I moved to the Bay Area from New York as a kid, and started hanging out with a lot more Filipino folks -- they were always the best-dressed, to me.
Aries and Carren Nuñez, the team behind Novus Vetus, have always been into fashion and dressing well, inspired by Hip-Hop culture in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But it was the event of their wedding that turned their eye and taste for cool clothes into a business venture.
“Novus Vetus is vintage clothing from the 80s and 90s, all curated and thrifted items by myself and my wife, Carren. We've been thrifting and collecting vintage for a pretty long time, but just started selling in the past couple of years. We just started doing it as a little side business to help pay for our wedding a couple years ago, and since then we just kept going,” Aries says.
Aries recognizes how the category of vintage clothing has crept into the realms of Hip-Hop culture, and cites the crossover of cultures as the critical point where Novus Vetus operates.
“It's definitely a Hip-Hop aesthetic, and it's interesting because I have seen how Hip-Hop style has evolved, and now people in that culture are wearing vintage clothes -- and not just vintage Hip-Hop clothes, but stuff that rockers wore back then is now considered part of Hip-Hop style. So an old band T-shirt that sells like crazy now, say Metallica or Guns N’ Roses, would have been the farthest thing from Hip-Hop style back in the day. So it's really interesting how vintage fashion and vintage clothing in general have become a part of Hip- Hop fashion.”
Exploring the nuances of Hip-Hop fashion, which is both ubiquitous and scene-driven, is also a primary preoccupation of the Nuñez’s project.
“I am half Filipino and half Dominican. In New York, the Dominican community likes to dress very well, it’s a very East Coast Hip-Hop style. Growing up in the Bay Area, I started hanging out with a lot more Filipino folks, and they dressed the most like my cousins and family in New York. Everyone was active in arts and Hip-Hop culture -- b-boys, DJs, graff writers, and even MCs -- they all looked the part, and they had that style that I was into through my connections from New York. But after a while, it wasn't about me trying to be like New York's artists, and I felt more of a connection to the styles in the Bay Area, like, "This is our style,'” Aries says.
And for Aries and Carren, the personal connections that their family shares with the styles and fashions that they hunt down and curate for Novus Vetus are the most valuable parts of the project.
“The funnest thing is when we get to work our booth together at the events. We have a three year old daughter too, she will come sometimes and it's cool hang-out time. As far as hitting thrift stores together, we don't do that as much anymore. The most fun for me is just having a business together. We get to share our personal histories with these clothes -- I tend to like more late '80s and early '90s stuff, and she's really into personal histories with these clothes -- I tend to like more late '80s and early '90s stuff, and she's really into more late '90s, and even the early 2000s stuff. So its just fun seeing both of our styles together in one shop," Aries says.
For Aries, this reflects the reality that more and more Filipino-Americans are assuming roles as tastemakers and creators in a variety of industries, including fashion.
“Filipino folks love to look good and dress well, and you can really see it in streetwear fashion. It makes sense because a lot of us grew up in it and love it. My twin brother is also really into fashion and clothing, and he is currently working on a documentary about Filipino-American history. He’s talked to some people involved in fashion and streetwear, and they all mention how they were influenced by 90s Hip-Hop culture via Polo, and Tommy Hill, and stuff like that. Filipino people have always been involved in the Hip-Hop scene. So it makes sense that as industries evolved, we take on bigger roles in different games.”
Aries sees Undiscovered SF — where Novus Vetus will be a regular vendor — as a perfect example of an evolving cultural space that Filipinos have carved out for themselves through their influences in Hip-Hop, as well as in the cultural arts that preserve Filipino heritage.
“You can catch us at Undiscovered SF every month. It’s fun being part of the community. Being surrounded by a bunch of Filipino vendors and businesses, showing off their products, it makes me proud not just being around fellow business owners, but watching the performances, the cultural dances, the history of Filipino people. I'm always proud to see the massive range of what Bay Area Filipino folks can do.”