Aynsley and the Automat

As mentioned here before, I like to occasionally feature women who have taken their passions and turned them into small businesses. I archive these stories in a section of the blog called Working. It was something I was inspired to do after Martha's 'Dreamers Into Doers' campaign launched several years ago. And sometimes I'm fortunate enough to know these women!

Aynsley Amy, shown above, surrounded by the fruits of an estate-sale yield, is one such person. Aynsley and I worked together at Anthropologie in Toronto for about a year before she decided to strike up her own business, turning her imaginative dream into a reality with a miniscule budget, a knowledge of vintage treasures, a passion for fashion and a love of old-school automats.

Scouring estate sales, tag sales and flea markets, Aynsley pools together a unique assortment of vintage apparel and housewares, selling them online through her website theautomat.ca and at trunk shows. The key to Aynsley's success is the clarity of her aesthetic: the goods she proffers must be unique, colourful and dynamic, demonstrating personality by provoking the imagination. Aynsley explains below.

"I like to characterize the Automat as a modern-day vending machine stocked with past-day treasures, all carefully handpicked with an eye for the awesome," she says. Aynsley's website, where she sells her finds, was designed to look like an automat, an image she could not let go of when coming up with her selling strategy.

"The look of the website was incredibly important - how the merchandise is presented is as important as the merchandise itself," she says. "The challenge was to create something clean and easy to navigate, but that also got across the feeling of a real automat, a wall of coin-operated boxes from decades past. One of the best compliments we got was a disbelieving, 'How did you manage to make a website look vintage?''

"There's just something about automats that I find really appealing. They were the original self-serve restaurant where you chose your meal, put in your coins and the little window opened up. It was about convenience but, unlike most of today's convenience-based experiences, they were also beautifully constructed."
The pieces Aynsley selects are all carefully considered to reflect a sense of femininity but also adventure. There is nothing subtle about the look she is promoting, as the Automat's manifesto clearly outlines: "We believe that life is too short to blend into the crowd. We believe that style should be about reinvention, celebration and inspiration."And what's next for the Automat? "I plan on gradually introducing more new (as in not previously loved) merchandise that has the look and feel of antique and vintage. This is a way of keeping the styles of the past alive once the originals have become too old and delicate to use. And with clothing, it's also a way to offer a wider size range."

It's been a joy seeing Aynsley's work develop and grow. She was recently featured on MTV and last week held her end-of-summer trunk show. I heard so much about it from co-workers and mutual friends who were able to attend. Visit her site for even a brief trip to the past. Who knows, you may find yourself wanting to slide a few coins into one of those tempting automats.
Aynsley recently held an end-of-season trunk show at a friend's home: a gorgeous array of colours, shapes and textures.
All tagged with Aynsley's branded sale tickets.
Housewares are also a key component to the Automat's vision. Vintage tchotchkes (the woodland critters) and whimsical gadgets, such as salt-and-pepper shakers (the green roosters) and egg cups (the chickens) are all part of the package.
Vintage and antique glassware and teacups.
Old ceramic beer mugs do double-duty as planters.


saffron said...

Wonderful post! Up with the Automat and up with Martha Moments!

Sarah said...

Love it! xo