wide variety of tastes. I like things that reflect my personality even though I have certain eras I like, and then I muse a lot from everybody, I people-watch. I get inspired by what people wear, and I buy according to that as well.

I do forecasting fashion forecasting and fashion trends. Today there’s everything from some fifties on up to two-thousand’s. And there are even some current pieces mixed in. These current pieces have a sense of vintage flair, style, and nostalgia. I do like things that are current and reflect the vintage feel as well, you know, I like meshing them together to get that unique look.

Along your journey, were you ever interested in fashion design or styling?

Yes, interesting you would ask that because, if we can go back, early on I had a big interest in fashion. My parents were like – wow, this is extreme- but they didn’t know this would become something of a career for me. Early on, I started dancing. I had to design my own outfits and costumes, haha. It kind of started there as well. And even before then, just reconstructing garments. In the eighties, I would cut up, bleach, embellish, and studded everything.

I eventually enrolled in fashion design school at Trade Tech. That’s the school that I attend. It’s a very wonderful school; I love the idea of knowing the details of a garment. I look at the details now more so, having the education for Trade Tech, I am apt to look at the various aspects of a garment is constructed. So the schooling, I lived abroad in Tokyo for about four years and absorbed all the fashion knowledge, especially vintage, because there is a big vintage industry there. Expensive but very extensive, Japanese know vintage clothing.

Did your experiences as a dancer and fashion interest take you to different places like Japan? Did you intertwine your dancing and fashion for professional growth?

Yes, most definitely. I always incorporated fashion into my dance, especially going on auditions and stuff. A lot of times, I would land auditions [*gigs] just from the way I presented myself. In the audition, they just loved what I was wearing, and of course, the dancing was on point, but the way I presented myself wowed them, you know. I would do music videos, and they were like – can you wear this to the video. I loved that because back then, in any video, you wear your own clothing, they bump your pay up. It did get me into a lot of doors. I inspired a lot of recording artists.

In one of my jobs, I worked with Janet Jackson and ended up helping choreograph “Run Away”, and the whole look was inspired by me, haha. My name is in the credits you can see it “Maasaai”. Even early on, before I worked with Janet, I worked with Jody Watley. She loved the stuff that I wore and wanted me to wear that stuff on the set. I have a natural eye for picking out specific things related to fashion. I always was a very free-spirited person in fashion; I never had a particular style. Whatever resonated with me as far as how I wanted to express myself, that’s what I did.

Are you originally from Los Angeles, or did you grow up in LA?

No, I am originally from Michigan and moved out here mid-eighties and became a professional dancer here. I pursued a professional career in dancing and singing background. Again I went abroad to many places in Asia, choreographing for recording artists in Asia. I even did some modeling in Asia, haha. I always tell people this – I know how to wear clothes, and that makes a difference, and I can walk on a runway. I landed some professional gigs. I modeled for Diesel underwear, Fila, and Kansai Yamamoto. Dancing has afforded me those various opportunities with the fashion being there as well. I always try to mesh those worlds, my creative stuff with the fashion always.

I think it’s just a direct part of me, looking at my dad and my mom. They were pretty good dressers. They dressed well. My father transitioned, and going through things he had was very sentimental and had my siblings handing me stuff like – you should take this, this is so you – I ended up taking a lot of things that my pop wore, and they fit me perfectly. I am like his size back then, haha. A lot of his stuff was from the sixties, seventies, and eighties. I wear it all the time, another great inspiration to me as well.

What would you tell someone aspiring to do what you did, which is: 1. have a sense of self 2. promote and stand in your confidence, boldly, as – this is who I am, this is what I like, this is how I present myself to the world? What are some insights or advice you would give?

That’s a great question. You said a lot. The questions you ask pretty much allow the answer. Having the self-confidence and then owning your style. Owning your personal expression and feeling free in that and not being afraid or having any inhibitions to do any of that allows you to have a lot of creative ideas and freedom. It brings a sense of creative fluidity. It’s always good to study too. Growing up, I had my face in fashion magazines seems like always, searching fashion, looking at encyclopedias of fashion history. I took fashion history in school, and that insight helps build knowledge. Knowledge is power, and it does empower you and give you a sense of confidence, insight, and freedom. I would say to anyone aspiring to get into fashion that freedom to do those various things and share, always giving back.

I became a stylist because I liked the reaction that people would get from me doing fashion hookups with their looks and stuff, you know—all of that. Never let a thing like the industry prevent you from doing something because there’s always different avenues you can take. I know it’s hard sometimes. I’ve been trying to get my foot into being a stylist on a set, like forever, but I am not giving up. I have the opportunity to be a part of wardrobe concepts for a film. It’s a small film, but I don’t take my small blessing for granted. I really appreciate it. So anybody looking to express themselves in fashion, I would say do all those things, and most of all have fun, enjoy it, have fun all the way. It’s a journey, an adventure; fashion is fun.

How can we connect with Maasaai and support Vintage Alchemy?

I am still branching out as far as social media. I have never been a social media buff or had a social media page except for my Instagram. I am building it as a business page but more of an inspirational page. So, it’s just highlights at the moment. I am working on fashion shoots so that I can post there in the near future. I do have an email, which is [email protected] Any of those out there who do come out to Leimert Park, I am a regular on Sundays doing my vintage pop-up with Vintage Alchemy. Please come out to Leimert. We have other wonderful vintage dealers out here. We have people who are really into vintage. If you come and see there is a difference between our product and current stuff, you can tell the vintage stuff.

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