Michelene Auguste has been owning the vintage world since Gen Z popularized the trend. The model, photographer, stylist, and entrepreneur turned her personal passion for curating unique vintage pieces during her travels into a career with the launch of Dem Studio, a boutique in New York’s Lower East Side. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean influences and culture permeate her collections. Her personal aesthetic and Dem curations manage to find a perfect balance of fun and brightness with sophistication and enduring style. Inspired by her Caribbean upbringing, Michelene brings us contagiously joyful fashion.
Michelene is also an excellent source for travel inspiration. She knows how to travel well — seeking out those experiences and places authentic to the destination's culture. As a skilled photographer, Michelene perfectly captures the raw beauty of the people, places and things she encounters along her journeys. She provides endless inspiration to us here at Golden Edit and we are so excited to speak with her about her passion for style, travel, and vintage.
Dem Studio is all about amazing, unique vintage finds. What prompted your love of vintage and inspired you to launch Dem?
While modeling in Europe I fell in love with vintage. I couldn’t afford the high end pieces, and mostly loved vintage pieces that reflected something more personal, something about me and my culture. I consider vintage a medium, and my process of collecting vintage is a creative process and an expression of all these different aspects of my life. I started collecting vintage in Europe, and when I moved to New York I decided to start selling and also reworking pieces as a means to survive but also to create a special place and platform to showcase unique pieces from Caribbean artists and designers.
We love your aesthetic — both personally and in your boutique. What or who inspires your vibrant style?
Thank you! My style is mostly inspired by the women I grew up with, my mom, my grandmother and my cousins in the Caribbean, and by my home Trinidad & Tobago — the energy and the nature of the islands. My grandmother had the most amazing jewelry, and handbags. Growing up I was always trying on her jewelry. It was my favorite thing to do. My mom had great looks too, and she still does. She was a flight attendant, and before every flight we’d try on outfits for the two or three days she’d be gone — it was our mini fashion show. My love for colorful prints comes from her. My favorite prints are ones so bold and vibrant you can almost hear them. My cousins, who are like my sisters, helped inform my style too. They always spent a lot of time putting themselves together even if it was just to go to the grocery store. They’d bring me shopping, taught me how to braid my hair, do my makeup, and ultimately how to express myself through style. They would dress me up and bring me to parties I was definitely too young to go to, but it gave me confidence, it was so much fun, and I loved every minute of it.
Where and how do you source your pieces for Dem? What does that discovery process look like?
I started collecting vintage while travelling. Everywhere I go I look for secondhand shops and warehouses, estate sales too. Luckily, my husband also has a love for finding treasures and digging through junk, so it’s something we do together whenever we are in a new place.
You traveled extensively during your 10+ years as a model – what are some of your favorite destinations?
Milos Island in Greece is my favorite place I’ve ever been. It’s magical and felt untouched. My husband and I had some of the best food, and saw some of the most beautiful landscapes I’d ever seen. I also love Cuba and Sicily!
Your style and brand are influenced by your upbringing in Trinidad & Tobago — how do you infuse your culture into your work
Caribbean women are bold and full of life. We love color, prints, and standing out! So the pieces I look for or rework are ones that the women I grew up with might wear. Also, at Dem, we have events showcasing designers, singers, artists and filmmakers that are from the Caribbean. It’s important to me that my store and brand creates a platform for Caribbean creatives.
We are always inspired by your far-flung travels — where are you most looking forward to getting back to with travel resuming?
Home! It's the longest I’ve been away. I’d also love to go to Africa.