Not Another Vintage Reseller: How Chicago’s Goody Vault Breathes New Dimensions Into Old Clothes

Emanuel Edwards isn’t just slinging heirloom-worthy finds. His loud repairs of destroyed garments are catching looks coast to coast.

September 27, 2023 10:59 am
Emanuel Edwards of Goody Vault
Emanuel Edwards of Goody Vault
Goody Vault

The internet era has been a boon to vintage clothing resellers, and whether you frequent Instagram, TikTok or Etsy, it’s easy to get lost within its dusty expanse. But the one thing any fan of Emanuel “Manny” Edwards and his Goody Vault will tell you is that it’s not hard to pick his pieces from a crowd. Over the past five years, Edwards, 34, has developed a distinct style of conspicuous repair that sets his items apart, and it’s amassed fans from the everyman to elite stylists and Hollywood costume designers.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the embodiment of the Goody Vault style is this pair of 1980s Levis 501s. Connoisseurs will note its fading and fraying. But what catches the eye is its knees covered with vibrant patching. They take a noteworthy pair of jeans and make them one-of-a-kind while adding a bulwark to a garment on its last legs.

Edwards, from his home in Chicago, says that his distinct style of repairing began out of frugality. When damaged pieces would come into his possession, whether a blown-out crotch or torn seat pocket, he’d have to send them off to a seamstress for repair before sale. “That added up,” he says, in both time and money. And so he taught himself how to mend, first with needle and thread, and then by machine. While his technique improved over time — Picasso himself painted in the naturalistic style prior to moving into cubism — social media inspired him to make his stitches and patching, like brush strokes, more conspicuous rather than less, with the Japanese style of Sashiko mending an influence. 

But even acknowledging those contributions, Edwards’ style is distinctly American, in part because of a use of color blocking and a near-compulsive accumulation of vintage clothing fragments. Patches are often sourced from the same decade as the damaged piece, adhering with Edwards’ vision. The style requires immense backstock — “I literally have bins of rags and scraps that I dip into,” he says — but it’s from these castoffs and relics that he applies layers to vintage pieces, adding dimension to their look while ensuring they won’t continue to degrade with wear.

“True vintage” is the preferred industry term for pieces within the eras Goody Vault treads, with subgenres of workwear, militaria, denim and beyond represented. But the area within which Edwards works is harder to name. When pushed, he calls it reworking. “I’m putting my own spin on it,” he explains. “True vintage pieces that are ready to be worn right now, they’ll always be desirable. But I feel like it’s a more creative route to find a piece that’s destroyed, and to resurrect it.”

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Collectors and vintage aficionados are making their own sense of Edwards’ work. For childhood friend Hassan Boone, a Brooklyn-based costumer for TV and film, personal stylist, and collector of around two dozen Goody pieces, he refers to the work as “an aesthetic semicolon.” “Someone wore [it] for God knows how long, got rid of it, somehow they found their way to Manny, and now they’ll have a second life,” Boone, 33, says.

There’s a romance in the vintage that Goody Vault sells, Boone continues, a connection to the past, and in the era of fast fashion, there’s also a counterculture sustainability. “I’m wearing something that would probably be considered waste if found by the wrong person,” he says. “And as far as I’m concerned, after I expire, they’ll have another life.”

It’s not just fashion insiders like Boone who are flocking to Edwards and Goody Vault pieces. Fans of the FX show The Bear saw Edwards’ work in the fifth episode of the second season on Claire, who wears Edwards’ jean jacket during her first kiss with protagonist Carmy. In true Goody Vault fashion, the piece was adapted from a 1960s Hercules denim overall Edwards re-cut, creating a one-of-a-kind silhouette that stands out from its archetype. 

For Aaron Frazer, the 32-year-old lead singer of the ‘70s soul revivalists Durand Jones & the Indications, the appeal of Goody pieces is the emphasis on imperfections. “[Edwards] celebrates how fucked up a garment is,” Frazer says. “He champions these pieces that are sun-bleached, that are paint-splattered, that are ripped and pieced back together. 

“You go back to those soul 45s, what was geeking me out was how messed up they sounded. The drums are blown out, the bass is out of tune to the point that you’re like, What were they thinking? But it’s thrilling to see the imperfections so loud. You can’t help but love them.” 

Like that famous Eddie Cantor quote of a 20-year overnight success, Edwards’ recent accomplishments are the result of a double-burning candle of cross-country flights and pop-up events. L.A., Nashville, Atlanta, Huntsville, New York and his home of Chicago; they’re all destinations in which he’s tirelessly promoted the brand. But New York reigns supreme, with three stops this fall alone, including booths at Manhattan Vintage and Proprietors, as well as a mending workshop at Gently. “[New York is] such a fashion-forward place, and a lot of the trends and inspiration for a lot of people’s style comes out of it,” he says.

For all of the arguments for Goody Vault’s specific brand of vintage, from the green movement to the connection with past generations, in the end, it comes down to that one piece that stands out from the crowd. And in one line, Boone, who can access the world’s most exclusive clothing with a few texts, sums up Edwards’ work and its appeal: “I adore the idea that I’m walking down the street and no one else will have these pants.”

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