Skip to main content

Dustin Meltzer of Enfield Cottage Vintage Talks Men’s Fashion And Preserving The American Dream

Jan 28, 2020 12:46PM ● By Gabrielle Varela

Dustin Meltzer of Enfield Cottage Vintage Photo Provided By: Gabrielle Varela

The large three-story building in Old West Lebanon can largely go unnoticed. You may have
passed it on your way to shopping in the newer, shinier, ever-expanding West Lebanon.
However, through the doors of Consign and Design, you are catapulted to another time with
Sinatra playing softly, when things were made with care and everything is in the details.

Displays of vintage skis, framed maps, briefcases, traveling bags, posters, and pins fill the first
floor along with full living room sets so richly retro-modern Don Draper would feel right at home. It is a treasure chest, a time machine with racks of original Woolrich coats and luxurious furs, fine china, even fold-out beach chairs reminiscent of the nautical nuances of beach clubs past.

Deep in the third level of the store, I find Dustin Meltzer, owner, and founder of Enfield Cottage
Vintage, set perfectly amongst his Americana backdrop, in a wide brim hat and vest, devilishly
stylish and unwittingly welcoming.

So your booth is one amongst others?

Yes, there are about twenty vendors on the third floor and about 50 throughout the whole
building.

How did you find out about this space?

It used to be across the street. I’ve been collecting vintage clothes for years now. I found this
space, rather, I ended up in this space because my mom had a booth of her stuff in here, I had
all these clothes piling up at my house and I can’t not buy them when I find them so I kept
collecting and decided I should open a space so I can sell some of it.

And how did you get into this?

I’m really just a picker at heart. So, I’ve always just really loved clothing and I’ve always been
inspired by the vintage designs of men’s clothes because that’s what I wear. And when I was
working at J Crew I found the clothes that I was drawn to were all designed or reproductions of
vintage styles. So, I realized you could go out and find the originals of the time. The quality is
just as good. Sometimes there is a story with it, like a rip or a button that isn’t like all the other
buttons and I think that sort of character kind of implies a past life to it.

You seem like you have an excellent sense of style, has that always been the case?

Let’s see how the progression lead here, I went to KUA. I was a boarding student there. And I
remember when I first started going to school it was the first time in my life I had to think about
what I had to wear and how I dressed in a really intentional way because the school had a dress
code. So I was thinking about it as here is this framework and how do I still feel comfortable
dressing within it and that just got me really interested in clothes. It was something super
inspiring and something that sort of set me on this path in a way

Interesting. So it kind encouraged your fashion sense?

Yes, which is weird because I work there now and the kids sort of hate it. But it lead me to J
Crew, which was my favorite store to shop at the time. It was preppy and had all the things I
needed.

And you ended up working for them, right?

It was my part-time job all through college and when I graduated. I was always just drawn to
men’s stuff there. And so when I graduated college, I moved to Chicago. It was the first time I
had ever lived in a city and I started working at the J Crew there. I became a sales associate
and moved into what they call a personal shopper, a personal stylist. I was doing that in
Michigan Avenue which is probably their biggest store in the Midwest.

I was like THE men’s guy and I really got into it. There was this kind of emerging
American-made, vintage-inspired menswear culture that was happening in the men’s fashion
world at the time, around 2012, so I started getting into vintage clothes and also tailoring. Like,
how do you make things fit the way you want them to fit? How do you construct things out of
high-quality material.

Sounds like a great set up. Is this when you decided to launch out on your own?

So, I think a lot of people have these feelings whenever they are working for a big company, like
“I sort of like what I’m doing but I feel if I were to do this on my own it would be a lot better.” So I
started having all these feelings of maybe I should open my own store one day. I was also
thinking about when you’re tailoring things are you designing them? I started having this
convergence of creative mindedness and business mindedness and wanting to make
something.

But I was also wondering do I actually know enough about this industry to do this? So I went
back to school to The London College of Fashion. I spent a year there studying fashion design
and broadly the fashion industry in 2013 for a one year program.

