Fashion is always about what’s new, but for an exclusive week HarpersBAZAAR.my is considering the old—all things vintage to be exact. Follow our first #BAZAARVintageView digital series for a treasure hunt for vintage clothes, vintage bags, vintage wares, vintage shoes and beyond, from the contributors who know it best. To premiere our series, Cherie Federau, founder of world-renowned Shrimpton Couture, shares her list of the most sought-after vintage designers.
The vintage market is incredibly vigorous at the moment, with no signs of slowing down. If a piece is really good, in museum quality condition, an early or pivotal example of a designer’s career and has the potential to be worn, it sells and sells fast. Part of the reason vintage is so appealing, and remains so, is that it is truly a finite supply. Perhaps 30 or more years ago, only the eccentric and occasional collector would actively hunt down pieces—but now there is great demand and competition to acquire pieces and that demand is of a global scale. I see no signs of it stopping. Even when you see things that seem expensive, they are still cheap compared to their modern equivalents and in comparison to what their worth will eventually be. The expensive pieces are an investment and one that will only increase in value, while the lesser expensive pieces are bargains and are an amazing value for your money. The golden rule is that if you see and you love it, you buy it—you may never get the chance again!
It is incredibly hard to pin down only ten designers to watch for, as a dealer my list is 4 or 5 times that amount and I know there will be an outcry as to who I have left off the list. But these ten are special to me. I also urge you to never underestimate the power of the anonymous piece. A label certainly and firmly places a dress in its place in history—but always look for great fabrics, craft and workmanship and pieces that really stand out and feel modern or unique.
#1. Yves Saint Laurent
Yves will always be collectible. His work only seems to acquire more beauty and to become more special as time passes. He made clothes that women not only wanted to wear, but needed to wear—that was the cult of Yves Saint Laurent. The longer time passes from when a particular piece was originally made, the more relevant that silhouette seems to become—it’s like magic. Almost anything designed by him over the course of his career is collectible. To him we owe the le smoking jacket, the trapeze dress and the jumpsuit. Particularly important to watch for are his iconic safari pieces and also his beautiful taffeta and silk gowns as well as his silk ball gown skirts – each done with great success for many of his various collections. I particularly adore the pieces made in the late 1970s and early eighties. Though harder to find, I would never pass up any Haute Couture item I can find as they are truly his great legacy.
#2. James Galanos
Though not a name the every day person might know, amongst vintage connoisseurs his work is highly coveted. American designer James Galanos was the United States’ answer to European snobbery towards their neighbors across the pond. Galanos made couture-level gowns with a level of craftsmanship that left France’s most esteemed couturiers with their mouths agape. The immaculate construction of Galanos’ gowns oozed luxury, privilege, and high society (with price points to match). I never pass on a silk gown or long bias cut chiffon dress by him and for day his structured suits are magic. Embellished pieces are of particular importance and the workmanship divine. His pieces will only continue to increase in value and I have heard rumors of an upcoming museum retrospective on his work, which will only add to the demand for pieces.
#3. Christian Dior
The impact Dior has had on fashion knows no bounds and original pieces by Monseiur Dior himself are never to be passed down. In 1946 he established his maison and immediately made tremendous waves in the fashion world. The “new look” silhouette is as classic a shape as one can get in vintage and has been endlessly reinterpreted. Of course, it is that very sense of timelessness that the look has and still inspires which makes the originals so very important. Original couture versions can cost the price of a small car but you can still find good bargains if you are lucky to find the non-couture Dior London or Dior New York labels of the era. With the death of Mr. Dior in 1957, the house was in chaos until a young Yves Saint Laurent was placed at the helm. His rise to importance in his own right and short time heading the house make pieces designed by him for Dior even harder to acquire and so are always on my “Holy Grail” list, as are the chiffon gowns by Marc Bohan from Christian Dior from the late 60s to the early eighties.
#4. Thea Porter
When one thinks of the great British designers of the sixties and seventies it is most often Ossie Clark or Biba who come to mind. The recent, and first, exhibit of the work of Thea Porter at the Fashion and textile Museum in London this last year changed that. Since that successful exhibit Thea Porter has gained a broader audience. I have always loved and collected Thea myself and I am proud to say that Shrimpton Couture was invited by curator Laura McLaws Helms to have a portion of our Thea Porter archives featured in both the exhibit and accompanying book. A long admirer of Arabic fashion and textiles, Thea Porter interpreted the airy and ornate styles of her homeland into modern and updated designs that appealed to clients for both their exoticism and their comfort. Thea was a lover of intricate and embellished ornamentation and rich fabrics. Her clothes reflected this romantic nostalgia she had for all kinds of dress, be them Eastern or Western. Thea’s caftans in particular have no compare and are extremely desirable and collectible. They combine the exoticism and glamour of Talitha Getty with the masterful construction of the finest couturier.
#5. The Japanese Avant Garde