Artemis Mansur Reveals the Secrets Behind Her Vintage looks
By Genevieve Finn
Photos by Isabel Bina
Sartorially informed by a childhood deeply rooted in her Persian and Latina heritage and by the experience of moving all over diverse California in a tight-knit family of guys, second-year Artemis Mansur mixes high-end vintage pieces with newer, more cutting-edge designs to create an eclectic, yet comfortable style. This Communications and Psychology double major is a collector -- of fashion, of art, of homes. As we walked along Melrose for this photoshoot, Artemis looked a world apart from the splashy, big-name designer window displays on either side of us. Instead of stepping into the storefronts, we stayed on the shady street, delving into the rich histories and experiences reflected in a style beyond simply what’s trendy.
In LA, I really like Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach. There’s lots of cool pop ups, along with Scotch and Soda, Principessa, there’s also a corduroy shop. I also like A Current Affair, which is this big vintage tradeshow you can shop at that moves around from cities like SF, LA, and NYC.
Artemis’ story seemingly began in Orange County, but its first inklings formed one generation before, in Mexico and Iran. Artemis’ father immigrated to the United States from Iran at the age of twelve, while her great grandparents on her mother’s side were from the states of Durango and Baja California. Her wardrobe reflects this history. For example, in this photo from a recent trip to Mexico, Artemis wears a jacket and purse from a Mexico City artisan street fair.
But Artemis herself is a true California girl, fluent in Spanish and Farsi nonetheless. Born in Newport Beach, Artemis spent her toddler years in the small town of Tustin. Then, when Artemis was four, her whole family was involved in a grave car accident that led to the death of her mother. Afterwards, Artemis’ father made the bold decision to quit his job in the petroleum industry and move himself and his two children up to the San Francisco Peninsula so they could grow up close to their extended family. He focused on raising Artemis and her brother for nearly a decade as a single parent. “He’s my favorite person in the world,” said Artemis. “I owe him everything.”
In the Bay, Artemis was constantly the only girl in the mix. In terms of style, “I just wore whatever my aunt or Dad dressed me in, and a lot of the times, it was plain or tom-boyish. It was just me and three boys.”
It wasn’t until middle school that Artemis began exploring fashion. Well, exploring is a kind word; bungling might be more accurate. Anyone who knows Artemis now would have a difficult time imagining an awkward phase, but she promises she had one – and it involved a love for something that sounds like sweater vests, but not quite. “I would wear these sleeveless cardigans with the shirt sleeves coming through. I thought it was really cute, and it wasn’t.” However, that phase was Artemis’ first foray into the idea that fashion could set one apart. “It was like, ‘Whoa, my clothes are different [from all my friends] … and I like it!’”
“For vintage, Reformation Vintage, Rag Mopp, way down Sunset. Jet Rag is a good vintage-y thrift store. Painted Bird is also good. Miracle Eye does pop-ups every once in a while. Fox Hole is a denim vintage store.”
At age eleven, Artemis’ family relocated again, this time so her father could go back into business as a petroleum engineer. Her family packed up and moved away from the Coast to sweltering, dusty Bakersfield. Still, the Bay was an emotional home for her. Her family, the familiarity of her Aunt and Uncle’s house of a lifetime, drew her back nearly every weekend, and from there she was drawn into San Francisco’s thrift and vintage scene. Artemis marks this point as being around eighth grade or freshman year of high school.
“I’d shop up there and stuff [my finds] in a suitcase and extra bags, and bring it back to wear in Bakersfield.” The image of Artemis flying down the I-5 with fabulous dresses flapping out the car windows to save Bakersfield from fashion monotony is pretty romantic, but she swears it actually wasn’t like that. “Bakersfield is much more fashionable than you’d think,” Artemis says. “At my high school, people try. I remember being involved in my cousin’s high school in the Bay, and noticing that people get ready for school in Bakersfield more.”
Still, the NorCal city’s killer vintage buffet couldn’t be replicated in Bakersfield, even if the people were vintage-minded. Artemis began ordering clothing online, along with continuing her weekend ritual of bringing the best of San Francisco to SoCal.
But the best vintage pieces Artemis has found have all come from her mom. “I have lots of her handbags and skirts,” she tells me. “She wore lots of Ralph Lauren, all sorts of silky pieces, and structured ones as well. She was put together: leather jacket, jeans, hair always done, nails always done. She had a very classic style.” Artemis discusses pulling out her mom’s boxes, many of which her family has kept through their several moves. “I love it,” she says. “ I take pieces I like, ones that remind me of her. I wonder what she’d be thinking … She’d probably think it’s pretty dope.”
Artemis says she has gotten more into classic styles as she’s gotten older, but she still remains true to that funkier eighties-inspired gleam she picked up in San Francisco. She’s wearing a pink plastic skirt in the photo below!
