Sometimes Rachelle and Norman Clark of MAW Supply, a Houston-based online vintage clothing shop, don’t tell their customers what gender an article of clothing is intended for. Instead, they’ll just ask if you like it or not.
“Gender is kind of like bookends on a shelf, and there is so much happening in between,” says Norman Clark. “We encourage people to look in both men’s and women’s clothes because so many of the pieces we have can be unisex.”
When the husband-and-wife duo started their company back in 2012, they initially kept their merchandising simple: There were separate sections for men’s and women’s clothing—after all, MAW stands for Man and Woman. “I was the man, and Rachelle was the woman,” Norman Clark says. “Then we saw how diverse our supporters were.”
One of those customers, Austin, always looks through both the men’s and women’s sections “and fits pieces into his own personal style, regardless of the gender they were originally made for,” says Norman. He says customers like Austin were the catalyst for the shop to become something bigger, as the Clarks began encouraging patrons to wear what they liked without worrying.
The couple has found that Houston provides a unique environment for vintage finds because of the diversity of its population (leading to a diversity of clothing) and the wide availability of youthful clothing. They carefully consider items from local thrift shops and estate and garage sales, weighing aesthetics with quality and wearability.
View this post on Instagram
🧡 Vintage printed collared short sleeve (SOLD) + orange high waist lounge pants (SOLD) newly added to the webstore. See item listings for measurements/details. Shop online at mawsupply.com 📸: @normanofmaw - - As a black business, we ask that you continue to support the many causes that are doing the ground work to fund the families and communities of the countless Black lives lost due to inhumane acts of police violence and injustice. Here are a few organizations who can use your support: @blklivesmatter @nationalbailout @bailproject @blackvisionscollective @reclaimtheblock
“Usually the prints and patterns tend to jump out at me. I’m really into bold colors as well as muted colors,” says Rachelle Clark. “The texture and quality of the fabric definitely stands out to me, whether it is seersucker, or linen, or sheer. We look for things that are standout pieces that can also be staples.”
Beyond the quality of a particular garment, they also examine it for the era it came from, seeking retro finds that still carry relevance. “We think about Is this vintage and does it fit into the modern wardrobe? Is it something you could wear and want to wear today?” Norman Clark says.
Because Houston is so diverse, he says there is always a supply and a market for quality pieces. However, shopping vintage is still picking up steam in the city. “Not everyone is into this yet,” Norman Clark says, “and they still need to be taught, in terms of showing people that vintage is cool and sustainable and why things are priced the way they are, et cetera.”
The Clarks attempt to reach new audiences, in large part, through their in-person events; however, ever since the pandemic took hold, MAW Supply has been forced to cancel gatherings and instead focus its efforts on its online presence.
“We were blessed to already have a platform online, but this has really caused us to go into overdrive,” says Rachelle Clark. “We’re determined to not let this time deter our passion. We’ve actually seen a spike in engagement and visibility online since the pandemic hit, so it has definitely caused changes in how people perceive vintage and online shopping in general.”
The two, who both work full-time jobs in addition to running MAW Supply, hope to develop the company in the future, expanding beyond their selection on Etsy.
“We definitely want to have our own brick and mortar storefront at some point,” says Rachelle Clark. “We want to continue to grow the brand and continue to grow as a small business and, particularly as a Black small business, to continue to change the narrative.”