Relive the 1950s through early '90s at Highway Robbery Vintage
highway robbery vintage, south side pittsburgh

Relive the 1950s through early ’90s at Highway Robbery Vintage

April 11, 2016

Feeling nostalgic for the fashion industry’s most pivotal decades? (Aren’t we all?) Fortunately, Kate Colussy — owner and founder of the South Side’s Highway Robbery Vintage — happens to be an expert time-traveler.

Her shop, tucked into the heart of East Carson Street’s booming business hub, showcases the well-made fashions of yesteryear — the 1950s through the early 1990s, that is — at prices modest enough to justify the irony of its name. Collected from “house calls, wholesalers, dealers, and walk-ins,” every garment and accessory on display is both ethically made and environmentally friendly — a stark contrast to the mass-produced clothing of the millennium.

“I love that vintage is very well-constructed, and the fabrics and prints are just awesome,” says Colussy. “Wearing a vintage piece can really elevate an outfit.”

Originally from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, the self-proclaimed “fashion history geek” remembers aspiring to curate fashion exhibits for museums. “I didn’t end up doing exactly that,” she says, “but I think I got pretty close, and that makes me very happy.”

Having lived in the South Side for nearly a decade, Colussy strategically launched her storefront in the same neighborhood. Beyond reaping the benefits of heavy foot traffic, “it’s the neighborhood I know the best,” she explains. “I’m extremely lucky to have awesome regulars that live here who have been so supportive of the store.”

When she’s not single-handedly operating her flagship, the first-time business owner also manages a small selection of Highway Robbery’s apparel on Etsy — an undertaking that she hopes to amplify this year.

“My goal is to make all of the store’s inventory available in-store and online. I think it will make the shopping experience even better for my customers.”

Connecting new people with old pieces, Colussy tells us, is the most fulfilling aspect of her work: “I love to see the life cycle of a garment. I get the story on [its history] when I buy it, and then I get to pass that story along to its new owner.”

We’ve got a thing for history, here in Pittsburgh. Whether the subject is a color-blocked 1980s windbreaker or a next-door neighbor, origin is important. So, we ask — not out of futility, not for the sake of small talk. We ask because there’s something uniquely comforting about sharing our own beginnings with strangers.

That’s largely why Colussy has chosen to build a future here.

“Pittsburgh isn’t a pretentious city,” she notes. “I think the people here have a lot of pride in where they’re from, and I can appreciate that. Things are changing and growing here, and that’s good, but I hope [the humility] never changes.”

+ After scouting vintage artifacts, Colussy suggests grabbing a table at nearby French restaurant Cafe du Jour: “It’s always a great vibe, the food is amazing, and it’s really low-key.”

Photos by Tara Bennett