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First-Rate Fashion Guru: Hiroka Nakahira 

click to enlarge Hiroka Nakahira at Old Gold - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Hiroka Nakahira at Old Gold
Age: 39
Occupation: sales associate, Old Gold
Town: Burlington

Vintage dresses, cowboy boots and gorilla suits — you’ll find all that and more at Old Gold on Burlington’s Main Street. And the sales associates are as colorful as the inventory. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Hiroka Nakahira joined their ranks a couple of years after graduating from Plainfield’s Goddard College. (“The biggest thing I learned is surviving in a very small town in America,” she admits.) 

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At Old Gold, she says, “We dress everybody in town. People come in with all kinds of needs, from overalls to prom, from Burning Man to the cabaret … It’s a funny feeling when you go to some theme party and see a room full of people whom you dressed five hours before.”

Nakahira, who makes wearable art and skates with the Green Mountain Roller Derby as “Vagichael Jackson” in her free time, acts as part fashion counselor, part spiritual guide. “Most of the time, [customers] don’t even know what they are looking for,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like a detective.” Nakahira can create an outfit from any era, though she has to study up on fashion history “constantly,” she says.

In the bigger scheme of things, “I think Old Gold exists so people — I mean all kinds of people — can have a judgment-free zone to express themselves with however they want to dress,” Nakahira says. “People say local bookstores are a part of culture, something that every town should have. I feel like every town should have an Old Gold.”

Local oddity she loves:

The House of Lemay [drag performance troupe]. I see them at almost every big event in town: parades, marathons, fundraisers. They are old school. They’ve got their own style. They don’t give a shit. They are so punk!

Where you can find her on a Friday night:

Pho Hong in Burlington. I eat the No. 32 hot-and-sour soup with pork, or the No. 18 with shrimp and pork. I recommend almost anything they have. 

Vermont destinations worth driving for:

The Berlin Mall or Main Street Museum in White River Junction.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)
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