Wow! What a decision!

What was really cool is that same year, J Crew went to the UK so I was able to continue to work
for them. I was there right at the beginning, right when they were opening the store. Like, the
timing could not have been better. Keep in mind, through applying, making all these decisions to
leave Chicago, where I’m gonna leave all my stuff and get rid of my apartment, it all kind of lined
up really nicely so that I was right there when the store opened. I was there for opening day and
I got to spend a year in London having this really cool retail and cultural experience.
I’ve seen you’ve gone to a few of the biggest fashion weeks in the world. Tell me about
that.

I’ve always been a photographer too so I started taking photos of people on the street, going to
the big fashion events like London Fashion Week and I got to meet all these really interesting
people. I approached it with this mindset that I’m just going to pursue everything. I’m not going
to be passive about anything if I have the opportunity to pursue it, I’m going to pursue it.
One day at J Crew this guy came in an interesting Barbor jacket, it was like this printed plaid, I
had never seen anything like it and I asked him about it and turns out he was the Head of
Menswear design. He invited me up to the Barbor factory for a tour which is like 3 hours out of
London and I did. Stuff like that was kind of falling into my lap which was really exciting.

So, what made you first take a step out on your own?

After culminating a ton of stuff, I thought, I gotta get rid of some of this. So I started an Etsy
store and that was going and this sort of emerged out of that. So that’s how I am here now.

Can you tell me about the significance of the name Enfield Cottage?

So this came about because in the 40’s my grandfather bought a camp, like truly a cottage, on
Mascoma Lake and my family would come here for all of our summers. We all lived in
Massachusetts and we’d spend a few weeks and when my dad was a kid it was the whole
summer and just live out here like simple living.

My grandmother was originally from Hanover Center so it was kind of like a homecoming for her
but it just sort of represents this nostalgic summer life. When I was living in Chicago my uncle
came across a bunch of color negatives from the 60’s that were all photos that were taken at the
cottage and so I put my photographer hat on and scanned all the negatives and went through
that whole process and there are all these awesome photos but the fashion in them was like so
similar to the stuff we were selling at J Crew at the time and so similar to the things that I was
drawn to that I was really like getting into that cycle, the cycle people in fashion always talk
about all the time where those older designs were becoming current and cool again.
Prior to moving to Chicago, I would find time every summer to come home and spend time at
the cottage with my friends so it became sort of like this really sacred place for us and the
convergence of all of that is what Enfield Cottage is, that’s what it’s all about.


So the same way your family circled back to the cottage, fashion circles back to its own
timeless styles?

Yeah. And you know, this part of the world is really important to my family. We’ve had this spot
in Enfield for over 75 years, that's how long it’s been in my family. It’s where my grandparents...I
mean, that’s where they honeymooned. They spent their honeymoon at this place and my dad
grew up there and I grew up there. So even though, I am from Metheun, I went to KUA like my
grandmother and my dad and I sort of grew up at KUA and spent summers there. So this area
became home.

Really special.

It is, yeah. I also think it’s also a really important moment right now in fashion for vintage
clothing because we are thinking more about waste. There is a lot of waste in the fashion
industry and I think a lot of people right now, especially young people, are thinking about how to
be less wasteful but also retain high quality. People are thinking about buying things that are
going to last.

I can definitely see how that would turn people onto vintage clothes to be worn again.

Yeah, so it’s going from this mentality of if a button rips off the pants you throw them away to if
you rip the knee, you patch it... I think the future of fashion is going to be interesting because
these are all considerations that goes against a lot of the big things that have lead us here
within the fashion world like stories about high-end fashion companies that would literally burn
their clothes at the end of their season because they would rather not donate them so not to
cheapen their image.

That huge clothing factory in Bangledesh that caved in and killed 1,100 people 7 years ago... I
think the more we hear about the way this industry has gone, I think people are interested in
changing it and finding a better way.

Yeah, it’s great to hear it’s not just about style, it’s about the impact of it, a lot more than
we consider.

