This story is part of Image Issue 16, "Interiority," a living archive of L.A. culture, style and fashion that shows how the city moves from the inside. Read the whole issue here.
Sisters Rebecca and Ursula Recinos, who run the vintage collection Sister Kokoro, started thrifting from an early age, sometimes buying pieces and reconstructing them themselves. The sisters, both in their 30s, mostly grew up around Echo Park. They’re four years apart, but they remember how their mom used to dress them up the same — “like twins,” Ursula says with a laugh, noting how her older sister has always “inspired” her.
Rebecca and Ursula founded Sister Kokoro in 2016. At one point it was a vintage shop, but now the sisters mostly focus on pop-ups and doing styling for music videos and photo shoots. They like to mix things up: combining vintage pieces from Sunday's Best and East LA Nostalgia with independent designers like Groovy Daze, Rodarte and Miracle Eye. Their vintage clothing collection ranges from the 1950s through the ’90s, from frilly shawls to glittery disco.
As for the name of the brand, it’s inspired by Rebecca’s time living in Kyoto, Japan. She was enchanted by the name of a friend’s daughter, Kokoro, which means “heart” in Japanese.
“We didn't really want to involve the word 'vintage,' because we were more than just a vintage shop,” says Ursula. “We’re really influenced by music and movies and photography — that's all a combination of us.”
For Rebecca, it’s Jean-Luc Godard, Agnés Varda, “The Virgin Suicides” and “Trainspotting.” For Ursula, it’s rock ’n' roll and skateboarding, but also “Dazed and Confused” and Sofia Coppola. For Sister Kokoro, clothing is a means to inhabit new characters and worlds. It’s a form of time travel.
Elisa Wouk Almino: Why vintage?
Ursula Recinos: I've always wanted to live in a different era. Dressing that way when I was younger, it just made me feel cool — like, not a lot of people wear this stuff. It was kind of rare to see people dressing how I was. Sometimes they’d be like, what are you wearing? I got a lot of that. I'd be pretty bold about it. I think it’s because these pieces are so different, and I’m kind of different in ways, so [I’ve been] able to express myself with vintage pieces.
Rebecca Recinos: We were wearing all this stuff that wasn't really trendy — although, you know, things have changed now. I think it's really cool being able to incorporate some vintage in your wardrobe, because you're reusing pieces. And it's important to be sustainable, or at least try.
UR: Because it's hard nowadays. Even vintage can be expensive, so not a lot of people can afford that.
RR: But they’re just really cool pieces. Even though I don't have too many ’30s and ’40s, ’50s items, the items that I do have — I love the fabrics, the rayons. They're just so beautiful, they're constructed so beautifully.
EWA: Do you ever look into the stories behind the clothes you acquire?
UR: Yeah — for example, if we find this really pretty gown, I'll think of Greece, how they wore these pretty gowns, or in the ’70s, how this is what they wore to dances and balls or prom. I kind of create a whole story in my head about it.
RR: We've seen some pieces that are almost identical to movies and TV shows — especially now with certain shows like “Stranger Things” — you know, the ’80s.
EWA: What is one of your favorite pieces that you own?
UR: I'd say this black velvet cape. I've worn it so much that it's pretty messed up. But I wouldn't give it up.
RR: I have many, but the one that I can think of right now is this Penny Lane-type of coat. It feels like, wow, when you put it on and go to a concert.
UR: All the clothing in that movie [“Almost Famous”] is really cool. Penny Lane has always been a big inspiration since we were young. And so, we both have the Penny Lane coats.
EWA: How would you describe each other's style?
UR: We like layering a lot. For example, if we put on vintage Wrangler bell bottoms or a jacket that we bought recently, from now, and then just mixing all that together — the layering is a big deal for us. Some things may seem like they may not go together but we just make it work — even if it's stripes and polka dots. You might think it doesn't match, but things like that are fun to experiment with.
RR: When I was in Kyoto, Japan, they like to layer a lot of pieces.
UR: When I went to visit, I saw a lot of that too and that was really inspiring. It’s a unisex thing — they just mix everything so well. It can be really simple and plain but then it looks so stylish. We are more maximalist, but as we’re getting older, there are times that I want to simplify.
RR: We like statement pieces, but we also like to dress in all black sometimes [laughs].
UR: I’ve always liked Mary Kate and Ashley — they dress in all black but they’re just so stylish.
RR: I think Ursula is definitely influenced a lot by classic rock. But we also both like ethereal kind of dresses —
UR: Dreamy dresses. And I think [Rebecca does] the layering pretty well — she does a lot of stripes, and pantsuits — she wears them very well.
EWA: What do each of you bring to a set? How do you complement each other?
UR: We're sisters, so we're bound to bump heads together [laughs]. But then we’re like, “OK, you’re better at that, so you focus on that, and I focus on this.” It's nice having a partnership. I feel like she is more organized, I'm pretty spontaneous. I like to go with the flow — but I do need some sort of structure, which is where she comes in. I like to make sure that everything is fun.
RR: I tend to be the planner. I start kind of early, curating a lot of outfits, but then I run it through her and ask, “What do you think of this?"
UR: I'm an extrovert but an introvert at the same time —
RR: I’m more of an introvert, but I have to be an extrovert when I have to be [laughs].
UR: I guess it comes a little easier for me, in some ways.
Rebecca: We're both Aries …
UR: Yeah [laughs], both fire signs!
EWA: What are some of your favorite vintage shops and designers in L.A.?
RR: We've done the Los Feliz flea market a lot. There are a lot of great vintage sellers.
UR: There are so many types of vintage — in the last pop-up we did, our neighbor focused on just denim.
I shop a lot from Gimme Danger because they have a lot of cool band shirts and sweaters and they’re very rock ’n' roll. They reprint on vintage T-shirts. We do a lot of thrifting and antiquing still, so it’s pretty unknown — in L.A., O.C., the Valley, Long Beach. We’re big on shoes, like Jeffrey Campbell.
EWA: You recently styled the dancers from the L.A. Dance Project, in collaboration with stylist Keyla Marquez — a story that is also in this issue! I would love to hear about your process with that shoot.
RR: It was great to pull from different L.A. designers and get insight from Keyla. We made some of these L.A. styles [and mixed them] with our own [collection] — [adding] our own touch to it.
I feel like the dancers had fun dressing up. Originally it was going to be one look, but it ended up being two or three because they were like, “we want to try this!”
UR: Something that we kept in mind was the fact that they were dancers, and these poses were going to be very movement-oriented, so we wanted to make sure they were able to feel comfortable and move —
RR: And be themselves.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.