I unequivocally attribute the start of my fashion education to vintage shopping across Fairfield County, Connecticut and downtown New York –– even before I was a teenager, back in the early eighties.
Before I pledged my allegiance to the emerging New York hardcore punk scene: CBGBs matinees, flight jackets, combat boots, DIY piercings and patches, I had already conquered and abandoned an interest in preppy New England looks: rugged plaid shirts and bluchers from LL Bean, Polo, Boast and Izod tennis shirts, Jams shorts and all kinds of distressed boarding school looks that dominated the patrician Connecticut aesthetic during that era. But what both of these distinct sensibilities shared was that my creative assemblage was festooned to the offerings at thrift stores.
This was the era of the pile-on, distressed trend from Desperately Seeking Susan. There were already murmurs of the darkly bohemian Comme des Garcons (it was all about scoring one of their “old man” coats or something like it). Basquait’s buzz was getting traction and dark grimy downtown clubs like Pyramid and 8BC were where you went, less to be seen and more to blow off steam. It was grunge before that Grunge. Everyone was shopping at Antique Boutique and Unique on Lower Broadway and vintage costumed all of my visions in those days.
I’ve always valued the hunt and the renewal components of vintage shopping, and never entirely abandoned it, particularly for my personal styling clients. In the last decade I’ve dressed several high profile clients in couture vintage Thierry Mugler, Galanos and Christian Dior for the Oscars and high-profile fashion events.
As we moved into the most consumptive era of our time, I found that vintage clothes and accessories took a backseat to shinier, newer options that could still satisfy my alternative preferences. The thrift store education helped my alternative spirit evolve into an appetite for innovative fabric choices, directional silhouettes and experimental accessories. That meant diving deep into the dark romantic offerings that dominated the late 90s and Aughts. Designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, Carol Christian Poell, Julius and Diet Butcher Slim Skin regularly got thousands of my dollars. These brands were not shy about pricing at the highest end of the market, after all the work spoke for itself, production was limited and an obsequious retinue of “dark romantics” was there to snap up astronomically priced pieces from these niche players. But in the end the marketplace became greedy (how many 4-figure priced pairs of shoes can one consume in a single year?) and I largely opted out.
In this age of frequent social media content demands, vintage once again looks fresh. It takes a lot more than distressed jeans and a well-cut t-shirt to stir the masses. In vintage however, it’s a constant percolation of the unusual and the attention grabbing. My excitement for vintage reawoke when I was asked to style the mannequins for the vintage show: A Current Affair a couple years ago. This well-curated show that amasses some of the best vintage purveyors from across America with shows in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, has established a community that’s one of the last bastions of joy in the fashion industry. It is a colorful community of vintage diehards, both sellers and collectors, who appreciate artistry, quality and the provenance of rare items. This community speaks of the fashion I want to hear about with the joy and appreciation that I share for clothes and accessories. In this age of wildly expensive items on one end and fast fashion on the other, seeking out great pieces that already exist is at once exciting and responsible.