From traveling in a van, to taking to the Atlanta streets on a two wheels, Atlanta-based photographer + vintage curator Kristin Karch is no stranger to the passionate drive for promoting sustainable style. After moving from Athens to Atlanta this year, Kristin has been able to travel and explore, picking up specially curated pieces to bring to her online shop Iron Pony when she isn’t busy photo editing for her clients. Karch’s love for history and the hunt of unique items has been able to propel her business, enhance her traveling experiences, and bring specialty items to Iron Pony’s many followers. Give us all the 1940s Chimayo coats, please!
Interview by KT Lipsiner
SGC: Hey Kristin! Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and where you are based out of?
Iron Pony: Howdy! I just moved to Atlanta in May after having lived in Athens for the last seven years. I went to UGA for photography and art history, but started doing freelance photography work in college and am still doing that today. I also own a small vintage clothing business called Iron Pony and do remote photo editing work part time.
SGC: Your Instagram vintage shop, Iron Pony, offers quality sustainable products that aren’t the easiest to find. How did you get into selling vintage online?
Iron Pony: I have always loved history and the hunt for unique items, and over my teenage years that began to influence my style more and more. Wearing vintage pieces is the easiest and most affordable way to be sustainable, unique, and stylish. I honestly got into selling online to clean out my closet, and to make some extra money to buy more clothes. It is still more or less the same today - selling to be able to buy more.
SGC: We know you love to combine your love for traveling with the hunt for vintage: How do you find most of your products that you sell?
Iron Pony: I love driving and taking road trips, and while on the road I stop at any antique, thrift, or flea store that looks cool. What people don’t realize is that you might stop at 10 stores and find nothing. But, then one store will have amazing pieces. It takes a lot of time and patience. Picking in Atlanta is definitely challenging with so much competition, so I’d rather take a few day long trip and go out into the country to find those older small shops.
SGC: Do you have a favorite piece (or pieces) that will never leave your personal collection? Why?
Iron Pony: I’d like to think I have some pieces that I will keep with me forever, but you never know how your style will change or what will happen in life. My most monetarily valuable items are probably my 1940s Chimayo coat and a 1940s JCP Foremost type 1 jacket, but if I found my dream house or a motorcycle I wanted, they might go. One item I never see myself getting rid of is my 1950s Stetson hat. If you ever find a good hat that fits you perfectly - never ever sell it.
SGC: What is it like selling through an instagram channel? Challenges and rewards?
Iron Pony: The major rewards through selling on Instagram is the community that is built along with it. I love following my customers and other sellers, getting/giving shout outs, and meeting friends. Plus, I get to keep all the money from sales unlike ebay/etsy. The major challenge is that the algorithm really hurts, and if only half your followers are seeing your posts, it starts to affect sales.
SGC: Being based out of Atlanta and exploring on your motorcycle, how do you feel the background of Atlanta, the actual landscape and locally owned businesses, play a role in your work and personal style?
Iron Pony: I have to admit, the move to Atlanta has been challenging for me. I love being in the country, open land, quiet… So riding at night is the time I feel most at peace in the city. I catch myself leaving town a lot for jobs, to see friends, to go camping, and to find more vintage. I just moved at the beginning of May, and right now I don’t think Atlanta plays a roll in my personal style or my work, it is just my home base. But, I am really hoping to immerse myself in Atlanta more and feel more at home here. If you can’t tell, my style definitely leans more towards cowboy and less towards streetwear.
SGC: Favorite vintage stores in Atlanta?
Iron Pony: Kudzu Antiques is what first comes to mind - they have some great clothing and also a lot of other cool pieces. My friends in No Surrender Collective do pop ups around town and have a really great selection. I haven’t been to an Ada Rush event yet, but I think her concept is so cool.
SGC: Where do you get inspiration for your style?
Iron Pony: My major inspiration is the simplicity and functionality of clothing from early 1900s-1940s. Think faded denim, jackets, simple dresses, etc. It was a time when people had to conserve what they had, and often the clothing from this era has been repaired over and over. This overlaps with the western style that I am so drawn to. I think that often times, people see vintage as being overly colorful and bold, which it 100% can be. But, it can also be really subtle and timeless. The fades & mends of the garment tell the story of the wearer.
SGC: When you aren’t selling vintage or riding motorcycles, you are also a lifestyle photographer! What are your favorite subjects to shoot?
Iron Pony: In my dream life, I would be sent on photography assignments to shoot other artists, farmers, craftsmen, etc. I love to travel, and I love candidly photographing other people doing what they are passionate about. I am also really passionate about historic architecture and interior spaces, so that is another favorite subject of mine.
SGC: What do you find yourself focusing on in 2019?
I really am looking to focus my energy on making Atlanta feel like home, and creating an environment that fosters creativity but also pays the bills. I am relying a lot on my photography clients in Athens still, and I would love to have more work and community in Atlanta. I am also looking to focus some energy into growing Iron Pony and doing more pop-ups, markets, and in-person sales. 2020 goal is to have a showroom space.
SGC: Are there any upcoming projects you have coming up?
Iron Pony: I recently started a project of photographing local Atlanta creatives/small business owners in their own spaces, doing what they do. I started with painter Meredith Anne White, and she will refer me to the next person, and they will refer me to the next, and so on. I felt that this would be a great way to meet people, to build my Atlanta portfolio, and to help others get some great content that they can use on social media or their websites. Overall, win-win for everyone.