Hannah Henderson certainly has a special gift for finding hidden vintage treasures, but even more inspiring than her keen eye and amazing style is her insightful philosophy, unique perspective and sincere appreciation for considerate craftsmanship and the beauty of imperfection. Thankfully for all of us, Hannah knows exactly how to translate and share her aesthetic and point of view through the selection and arrangement of pieces in her home or closet or store (General Store Venice). Spending time with Hannah is always an inspirational recharge to go out and find those perfectly worn-in and carefully loved vintage treasures and, to top it off, she also has the most radiantly kind, generous and loving personality so, if you weren’t convinced by the amazing vintage denim that she’s most likely wearing, then you most certainly will fall in love when she says ‘hello.’
Story and Interview by Miwa Sakamoto
Where do you call home?
I was born in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in Phoenix. I love the desert and it is a huge part of me, but I always knew I would have to leave it. I moved to LA after college to do I don’t know what. I just knew that there were opportunities for young creative people that didn’t exist in my hometown. I moved to Venice when I moved in with John – I love that it is a little neighborhood in a massive city. It’s where we’ve had our kids, and grown up ourselves. Venice is home.
What is beauty to you?
I find beauty in realness, flaws, fragility, laughter, kindness. Beauty in the classic sense doesn’t interest me.
It is really the value that we, as a society, assign to a concept that gives it so much power and this can often end up taking away appreciation for the attractive qualities of the thing that were there in the first place. Can you relate your understanding of beauty to your fascination with vintage and hand-made objects?
Perfection is tiring and less interesting so the flaws are what draw you in – flaws are relatable and show you that someone’s hands were on it. I love vintage because of its history and its flaws. At some point fashion became tiresome to me – it lacked originality, and felt like it was more about consumerism. Vintage clothes have a story to tell. Fabrics that have been washed and line-dried for decades cannot be reproduced. Vintage is sustainable. The list goes on and on. At the end of the day, vintage somehow became a way for me to express myself.
Vintage clothing is able to really connect generations and bring back the energy of by-gone day. It is a neat idea to explore – the connection between now and then. What do you think the relationship is between past generations and today?
In terms of clothing, I think past generations took care of their clothes because they had to. Clothes weren’t disposable like they are now, so garments were mended and passed down. It’s an art that I try to keep alive. In a grander sense, past generations had the benefit of growing up without the distraction of technology – I hate my goddamn phone for its pull on me. Technology takes you out of the present moment… it can be good for daydreaming, but ultimately its a distraction from real life.
What does it mean to grow up?
The most surprising thing about technically being a grown up is you still feel the same as you did as a kid. Its a nice and disappointing at the same time.
What do you hope your children will learn from your experiences opening and running General Store?
If you work really hard, you can do what you want.
Are you similar or different to your own mother? And do you see things in your kids that remind you of you?
I think we are really similar, but I am more stubborn, and she is more mellow. My little one is very much like me.
What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Late afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. Everything feels still for a moment!
Where would your time machine go?
I have to pick the 60’s and 70’s. Social Movements plus insane clothes.
The desert can be such a harsh place that easily isolates us from comfort and society, but it is also an insanely beautiful and magical place... How do you understand both the desert’s austere conditions and its mysterious beauty?
My relationship with the desert is one that is closely connected to my childhood. It is just where I feel completely content. I love that the heat slows everything down. I think that is what I miss the most about it. It’s ironic because the heat is what I used to hate the most growing up.
What possibilities become available when ‘classic’ notions of beauty are discarded?
Maybe its self-acceptance. I think as women, we grown up with a notion of what it is to be ‘beautiful,’ its so specific and its held with such reverence. There is so much mental energy washed on a woman’s self-analysis of being beautiful. Women could take over the world if they were freed from that societal ideal. Once you stop wasting your energy on something that is really arbitrary and superficial, you’re free.
Shopping for vintage is so different from shopping for contemporary because it really requires a lot of patience and perseverance. What is the game plan when your look for vintage?
There is no strategy – just find the gems and leave the rest. I don’t try to guess what customers will like. I let my own opinion lead the way. But I love the vintage hunt, it is my favorite part of my job. Every time I find something I like for the shop, it is like a little spark goes off inside. I love watching customers find pieces that they love, and giving them another life. I love the life cycle of vintage. Some of our pieces are 100 years old – I wonder who used to wear them and if they ever imagined girls would be wearing their clothes 100 years later. It’s a lovely process that I promise you will never feel with mass-produced clothes.
What do you do when you put the phone down?
I pick up a book.
How have you changed since starting a family?
Being selfish just isn’t an option when you have young kids. I’m inspired to do what makes me happy because that’s an example I want to set for them. But it’s always balanced with spending time with them, doing nothing in particular and being present.
What has surprised you the most about having children?
That even when you are asleep or sick or an old lady – you’re still a mother first.
What has being a mother taught you about individuality and character?
I always remind myself to let them be them. I want to steer them into making good decisions, but they are not me. And I like that they are they’re own people, its interesting to watch them grow into themselves and I try to be a witness who doesn’t intervene too much.
What’s your favorite season and why?
Summer for its long days.
What are the greatest virtues your hope to see in a a person?
Kindness, humor, realness.