Dynamite Clothing

Shoppers peruse the racks at Dynamite Clothing in downtown Athens. (Photo/Elizabeth Rymarev)

True vintage is hard to come by in an age warped by fast fashion and nonstop trends, but Dynamite Clothing is a place where customers can pause, breathe life back into the pieces they explore and express who they are through unique and carefully curated clothing.

Loretta Paluck, the owner and operator of Dynamite, has had a passion for collecting vintage clothing for over 25 years. When opening Dynamite in 2001, she decided to share this passion with the Athens community.

Paluck hand selects each item that comes through her store, from quirky sweatshirts and retro sunglasses to over the top and extravagant coats. “It’s kind of cool to go out and come across something crazy like a leopard coat that they just don’t make [anymore.] That pattern, that faux fur … they just don’t have that style anymore,” Paluck said.

When Paluck first came to the Athens area, she was mainly selling her vintage collection to younger women who worked in restaurants downtown. She noticed that these women “drew a lot of their identity out of their clothing.”

The people are what drew Paluck to Athens and kept her here for so long. “The people who lived in Athens that I was around were really artistic and free,” Paluck said. She wants to bring her passion to the younger generations who want to express their individuality through their clothing with the help of exclusive vintage pieces.

“Younger people who are vintage shopping are almost so young that they do not understand the age of the vintage because it is so before they were born,” Paluck said. “I think this makes it a lot more interesting for people when they find themselves through me and feel unique and different.When they come in and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! A Braves shirt from 1992!’ — it’s cool to see.”

Paluck said that pairing basic clothing items with vintage garments creates more unique outfits than buying commercial shirts from traditional retail clothing stores that make hundreds of the same product.

There is an element of care and love behind vintage clothing that Paluck wants customers to understand. Every item in the stories is curated, handpicked and cleaned.

Winnie Smith, program coordinator at the University of Georgia’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and a long-time shopper of Dynamite said she loves vintage clothing because “the quality is better — these clothes were made to last.”

“We are in this really crazy time with fashion waste and any little steps we can take for sustainable fashion is necessary,” Smith said. “It is a chance to be more creative and thoughtful with your shopping.”

Downtown Athens has felt the presence of fast fashion with many big name stores setting up shop, but Dynamite’s presence provides Athenians with a sense of community and familiarity.

“I feel like there are fewer independent locally-owned businesses than there used to be, so Dynamite stands out as a store that has had a really long life and a really long relationship with downtown Athens and UGA,” Smith said.

Dynamite is deeply-rooted in the Athens community and has been downtown for 20 years. Many customers see shopping here as a way to support small and woman-owned businesses.

“When Lori moved into the storefront, it was like a ray of sunshine. There’s so much light in there, so much color, you can just tell that she has a really keen attention to detail and it comes through in her business and who she is,” Smith said.

Dynamite has something for everyone, according to Paluck — whether shoppers are looking to purchase items cohesive with their established style or step out of their comfort zones.

Compared to thrift stores like Goodwill, Dynamite stands out. Thought, curation and care goes behind each piece — the pieces are already chosen and hand-picked versus having to dig through a rack of clothing yourself. Paluck appreciates each piece as having its own previous life prior to arriving in her store.

“I like to think about what it did before it got to me,” Paluck said. “The magic in each piece carries over into the next person and is shown in unique ways.”