Yeah, and the quality is here too. I mean, there used to be a huge clothing factory in Lebanon
where the AVA Gallery is for like 100 years. It was called HW Carter & Sons and they closed in
the mid to late 80’s but they would make jackets and plaids, overalls and denim, vests, work
pants and they were there for like 100 years doing that. They closed around that time when all
the factories were closing, I think that is that sort of the turning point to where we are now with
the waste. But I think it may be hopeful for that same cycle we were talking about, that we’ll
circle back to this more intentional, waste-free, ethical way of approaching clothing and fashion.

Absolutely. So, a lot of these things that I’m seeing are designed to be extremely durable and the brand emanates that. Do you think that functionality still keeps them current
also?

Yeah. It’s so cool when you find something that could be sold at a retailer right now but it’s
actually 40 years old and made by some brand you’ve never heard of that doesn’t exist
anymore. That is a cool moment.

I bet. What are some pieces you see that will never fall out of fashion?

I think denim. I mean, jeans, jean jackets are never going to fall out of fashion. Wool. Heavy
wool coats especially in this part of the world. Flannel shirts are something that is practical but
you can also express yourself. T-shirts and sweatshirts are interesting because they were
introduced as low fashion, utilitarian but they’ve become high fashion. I mean, that’s the whole
story with denim, it was introduced as a durable pant that you could wear in a coal mine and
now you can go buy a pair of denim for over $1,000 and its super designer high-end. So, I think
denim is definitely something that will never go out of style. And also be universally acceptable
in a lot of situations.

And so you have a wide range of things, is there a certain time period or brand or is it
just whatever you pick up along the way?

So, its a blend of things that I’m drawn to from my time at J Crew and in London and then there
are things that are unique and unexpected that I just really like because I’ve never really seen
before like this weird wool cape thing from the 60’s. I had to buy it.

Any specific time period?

I think what is most interesting to me is 50’s, 60’s, 70’s because when I was starting at J Crew
we were sort of coming back into that cycle but I’ve noticed there are a lot of younger people
that are interested in the 80’s and 90’s even early 2000’s for fashion which is hard to believe is
only 20 years ago.

When I think about the things that I wore when I was a kid, that stuff doesn’t really interest me. I
don’t know why but I’m not interested in finding a pair of Jenko jeans and selling them. For me,
it's about the stuff my dad would have been wearing when he was a kid. I dunno, maybe I
should talk to a therapist about that but that’s the time period I’m interested in because it’s sort
of like that moment of the untainted American dream. Like postwar, pre-industrialization where
people in our country were making things and that was a viable job. Manufacturing in our
country is not nearly as big now as it was then. And you could make a proud living just, like,
makin’ pants, you know?

People back then also weren’t as concerned with having lots of stuff. It would be; “I need a pair
of jeans” and it would be their pair of jeans until they couldn’t wear them anymore. I’m also
interested in having one good thing instead of having a bunch of things that aren’t the thing I
want.

What fashion advice would you give to men now?

That’s an interesting question. It’s a hard one for one piece of advice. I used to have a lot of
personal styling clients who would ask for advice. I think it’s about wearing clothes that make
you feel good. And I don’t mean wearing sweatpants all the time because different occasions
call for different, sometimes specific things but what I mean is finding things that make you feel
confident. That when you put them on and look in the mirror you’re like; “ yes, that is what I look
like or what I want to look like.”

Clothes that make you feel happy, like on a practical level. I like to have pockets. I like to be
warm enough. It’s mostly about finding things whether, through story or quality, color or pattern,
when you put them on you just feel BETTER.
As he rearranges a display, he looks at a poster of John F. Kennedy hanging above some
shelves.

“I love this print of JFK, well, it’s not a print, it’s a print on canvas...but I mean, what a style icon.
Everybody wants to be John F Kennedy.”

You can find Justin and Enfield Cottage @enfieldcottage or visit him at Consign & Design at
35 Main Street, West Lebanon, NH 0378.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Here in Hanover's free newsletter to catch every headline