Prestige | Runway | VINTAGE | March 2014
~ Article Text ~
Vintage fashion is no longer just about charity-shop finds, and Lonolon has led the way in serious style options. ALISON CATCHPOLE takes a look at some leading stores oﬁering unique historical creations.
WHEN DESIGNERS MICHAEL KORS, Victoria Beckham and Marc Jacobs want old- fashioned inspiration, they often turn to William Banks-Blaney. Tucked away among the chocolate shops and boutiques of London’s Marylebone is WilliamVintage, a store that’s a world away from the stale smells and ragged edges of student second-hand shops. “It’s by appointment so that you have the entire run of the shop,” says Banks-Blaney. “Really it’s done so that when you arrive, if you want a glass of Scotch or a bacon-and-egg sandwich, you can have it, and it just feels like you’re in your own jewel box.”
The clothes are arranged by colour, and a feeling of space enables even the most casual buyers to feast their eyes on every kind of garment, from 17th-century waistcoats to early McQueen gowns. “The magical part is that dresses travel,” he says. “It’s not like trying to gift somebody your antique sideboard. Women give their favourite dresses to their sisters, to their friends, to their housekeepers; or they get forgotten in an attic. It ’s a thing that’s very, very easy to move, so therefore you can have the thrill of the hunt. It’s trying to track down very special pieces.”
Banks-Blaney describes his hunting grounds as “from Milton Keynes to Michigan, York to New York. Chicago and Manhattan are fantastic for really incredibly chic coats from the 1950s and ’60s because they’re cities that have seasons. Palm Beach is great for couture too.”
This, then, is the pinnacle of vintage fashion. “These were one-off pieces for a particular kind of woman, exquisitely tailored, hand stitched, perfectly made,” he explains. “It would have been overseen and designed by Dior, Chanel, André Courréges. Normally if you want to see something like that, you have to go to the Met to look.”
Once specialised ozone treatment has taken place to deodorise the garments, they’re cleaned and readied for sale. “I like the idea that they’re still worn, still relevant,” he says. “You can still get an iconic ’50s Dior cocktail dress, a ﬂoor-length ivory silk Balmain ball gown. But alongside that, we have a huge amount of fantastic suits, great ’30s cocktail wear, everything from a
costume for a white-tie gala through a board meeting to what I call suitcase dresses, which are very chic, very wearable, and you can take with you to Mustique.”
And in case you can’t make it to Marylebone, WilliamVintage recently opened on the web. “You used to have stores that would have great pieces of haute couture but they would be in a separate VIP room,” says Banks-Blaney. “Or they would be behind a curtain and the client would be checked out for what shoes she was wearing or what bag. That’s not how women dress now. You can have a ’60s Chanel hanging beside a pair of jeans in a wardrobe. The same approach has been taken in our online store. We have pieces from around £175. We also have several
dresses for over £40,000. It offers incredibly important haute couture that’s never been seen online before.”
Banks-Blaney believes WilliamVintage is changing the way people shop. “My clients never come to me saying, ‘I’m desperately in need of an 1824 Empire-style ball gown.’ They’ll say, ‘I have an event next week and I need a fantastic dress.’ They realise that vintage is a commodity and that it’s going up. They can have a wardrobe of pieces which are iconic, unique, completely spectacular, and that actually, if they get bored with them and sell them in a few years, they can get back more than they paid. There’s a reassurance that they’re investing in their wardrobe rather than spending on their wardrobe.’’
OLD SCHOOL GLAMOUR
Three other London-based outlets where you can pursue your quest for vintage fashion.
“Buying luxury vintage fashion or stylish pieces has become a clever and interesting way of investing money and being above trend,” says Atelier-Mayer.com proprietor Carmen Haid. “People see them as tradeable assets.” Haid’s grandmother, a couturier in their native Austria, inspired a love of things beautiful, and Haid has an extensive personal collection of YSL in addition to the online store and a private showroom near Hyde Park. “Vintage pieces tell a story. They’re usually more ornate and interesting than today’s mass-produced products. And vintage items have most likely been loved by someone. Otherwise they just wouldn’t be around today.”
KERRY TAYLOR AUCTIONS
“With a major brand, everyone knows how much it costs. Vintage is the antithesis of that,” says Kerry Taylor, founder of Kerry Taylor Auctions. “You’ll be wearing something unique. You just cannot replicate it. People won’t know if it’s £100,000 or £10,000. That’s what makes it so appealing to so many buyers. Someone who has a strong sense of style can mix something modern with something vintage and it can look just amazing.” The Bermondsey-based company has held auctions that have included a collection from Audrey Hepburn and the notorious translucent dress worn by a youthful Kate Middleton at a university fashion show. Here, too,you can bid online.
“We didn’t want these great labels to be disposable,” says co-owner Steven Phillip of West London’s ultra-cool vintage store Rellik, which specialises in carefully curated clothing from the 1980s and ’90s. Regular clients include Kylie Minogue, Rihanna, Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and, on ﬂying visits to town, Lady Gaga — for whom the shop opens specially at J midnight. The labels range from Chanel and YSL to McQueen and Galliano. In 2010 Rellik was invited to set up a pop-up store in Hong Kong. “Seeing a department store like Lane Crawford moving into that market was a big, big change,” observes Phillip. “I love it when the young come into the store. I sold an Ossie Clark dress today. It’s 40 years old. It went to a 19-year-old girl who looked absolutely stunning in it.”