A Godmother for the Neighborhood

It’s the first time student Ruby found her way into Landaeus’ shop and the women exchange stories for half an hour. (Photography by Victoria Kempter.)


Five steps off Williamsburg’s arguably busiest street, Bedford Avenue, two windows are filled with unique vintage – not thrift – pieces, inviting passersby to slow down and stroll through. Malin Landaeus Vintage is one of the longest-standing shops in the rapidly gentrifying area. To Malin Landaeus, 59, selling clothes is just the surface. 

“I want this to be like a place where people get to both come and get inspired, but also a place where they can heal and recharge,” she said. “I’m a Reiki master, so that’s part of it. It’s like a place for women to be deeply connected.” 

Landaeus moved to New York City in 1987. The only girl in a family of three brothers, a half-brother, and cousins in the small town of Lund, Sweden, she’d felt the need to break free. 

“When I grew up, there was this homogenous way that everyone was and they were supposed to be, and I just didn’t fit that bill,” she said, taking a sip of her coffee behind her small counter, “I was too much, too loud, took too much space.” She came with a Swedish scholarship to study at FIT, granted with the hope that the promising young woman would return to her home country with her newly gained knowledge. She never did. 

Her plan was never to stay in fashion, she had studied to become a tailor for fun, always planning to go to university for economics and business in Stockholm eventually. As she caught foot in the United States, her path unfolded. 

In 2007, 20 years after arriving in New York City, Landaeus opened her vintage shop on the corner of Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue and North Sixth Street. She attracts women and some men from all walks of life to stroll around and get lost in the diversity of pieces and fabrics. She is curious and welcoming and wraps most people into conversations far from fashion — politics, activism, environment. 

“You can always come in and talk about things that are really important to us,” she told one of the girls who wandered in that afternoon.

Most of the pieces she sells here are from her closet. She works with an Italian vintage seller for the collection of boots and sells designs of some of the young women who work or have worked in the shop. She only occasionally buys pieces from people like Anthony, who comes in with a duffel bag filled with pieces from his late mother-in-law’s closet.

Landaeus has always kept active, goes for runs several times a week, and used to practice CrossFit. “I was in my late forties and all the other people were 20-something guys,” she said, “And I’m so competitive that I just injured myself every time.” 

When she met pilates instructor Elisa Bluming, she knew it was time for change. Like Landaeus, she’s a self-made Williamsburgian who 22 years ago founded Bluming Studio, which now found its home in Grad Street Healing Project. 

For the past 10 years, Landaeus has come to practice with Bluming, sometimes as much as four times a week. Right now it’s mostly Thursday mornings. The women have many stories to tell and Landaeus attests that most of her friends or social contacts come through work, either being customers or people she worked with previously. They mostly meet in the shop or go for walks.