Meet The Collector #17: Noelie Ronczka (The Brass Lady)

Today the 17th episode of the topic Meet the CollectorMeet the Collector is about passionate people with a focus on collecting. With this topic I will give you an insight in their special collection. Collectors will tell their story behind their treasures, show their most rare and unique items and tell you all about the collecting thrill.

Noelie Ronczka has an amazing collection. Her collection contains some very rare and unique pieces. Thanks for sharing your collection and story Noelie. Enjoy.

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Noelie Ronczka

  • Name: Noelie Ronczka.
  • Living in Village/Country: Living in Milwaukee, WI, USA.
  • Age: 23 years.
  • Instagram ID: @thebrasslady
  • Number of Instagram Followers: 9.500+ followers.
  • Website: thebrasslady.com
  • Daily Work: Picker, curator, seller for my shop The Brass Lady and part-time barista at a coffee shop in Milwaukee.

What’s your favorite brand?

My favorite brand is and always will be J.L. Stifel & Sons. Of course their trademark boot-stamped calico garments are something that myself and others admire, but the main reason this brand stands out to me begins with the story of a young german immigrant, Johan Ludwig Stifel.

The story goes that In the early 1800s, he came to America and worked for a wool mill in Pennsylvania. He saved his money, learned about the textile trade and then walked barefoot to Wheeling, West Virginia carrying his shoes in one hand, a roll of cotton cloth in the other and little to no money in his pockets. Stifel created a successful business that outlived himself that lasted over 100 years, 4 generations of the family and created product that is appreciated by others to this day. I’m endlessly inspired by the story of a single person manifesting a successful life and built himself up with what little he had to begin with.

Noelie Ronczka

What’s your favorite denim brand?

This is an extremely tough question! I can’t honestly say that I have a favorite. My tastes are always changing and I’m learning about new denim brands every single day, so to choose a favorite feels wrong. I will say, as much as I admire the classic big-name companies, I enjoy discovering the one-off and smaller workwear brands that didn’t get as popular as early brands we all know and love (ie. Levi Strauss, Underhill, Stronghold…etc). The more unique, the better. It’s important to me to discover the different so we all can collectively learn and appreciate more about American workwear history together.

Noelie Ronczka

What’s your favorite footwear brand?

Most of the time I’m wearing antique riding boots. As far as modern brands go, I’m a sucker for the heritage collections from Red Wing, Chippewa, and Thorogood. Classic, and all Midwest-made!

Noelie Ronczka

How long have you been collecting?

I got the itch to collect when I was really young, thanks to both my grandparents and my parents. Growing up in a midwestern blue-collar, middle-class household had all of us going to estate sales, rummage sales, and secondhand stores. Rummaging around was always so much fun for me, but it wasn’t until about 5-6 years ago that I had began to really refine my collection. I feel super fortunate to have been raised in a culture of finding value in “old junk”.

Noelie Ronczka

Noelie Ronczka

How many items are in your collection?

I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to count! It’d take forever. I collect much more than just clothing so to add everything I’ve ever accumulated would be tough. Some of the things I collect are old photographs, clothing, seed bags with cool graphics, workwear buttons, quilts, etc. As you grow and collect, you end up with much more than intended. I guess that’s why I decided to open a shop!

How/why did you become a collector?

I became a collector because I’ve always had a huge interest in American History, and to find artifacts and remnants of the past connects me to a time and place I never had and never will live in. There’s a truly romantic essence of discovering and saving treasures that people have let go of or forgotten about.

Noelie Ronczka

What’s the biggest thrill about collecting?

The biggest thrill about collecting is the excitement and joy that an object can bring. As far as collecting vintage and antique clothing, my love for the things I find goes much deeper than the object itself. You not only own the physical object, but knowing it’s history, it’s significance, the person who wore it…etc. Clothing is much more than something I can wear, or something I can put a dollar sign on. It’s so utterly personal and to own it is an honor. The thrill of venturing out into the world and being able to actually find things, revive them, and give them another life is truly special.

Noelie Ronczka

Noelie Ronczka

What is your favorite item and why?

My favorite item is the first pair of 1910s Stifel Wabash stripe overalls that my partner Christopher (@sonicnoose on Instagram) and I ever found together. About a year and a half ago, in an 1800s pole barn rumored to be knocked down that same day less than 10 miles from our home, this pair of overalls was hanging from the rafters. It was our first big find together and it will always remain a great memory for the both of us!

Noelie Ronczka

Noelie Ronczka

What is the best bargain in your collection?

The best bargains in my collection are the things that I’ve picked/found. A considerable amount of things I sell and collect I’ve gotten for a really great deal, which is pretty lucky.

Which item in your collection was the hardest to get and/or the most valuable one?

The most valuable pieces in my collection are the things that I worked hardest for. The pieces that I see as the most valuable are those in which you realize, “Wow, for every single time I fail/this/makes it worth it.” They’re the pieces that bridge the sometimes long gaps of coming up empty-handed and it inspires you to only work harder and stay motivated. I think with this in mind, I think back to a time where Christopher (@sonicnoose) and I went on a spontaneous picking trip over the course of a weekend.

We drove down nearly every back road we could take, and found nothing. Nothing at all. On the way out heading for home, we took one last road and found a house nestled in the trees. That single pick yielded some of the most valuable pieces we’ve ever found together! We filled the car and even came back a few other times. So worth the wait. To experience that feeling is priceless.

Noelie Ronczka

Which item would you like to add to your collection?

I have a few things on my list to add to my collection, but I guess the thing that I’ve personally been looking for for a while now would be a pair of early 1900s denim work coveralls. It’s not going to be an easy thing to find, but I won’t stop searching until I do! It’s worth the wait to me. Here’s an example of the type of coveralls I’m searching for from the Minnesota Historical Society archives.

Where do you get your daily inspiration from?

Old photographs, historic textiles, traveling, ghost signs, buildings that have been reclaimed by nature…pretty much anything that allows me to linger for only a moment in a past I had never experienced.

Noelie Ronczka

What’s your inspiration quote?

I don’t think I have one. I do have an inspiration phrase, though! Growing up in Milwaukee, I’ve always rummaged and explored around the city. About 10 years ago now I discovered an abandoned warehouse building close to the neighborhood I grew up in. Along the side of the building, a beautiful ghost sign saying “Makers of Good” proudly remains. For some reason, that very phrase has stuck with me since, so much so, I’ve even gotten it tattooed! I like to think that long after I’m gone, like that very building…I will have done some good. Made some good.

Noelie Ronczka

Read also the previous episodes of Meet the Collector;

Jerry van Vorstenbos: Eposide #1

Michael van Hal: Episode #2

Antonio di Battista: Episode #3

Ronald Vijsma: Episode #4

Eric Maggiori: Episode #5

Ruedi Karrer: Episode #6

Viktor Fredbäck: Episode #7

Dave Edwards: Episode #8

Mohsin Sajid: Episode #9

Brit Eaton: Episode #10

Kay Knipschild: Episode #11

Douglas Luhanko (Second Sunrise store): Episode #12

Jasper Lijfering (Amsterdam Vintage Watches): Episode #13

Will Varnam (Military Collector): Episode #14

Mirko Di Giovanni: Episode #15

Alberto Ulmi: Episode #16

If you’re interested in showcasing your brand or product on Long John to reach your target audience, read more about it here, or send an email to: wouter@long-john.nl
Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine I'm working as a freelance marketing specialist for brands and retail. Specialized in denim. Nominated as 'Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50.