In 2020, while most of us were preoccupied with the pandemic, the “Denim Whisperer” rolled into town and opened a brick and mortar. After honing her denim acumen in Los Angeles and establishing herself as a vintage retail staple in Tyler back in 2o12, AA Vintedge proprietor Caitlin Brax felt it was time to take her styling skills to Dallas. The nickname comes from Brax’s seemingly magic ability to fit her clients in vintage denim with a simple once-over. Her reputation has grown — vintage inquiries from LA and New York flood her Instagram DMs, while her clients from Tyler still make the drive into Dallas to get their denim fix.
Such denim sorcery has not been seen since The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Between matching new clients with their perfect fit, we sat down with Brax to talk body image, the glow of the Gen-Z cool factor, going TikTok viral, and how she can fit you with just a twirl.
PC: You are known as the Denim Whisperer. How are you able to look at people and fit them? It’s like magic to people.
Caitlin Brax: It’s something that’s very important to me just having dealt with body image issues from a child. I want to make sure that every person that walks in the door — regardless of their gender, their build, their economic status, anything — can get into a really good pair of jeans. It’s honestly like my life’s mission. And I never started out to do that, but when I worked in Los Angeles, I dealt with a lot of contemporary denim, and I was kind of a denim specialist there. I folded it all day, I worked 60 hours a week, I was helping all kinds of different people. I don’t remember a point where I was like, this is it, I’ve gotten to be the best. I think I’ve always just had that knack.
People shop differently now. Mall culture has been declining due to so many factors, but thrifted and vintage have blown up. Do you see spaces like AA Vintedge replacing that experience for people? You do have so many people come back, and many are of a younger demographic.
We try to have a price point for everyone, so we always try to have a $5 rack. I get being a kid — you’re poor, your parents give you $10 to go look around. So they come in here, they kind of look around, play dress up, take Instagram photos, buy a hat. I love having them in here because they keep us young. They help inform me about what’s relevant.
You have so many repeat customers it feels almost like a community you’ve built. How did you manifest that? Is it something natural, or something conscious?
I’ll tell you, it didn’t always come naturally to me. When I was working in California, I was in my very early 20s and like most young people, I didn’t know myself yet. I hadn’t found my groove. I was insecure and kind of nervous to talk to people. But I eventually found my footing at my job in LA and one of the things I learned from there was the importance of calling people by their name. And asking people about their children, their family, their jobs. They felt seen. So I made a conscious effort to start doing that years ago, and now it’s just second nature. It’s not something I do to make someone feel something. I care. I do get invested. Especially when you see people repeatedly because it means everything to me that they choose to shop here.
Let’s talk about TikTok. This summer you had a moment of going somewhat viral on TikTok. What has that been like?
It took me by surprise. I never wanted to join TikTok because I’m already married to my phone and Instagram and that kind of thing. When someone asked me if they could do a little video, I was like, ‘yeah!’ From there it’s blown up. So we have a lot of repeat clients from the denim fitting. I think people are excited to know that we carry almost every size in denim. I don’t like to differentiate. I don’t have a plus-size section, I don’t have a men’s section. It’s all unisex and it all kind of fits everybody.
Your mother is the talent behind AA Vintedge’s handmade line, Mod Melrose. Have you always been working in tandem with your mother?
With vintage stuff, the sizes are so specific. We had a lot of clients with different body sizes and ages that we wanted to be able to outfit, so she started making caftans because every time we got a vintage one in it would sell right away. She uses vintage fabric and vintage patterns, so for the most part they’re one of a kind. When we started that together we realized what a good combination it was to have the vintage and the handmade. Then it’s something for everyone.
Any advice for people shopping for denim on their own when they don’t have the guidance of the Denim Whisperer?
I would always tell you that vintage denim is going to look bigger than it fits on the body. Remember that there is zero stretch, and a lot of the vintage denim is unisex, so it’s straight up and down. You have to kind of look at the shape of it on the hanger. Does it go in at the waist? Is it straight up and down? And then, keeping in mind that if it looks too big for you, you still want to try it, because vintage denim is a whole different ball game.
What is your favorite way to style denim right now?
I fall in love with the wash first. And then I will paper bag-waist it. I love a slouchy, distressed look with a big belt and a lingerie top or a tank of some sort. I like to mix the super beat up with something simple or a little bit feminine.
Do you pick up on jean trends just by watching the customers come in? Do they voice to you what they want in trends?
They do. They’ll come in and you know, you can spot a cool Gen-Zer from a mile away. I try to have a little bit of everything. Vintage denim will never go out of style; it’s always classic. But I do listen to what the kids want, because they’ve got their finger on what’s cooking, so if they ask me for something, yeah, we try to get it. Right away. I love a mission like that for specific clients.
Visit the Denim Whisperer at her AA Vintedge “treehouse” along Henderson Avenue to get paired with your denim soulmate. Follow AA Vintedge on their Instagram @aavintedge or their brand new TikTok (Brax finally relented to the Gen-Z charm).