How can vintage apparel and accessories update the average fashion boutique that only sells current items? How can consumers who don’t “understand” or have never worn vintage get tuned in and turned on by this growing category? These questions and more were addressed on the panel “Modern Vintage Lovers and Extraordinary Wardrobes” held at UBM Fashion’s recent consumer-facing VINTAGE@Intermezzo show featuring 20+ vintage dealers.
David Casavant – Collector and stylist/advisor to Kanye West
Cameron Silver – Owner of Decades in LA, and Fashion Director of H Halston and H by Halston
Bridgette Morphew – Co-founder Morphew Vintage
Moderator: Kathering Zarella, Founder of Fashion Unfiltered
Some takeaways from the panel.
The perception of vintage has changed
Cameron: When I opened Decades in 1997, there was this perception that vintage was for ‘poor people’. But there’s no stigma anymore. Vintage helps you tell your story. I love when a 16-year-old comes into the store and sees a four-year-old piece by Prabal Gurung or Stella McCartney. Four years is a quarter of her life! But it’s not vintage or even neo vintage to them…it’s just great shit!
Vintage has an interesting role in fast fashion
Brigitte: Vintage is the exact opposite of fast fashion, yet it inspires fast fashion. For example, you can see the influence of vintage 50s dresses on the red carpet. Fast fashion is using the old to communicate the new. Designers also buy vintage for production purposes to help the factories sculpt their ideas. They need to show a factory how to make something or communicate a design, shape, or detail like a sequined flower. I’ve seen designers buy a dress and then design an entire collection around that dress’ colorway. And a lot of the fast fashion chains do what we call ‘straight to factory,’ where they don’t have time to re-interpret a vintage piece because they have new deliveries each week. So they just buy the vintage piece and send it right to the factory to be recreated.
“Vintage not only has intrinsic value in quality and
craftsmanship, it has memories”
–Cameron Silver, Decades
The Internet has created a more informed vintage consumer but that has its pitfalls.
Cameron: I miss when someone came into the store and would see something that no one has ever seen before. But now there are pictures of everything online and it’s so easy to access the videos of older shows. But neo vintage is a new thing; clothing from the last 10 to 15 years. Raf Simons was with Dior for a short period of time and now those are iconic vintage pieces, and they’re just a few years old. That’s almost getting me more excited than the real vintage. That’s neo vintage.
David: With so much out there on Instagram or the Internet, consumers are often seeing the old and the new at the same time, so everything is merging as one. It’s almost not considered vintage and you don’t have that ‘vintage novelty’. You can see a fashion show from the ’90s, then see a new show, and you’re seeing them on the same plane. It all looks new. And also, designers don’t need to create out of thin air anymore; it’s okay for them to reference the old and reinterpret it.
Vintage is helping consumers express themselves like never before
David: Vintage is a way for consumers to take fashion into their own hands and express themselves instead of being marketed to. If you’re young, vintage doesn’t seem ‘old’. It actually feel new because you’re discovering it. And when people do recognize the vintage style, that helps too. Cheap fast fashion is actually driving vintage because people get so excited to see the original item that inspired so many current pieces today.
Brigitte: My advice is to look for weird and iconic. I buy what I don’t see anywhere else. If it’s classic, it won’t stand out. Also, when we see a vintage piece, we try to come up with five companies to sell it to.
Cameron: Identify the things that got away, or those things that were criticized on the runways when they came out. If it’s 75% off at Woodbury Commons, buy it. It means the designer was ahead of his/her time. I’ve seen things from the 80s and 90s triple and quadruple in value. New won’t increase in value, but vintage will.
Vintage is the answer to the ‘loaning economy’
Cameron: Spoiled by fashion rental companies like Rent the Runway, consumers aren’t always willing to purchase significant pieces. And fast fashion also renders much of new items disposable. But vintage not only has intrinsic value in quality and craftsmanship, it has memories. A vintage piece is embedded with glorious memories. Maybe the original wearer of that dress met her husband while wearing it. The emotional connection with vintage is how we teach a consumer to buy instead of renting.
“My advice? Look for weird and iconic.
I buy what I don’t see anywhere else”
–Brigitte Morphew, Morphew Vintage
Stores need to convey the message of vintage memories
Cameron: You need to teach your customers to own their memories…like opening an old clutch and finding an a theater ticket that evokes incredible memories. Vintage reminds us that fabric holds memories and it brings back that visceral connection to fashion.
How can a fashion boutique selling current fashions integrate vintage into its mix?
Brigitte: We sell to Joan Shepp in Philadelphia and she sells Comme des Carcon so we’ll curate a vintage mix that goes with that theme and ultimately, that customer. We’ll curate to a specific style. Vintage is one piece one size, so a customer can get disappointed if she likes something and it doesn’t fit. But if a vintage section is curated in a way that works with the store, it can drive her to buy something else that’s similar.
“Vintage is a way for consumers to take fashion into their own hands and express themselves instead of being marketed to.”
Your most cherished vintage piece?
David: My grandmother’s wedding dress from the 30s. I hold it up and I see a ghost of her; her size, her style.
Cameron: I went to a sale recently from a recently widowed woman in Century City, CA. She gave me a dress she met her husband in and said she hoped someone would find their husband in it. I put it in my store and Tom Ford bought it.