Artemis’ style is functional, in two different ways. First, it’s functional for daily life. It’s comfortable. Artemis favors flowy, loose silhouettes. She leans towards oversized and loose clothing towards pieces she even describes as frumpy, and away from super tight pants, or tight shirts, anything body hugging at all, really: “Tight clothing feels claustrophobic.”
Artemis’ style is also functional in the literal sense that it has a function. That function is “to express how [she’s feeling that day.” As a Psych major no less, Artemis is fully aware of the need for a broad range in her closet to suit her mind’s spectrum. “I have tons of stuff that looks like mens’ clothing, but I also have that pink, plasticky skirt, and I also have dresses and heels,” she says. “There are days where I’m low-key businessy, wearing collars, structured pieces, but at the same time I love things that are hobo-ish. I’ll put on a big jumpsuit with a big sweater over it. I wouldn’t limit myself to one thing, like, ‘Oh, I can’t buy that because that’s not my vibe, that’s not my style.’ I don’t like that. ”
In SF, I like Wallflower (which is sadly closing), and Afterlife (which are both on Valencia Street). There’s one store in SF that’s blocked off by decades which is fun to look around. I usually don’t buy anything from the 1920s section, for example, because it’s all flapper girl, but it’s fun to look at.
What’s amazing about those hobo-ish combinations are that Artemis pulls them together so artfully they look sophisticated regardless if her clothing is an ancient, almost-sacred designer vintage piece, or a $2 thrift shop find. She says she’s always been into design, having grown up oil painting, and has a bit of any eye for that final spark that welds an outfit into an ensemble.
Perhaps the best thing about Artemis’ attitude to fashion is her fearlessness, something which is so easy to unlock but eludes so many. “I get these comments a lot, where people are like, “Oh, I love [what you’re wearing] but I could never pull it off.” Artemis shakes her head.
“It’s like: Yeah, you can pull it off. Just wear it and walk out of the house. Don’t think too much about it. If you think you look weird, chances are, you probably look weird. If you own it, go for it.” Artemis figured this out in sixth grade and never looked back. Yes, sometimes people look at her a little longer than usual as she’s walking around campus, but it’s nearly always with a “Go you!” smile. “Nobody’s ever like, ‘What the fuck?’ and if they are like that, then that’s their problem,” she says.
Her sense of individuality translates to her approach to beauty as well. While Artemis appreciates conventional beauty, she really loves that type of beauty that flows from people who look interesting, or even people who simply carry themselves in unique ways. “Why does everyone have to look the same?” she asks. “Personally, I’ve always been drawn to a more exotic type of beauty because of my heritage. It reminds me of me. I think we should think what we are is beautiful.”
What Artemis is, along with her fashion and a few jangling rosebud salve tins (“I love those, I have one in every purse”), is her eyebrows. She gets them waxed once a year, with no shaping, and she only brushes them out with a little gel. She also says this fantastically succinct quote: “Persians have a lot of hair. So do Mexicans.” Artemis’ hair is naturally curly, though in these photos she’s straightened it and pulled it into a bun.
Clothing that stifles individuality is the antithesis of Artemis’ style. As we pass by a Melrose window display during our photoshoot, we spot a bandage dress with the brand name Balmain, Balmain, Balmain, Balmain, Balmain printed on it like caution tape. But, like, “Caution: I’m wealthy” type tape. “That dress we saw, that’s so many thousands of dollars, but you’re just paying for the brand name all over it,” says Artemis. “I like some high fashion designers, but that’s not me. How many different vintage pieces could you buy with the money you spent on that one dress?”
Artemis doesn’t hesitate when talking about spending money on clothing. “Vintage is very expensive. They’re pieces and you’re gonna keep them for a long time. But I’m not gonna buy something because it’s expensive,” she clarifies. “If you thrift, you’re digging through stuff with a lot of holes and stuff, but if you’re at a nicer vintage place, it’s all pretty much in pristine condition and looks pretty new.” Artemis even recently founded an Instagram business called @cherry.pickings with her friend Maddy Pease, which curates and sells vintage finds.
“If you’re going to a thrift store like Jet Rag, it can be overwhelming, but you just have to dig. Have an eye for something that makes you think, ‘I could make this cool.’ Artemis likes to mix old things with newer styles, so for example, a “grandma-looking” piece might go with a really modern top, or the taupe suit [shown in the photo] with the Staud high-necked top and vintage shoes. “Pairing it with modern pieces gives it my own vibe.”
At the end of the day, it’s clear that Artemis doesn’t dress herself to look pretty, to fit in, or to be accepted. In fact, she says that even on her worst days she uses her clothing to embrace those darker feelings. At the end of the day, she uses fashion like everyone else: to express herself.