View on Vintage Designs from Three Fashion Experts
If the statement is true that history does repeat itself, then fashion, in all senses of the word, would be a guilty party. We know today that fashion designers throughout history have consistently turned to previous eras for inspiration. The results of this creativity is seen on the runways and the red carpet each season. In the last few years, we’ve seen an increased desire by the masses to wear vintage designs. Although there has always been an appreciation for its excellent quality, fabric and design, the awareness, demand, and acceptance of vintage clothing has increased dramatically since the early 1990s.
This enhanced interest can be due in part to increased visibility, as vintage clothing has been worn regularly by iconic models and celebrities. There has also been an increased desire to embrace a sustainable lifestyle in terms of reusing, recycling and repairing rather than disposing of items. Vintage clothing, for the first time, has been recognized as a tangible asset, which means it will retain an immediate monetary value.
With the Pier Antique Show just around the corner on March 28-29, I wanted to explore the topic of vintage clothing further by interviewing three vintage clothing dealers who will be exhibiting in this year’s Fashion Alley at the show. We discussed their fashion background, current business, distinctive clientele, and if they believe that yesterday’s fashion trends will appeal to today’s consumers.
Lofty Vintage (Booth No. 2253)
For nearly two decades, Andrea Hall Levy, owner of Lofty Vintage, has been honing her combined skills as a buyer, seller, stylist, and businesswoman. A native New Yorker, Levy has been captivated by vintage fashions since her teens. This fascination led her to obtaining a degree from Parsons School of Design, a private college which has educated some of the most renowned and innovative designers. After graduation, Levy traveled across U.S. and Europe to gather iconic examples of fashion throughout the decades. By the 1990s, she had made the transition to selling.
Today, Levy has amassed an extensive collection of vintage clothing and accessories in her 2,000 square foot warehouse in Yonkers. This includes clothing with designer labels as well as a variety of accessories such as jewelry, hats, handbags, shoes, scarves, and gloves. Working daily with her diverse clientele, she lives by the mantra, If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it. “My customers are more interested in the quality and design of each piece, which is what I look for in every item that I choose,” she says. Her clients range from Broadway and film representatives to national and international designers to vintage clothing enthusiasts.
Levy has also become an important face at exhibitions and shows throughout the Northeast. The Pier Antique Show is an event she consistently exhibits at year after year. “I’ve been exhibiting in Fashion Alley at the Pier Antique Show for the past 10 years. I especially love the social aspect of the show, which has a reputation for bringing new customers with a wide range of interests. Unlike other strictly vintage clothing shows in which I participate, the Pier Show attracts a distinct clientele from around the world whose interests often go far beyond fashion.”
Barbara Kennedy & Co. (Booth No. 2160)
Barbara Kennedy turned her love for vintage clothing into a successful lifelong career. “I’ve been buying vintage since college because I’ve always had an immense passion for it.” Says Kennedy, who graduated from the Fashion Institute of New York in 1962 and today runs a company of her own namesake, “After graduation, I worked in the lingerie business then opened my first business in the mid-1960s. After I got married, I opened my second business, Bouncing Bertha’s Banana Blanket, with my first husband, Richard, in the 1970s. We also started Richard and Barbara Kennedy’s Lifestyle located on East 57th Street between Park and Madison Avenue. We sold vintage clothing and custom made clothing.”
As a keen businesswoman, Kennedy has sold to a large range of clients. “I have customers that work in the theatre and in the movies as well as general retail customers. My clients come from all across the country.” She also mentioned working with people from Seventh Avenue in New York City. Seventh Avenue is often referred to as Fashion Avenue due to its role as a center of the garment and fashion industry. It’s also heralded by world renowned fashion designers who established New York City as a world fashion capital. For television and theatre, Kennedy has worked on Boardwalk Empire for five years as well as theatre productions, such as White Christmas and currently, Doctor Zhivago. “My collection ranges from 1900s-early 1970s. I sell to both men and women.”
Although Kennedy has reduced the number of shows that she exhibits at annually, the Pier Antique Show is an event she never misses. “I’ve been exhibiting with the Pier Antique Show since the before the mid-1990s. The show has a great draw with a variety of different people in attendance. I really like it in comparison to other events of the same caliber.” Kennedy also noted the spring season is on her mind for the March Pier Show, particularly after the cold winter the Northeast has experienced. “I’ll be bringing bright colored vintage clothing and accessories to the show,” she exclaims.
Walker’s Collectibles (Booth No. 2252)
Vintage fashion peaked Carol Walker’s interest when she was a young teenager. “When I was in high school, I would go to auctions with my friends and I developed an interest for beaded and mesh bags.” Then her attraction grew into a love for vintage clothing, “I would also go to thrift stores to look at the clothes. My mom had a few pieces in her wardrobe from the 1940s. I really enjoyed admiring them.”
After high school, she attended retail school to study fashion. Fast forward to today, Walker runs her own vintage clothing business, Walker’s Collectibles, where she can reignite her passion for vintage designs daily. “Clothes have always been my specialty. Plus, it’s something my husband and I enjoy doing together.”
The most popular items Walker sells are pieces her clients can wear every day. “The clothing from the 1940s-60s is very popular because they’re items people can wear to their job or out on the weekends. However, I have many clients that work in the theatre industry and are drawn to clothing from the early 1900s. It depends on what the client is looking for and what they will be using it for.” Walker is also surprised by her clients’ knowledge of the latest trends. “Our clients really keep up on the fashion industry. Much of what is seen of the runways today is a throwback to vintage designs. Clients are now interested in owning the original piece.”
Since nearly its inception, Walker has been a staple dealer at the Pier Antique Show. “I always look forward to seeing the attendees at the show. They’re really excited about the collections and we have made a lot of really good friends over the years. The Pier Show gives shoppers the opportunity to touch and hold the clothing whereas you would be unable to do that shopping online. The customer is able to get exactly what they want by seeing it in person.” At the upcoming show, Walker will be showcasing an array of new merchandise from the 1920s to the 1970s.
Insights on Today’s Fashion Trends
With the recent conclusion of award season and New York’s fashion week, I also want to share the opinions of our vintage fashion experts on four of the hottest spring fashion trends — military greens, menswear, sheer fabrics, and all white. Each of them detailed which trends they thought would gain the most momentum this season.
“After suffering through this long cold, dreary winter, I feel the appeal of clean, crisp white will be very popular,” says Levy. Kennedy and Walker agree, “People will be ready to embrace all white and sheer fabrics.”
Kennedy also stated that military greens are a staple in individuals’ wardrobes because cameo is very well-liked. “Fashion is very cyclical. Some of the clothes showcased on the runway this season were a vintage design with a modern flair,” she says. Walker complemented Kennedy’s remarks by saying, “People are drawn to the neutral, green and beige color palettes, which fits the military trend.”
Don’t forget to check out each of these dealers at the Pier Antique Show! Show times are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is $20, which is valid for reentry both show days. Children under 16 are free when accompanied by an adult. For more information, visit www.PierAntiqueShow.com.