Fashion has always been a means of personal expression and now, thanks to recent blockbuster exhibits such as “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” people around the world are realizing it can also be a good investment. Doris Raymond, a prominent vintage collector who specializes in modern vintage fashion with contemporary wearability, shares her knowledge, expertise and tips on how to start and build a killer vintage fashion collection.
Q: What are the first and most important steps we should take towards building a killer vintage fashion collection?
If you are like most people and have been bitten by the vintage clothing bug – you want to determine if your collection is a literal investment or one that is primarily wearable. The criteria for investment is a tighter, more restrictive one so we will focus on building a personal, wearable collection. THE most important factor is condition. If there are issues that are an easy fix (broken zippers, open seams) that is no big deal. Stains, tears and perspiration discoloration are a much bigger issue and should be avoided, if possible. For early 20th century items, always check for shattering of the fabric by holding the item up to the light and looking for breakage. Other than that, designer labels are always a plus. The other main point to look for is fit and proportion. If you have a choice between a generic 1940′s rayon dress that fits like a glove and looks like a million dollars or a 1980′s YSL that’s too long waisted and a bit heavy in the shoulder pads – you should ALWAYS go for the fit. The last point is look for items that transcend time and are not trend driven. These are pieces that you will be able to wear forever and will be easy to justify buying. You always want to buy something that speaks to you.
Q: What makes some pieces more valuable than others? How do you know whether or not the money you’re spending on any one item is worth it?
Value is objective. I would start by looking at how well made something is; details, buttonholes, lining, etc. are all indicators of the intrinsic value of a piece. Having a designer label absolutely gives pieces a certain caché but I always say an ugly CHANEL is an ugly CHANEL – so the label is irrelevant in this case.
Q: Is there a particular decade or period that’s rising in value right now?
It really depends on the item. 20th century vintage clothing in general has appreciated greatly in value in the last decade. 1970′s/1980′s American designers such as Sant’Angelo, Vollbracht and Halston have begun to command several thousand dollars – not only in the higher end boutiques, but also at auctions.
Q: How do you begin a relationship with pickers or auction houses?
I really only buy items I can touch and see with my own eyes. I am always amazed at the items I see people scoring on eBay but I, for one, cannot buy that way because I find in 95% of the time what you see online is not what you get. One person’s description of excellent condition is not necessarily in synch with mine. That being said – if you are venturing forth on the net, develop a rapport with those vendors that consistently carry items you are drawn to and at a price point you can justify and get familiar with their return policy. Auction houses will frequently supply you with condition reports and additional images if you are not convinced you have to have that particular something. If you go to local flea markets, bring examples of the types of things you are hot-to-trot for and ask the vendor if they come across these types of items. Many areas have actual vintage clothing shows and fairs and that is the best way to see dozens of dealers at once.
Q: What are the precautions, if any, when buying investment pieces.
If an item is couture, you must check the seams to see if a piece has been altered. Altering couture greatly reduces the value, especially if it cannot be restored to its original form. Once again it boils down to condition, so you want to be sure a piece is in very good condition. With accessories, there are so many counterfeit items so be smart, ask questions and buy from a reputable person or dealer.
Buying for investment is a HUGE subject. For investment, I say you would never wear a Picasso so to wear a fashion masterpiece is not something I would recommend. If the piece is not iconic or that designer’s masterpiece or signature, depending on the era and designer, I would say wearing an investment is not a great idea. You never know when a glass of red wine or someone’s cigarette or latte may accidentally de-value your treasure.
Q: What are you collecting right now?
I am collecting lifetime Moschino, Japanese and Belgium designers from the 1980′s and 1990′s and killer jewelry from the 1980′s. Big and bold are the key words. I would LOVE to have a couture gown from McQueen, Miyake’s paper lantern dress (multi-color) or one of Hussein Chalayan’s incredible architectural wonders.
Q: What has been your biggest score(s)?
My Sonia Delaunay scarf and cloche. I was thrilled to have researched and confirmed this rare ensemble is a work by Delaunay and the best part is that over the last 15 years of owning “her”, my love and appreciation for Delaunay as an amazing artist has grown. The icing on the cake was the Cooper-Hewitt exhibition.
Q: How many pieces do you have in your collection?
In my personal collection, many. Over 1,000.
Q: Do you offer curator services to people interested in collecting?
Consulting clients and designers to help give them direction and offer them an insight to the direction I see things going is one of my passions. It’s wonderful to add coal to the fire of inspiration.
Tags: Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Cooper-Hewitt, couture, Dior, Doris Raymond, Halston, How to build a killer fashion collection, Hussein Chalayan, Miyake, Sant'Angelo, Sonia Delaunay, vintage couture, Vollbracht, YSL