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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
<p>Nava Ottenberg shows off her vintage designs next to clothing from other local artists. Her store, Persona Vintage Clothing &amp; Costumes, has been open for 32 years.</p>

Nava Ottenberg shows off her vintage designs next to clothing from other local artists. Her store, Persona Vintage Clothing & Costumes, has been open for 32 years.

As the door opens from the cobblestone streets in downtown Gainesville, a petite woman sweeps the floor as eyeglasses hold back the light brown curls on top of her head. Little red fish on wire dangle from her earlobes, swinging with each motion of the broom.

A simple glance up, a smile and a hello from a voice that’s sweet but firm can be heard over the bristles grazing the floor as Nava Ottenberg greets those entering her shop.

Hard-working Ottenberg, 58, juggles many hats. In addition to being the owner of Persona Vintage Clothing & Costumes, located at 201 SE Second Place, she is also a mother of two, world traveler, artist and clothing designer.

Although Persona is a vintage clothing store, Ottenberg blurs the line between old and new with her own fashion line, “Sleepwalk,” which is sewn locally and sold in-store. All of her designs are upcycled, using parts of old clothes to rework and redesign the fabric into up-to-date and better quality designs.

“I started designing it because I was looking for a certain type of clothing line that I wanted to carry in the store, and frankly, the only kind of lines I liked was Anthropologie and I couldn’t afford ordering them, so I started making my own,” she said.

On the left side of the store, a rack full of Ottenberg’s designs hang ready for purchase, each unlike the other. Dresses from her collection are priced at around $48 and shirts at around $28.

The collection was inspired by integrating fabric used in slips, like lace and silk, with other everyday clothing pieces.

“I’ll see something and see how ugly it is and how I can translate it into something beautiful, and then I put this and that together,” she said.

Vintage has always been a part of Ottenberg’s life. Growing up in Israel, she remembers raiding her dad’s closet for 1940s flannel shirts as a child to pair with go-go boots for a unique look.

“It’s important to create your own style,” she said. “You want to put together different things and in order to do that you have to have the right ingredients.”

Those ingredients are vintage and vintage-inspired pieces, she said.

“Even the big designers, they all take from vintage. On the runways you see it’s vintage this and vintage that,” she said. “Ralph Lauren buys all these amazing vintage motorcycle jackets and keeps them in his warehouse and then takes them and copies them. Real inspiration has always been vintage. The quality could never be produced today because people are unwilling to. People are not willing to sew, embroider and embellish and take care of details, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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One of her goals with her shop, which has been open for 32 years, is to teach people to support local vendors. The stock of Persona is compromised of local artists including her own designs.

Whitney Mutch, 32, grew up in Gainesville and has been shopping at Persona since the ’90s. She still shops at the store as a customer, but she also works with Ottenberg as indiegainesville.com. Together they have worked to stop the city from abolishing all free parking downtown and to help promote all local independent businesses.

“Nava's store is one of the few independent stores that's survived decades of growth in Gainesville,” Mutch said. “In her store, she supports and sells the work of local designers, be it jewelry or clothing. Her business has been successful because of the passion she has, the drive she has and the care she takes to help customers find just the right piece for whatever occasion.”

Nava Ottenberg shows off her vintage designs next to clothing from other local artists. Her store, Persona Vintage Clothing & Costumes, has been open for 32 years.

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