"Collectors often walk unnoticed among us — seeking out enamel pins from balloonists on the field during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, feverishly thumbing through a box jammed with vintage postcards at a flea market, waiting near a bullpen at Isotopes Park, hoping players will stop to sign a baseball card.
Collectors aren’t hoarders. They’re selective, and they tend to live in tidy homes with elaborate display cases to showcase their pieces.
For the most part, collectors aren’t the type to trek down Canyon Road, carrying auction house catalogs. Instead, these folks connect with what are, or once were, everyday or pop culture objects. They often focus on the condition and provenance of pieces in their collections, and sometimes they struggle to understand why others don’t see the magic.
Some have fancy names, like philatelist (a stamp collector), numismatist (a collector of currency) and deltiologist (a postcard collector). Others just a have a fervor.
A passionate collector of authentic vintage fashion accessories, 65-year-old Kayla Komito, who settled in Santa Fe in August, is studious about her pursuit. Her zeal is rooted in nostalgia and firmly linked to research and knowledge.
“These items reflect the social legacy and rich cultural heritage of the changing image and role of women in this country from 1900 to 1990,” she said.
Komito has found more than 1,000 pieces of vintage costume jewelry, much of it handmade, in a search that spans more than 20 years. “When my research and library for vintage costume jewelry topped out, my shelves overflowing with the amazing tiny art pieces I’d found, I moved on in my treasure hunt to purses, hats, shoes and all manner of accessories, and finally vintage clothing,” she said.
She handles the overflow with three Etsy vintage clothing and accessory shops.
When Komito, as a child, visited her grandmother’s house, she said, she would be enveloped in lush surroundings that she did not experience in her parents’ home — with its more standard domestic air of the new and “thrown together.”
“I longed for it,” she said of the sense she had at her grandmother’s home. She aims to replicate it, surrounding herself with what is pleasing; even her computer rests on a French provincial inlaid table. Next to it, on another French provincial piece, is her printer.
Some of her favorite pieces include pink satin David Green boudoir slippers from the 1940s, a lucite glitter box purse made in Florida in the 1950s, a green tilt fur felt hat with botanical accents that sports a Jeannette Burke/House of Fashion label from the 1940s, and a striking 1950s lamé coat cape with a Quaker collar, brocade Indian design and red silk satin lining that could be part of the main exhibit in a fashion museum.
Although she enjoys searching online, Komita also seeks gems hidden in local thrift stores, at estate sales, clothing exchanges and garage sales.
She experiences a collector’s rush if she sees something unexpected in person, she said, when “there is something sensual and tangible, and you can touch fabric and look at the construction.” "