“Vintage today is more alive than ever,” says Head of Vintage at Vestiaire Collective Marie Blanchet. The clear evidence for that we see in Vestiaire Collective’s latest collaboration with the Editor At Lage for Japan Vogue, Anna Dello Russo, who has carefully chosen 38 unique pieces from her personal jewellery archive to sell on vestiairecollective.com. Being launched on November 15, the collaboration constituted a certain mini exhibition of rare jewellery pieces, we practically could study fashion history through.
Browsing through the vintage department of Vestiaire Collective’s webpage is a true experience, where innovation has carefully embraced the knowledge of the past, offering the consumer the best fruits of inspiration and skilfully leading the latter to new ideas. eBay was under a long time the most popular global market for online vintage dealers. Seemingly, Marie Blanchet has achieved a significant change in that field by creating a new “vintage” oasis with a pure and exclusive touch of expertise and fashion history completed by playful aesthetics opening up for a wide range of style experiments. Marie and her team have put physical vintage shops on the digital map by engaging them in online activities and giving the consumer pieces the one would hardly find on his/her own. Pieces we would never be able to discover without spending many hours at flea markets or vintage shops, can now be carefully studied and purchased at a reasonable price at on vestiairecollective.com.
Whether you are a cool teenager or a stylish lady with an eye for vintage, you will always find something to add to your collection and spark your imagination with. By wearing vintage pieces you create a new stylistic reality, where a few different époques can all of a sudden devolve into a new entirely unique style. It could be an intriguing game of knowledge and fantasy, where you practically learning history by creating an art work of your own. Odalisque Magazine have met vintage expert Marie Blanchet during her visit to Stockholm and talked vintage with her.
Could you please tell me about yourself and how did you come to the position you are at today?
My name is Marie Blanchet and I am la parisienne, who has always being living in Paris. Being brought up in a very intellectual family, I was early introduced to the art-house cinema, which later defined my interest for clothes, tailoring and vintage. The film has had a deep impression on me. Ingmar Bergman is my favourite filmmaker of all times. When I was around sixteen, I started buying vintage for myself, wearing pieces none else was wearing. It was also a certain bargain for me as a teenager, because I could afford buying beautiful pieces at a quite low price. My first vintage purchase, which I still have in my closet, actually was a flower dress, dated 1917, which I found at a flea market in New York for forty dollars. It was such a pleasure wearing that dress, feeling different and bold as if I were in a movie. At that time John Cassavetes’ films were popular, where for example Gena Rowlands was wearing Emanuel Ungaro’s dresses with flowers and prints. I felt almost like her.
Later I studied films and went on to be a costume designer for a TV drama, which was about La Belle Époque. Thus I had to dress women the way they used to be dressed in 1910, what made me very interested in fashion history of the 20th Century, especially the female emancipation in our society. I found it very compelling connected to the way you dress and express yourself as a woman. I am not interested in fashion per se but I am interested in style, which is all basically about personality. My feeling is that by exploring vintage, I explore my personality, coming across unique things. Women and their style is a big source of inspiration for me. I also noticed that women, who choose to take risk in their style do not have to be eccentric but they are merely themselves.
I also worked together with one of the vintage experts in France, who was my great mentor, teaching me a lot about what I know today. Already a few years ago, I started realising that all those vintage shops I loved, were having fewer and fewer visitors; people were not opening the doors of the shops anymore. Practically it meant that many beautiful and amazing pieces would simply disappear. It made me think that the future of vintage should be online. And then I met that incredibly inspiring woman, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective Sophie Hersan, who trusted me from the beginning, when I was creating that vintage category. She let me express myself freely, what is very rare in such a big company as Vestiaire Collective. Then I did that catalogue from scratch. And what I loved, besides of doing that job, was to work with all those vintage sellers, who now sell to us. Although the future of vintage is online, we helping those shops to stay alive by selling their pieces on our webpage.
How do you actually define the word “vintage”?
It is a very significant question, where we have to start from separating second hand and vintage. Second hand is something that has been worn by someone or owned by someone and afterwards sold. It can by anything. Meanwhile, vintage is the essence of second hands. The word itself started being used in fashion in the 1980s. “Vintage” is a French word originally used in the wine industry. It means “millésime”, referring to the date in which grapes are harvested and while put on the label, defining a high-quality vintage wine. We started using that word in the 1980s because the entire triangular silhouettes were inspired by the 1940s. In other words, the 1980s were the best years when we started getting influence from a decade within the same century. Basically, vintage is pieces from previous decades that are already a part of fashion history. Consequently, vintage is about classic timeless pieces. What we are trying to do at Vestiaire Collecitve is to find modern vintage, mixing timeless pieces, which never will go out of fashion with pieces, which are influencing fashion now. We also have a selection of vintage for young and cool fashion girls. There is no limitation for how old a piece should be in order to be considered vintage.
What is the most popular sought-after vintage item today, according to your opinion?
I would say that the most sought-after item today, in accordance with our sales, is Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watches in plain gold and entire gold. We also sell some rare Chanel-bags which always are sought-after and sell within a very short period of time. Today it is also a big phenomenon of Dior’s saddle bag that sells quickly. Nicolas Ghesquière’s Balenicaga pieces are very coveted by collectors.
Do you think that today’s Balenciaga will become vintage pieces one day?
I cannot answer that question. I am very impressed by the way Demna Gvasalia actually cuts. His pieces are really well cut. Vetements is more about style, a sort of own idea, obviously very inspired by Margiela. Demna Gvasalia is a master of cut and designer of his time. Whether his creations are going to last in fashion history in the same way as Ghesquière’s do, I do not really know.
Where should anyone interested in starting to wear vintage begin?
Just go on Vestiaire Collective and choose the “vintage” tab we have today. There you are able to take a part of editorial picks. It could be a good start. Men can for example start with watches, travel bags or wallets and accessories. We have a great catalogue with exceptional pieces at good prices. Women could start with the bags. I personally wear only vintage bags. It is a very good way to start your vintage path with. The best way of wearing vintage is to mix it with seasonal pieces.
How would you describe the relationship between vintage and sustainability?
The best way to be sustainable is to participate in the circular economy when you purchasing fashion and the optimal way to do it is to buy vintage. Vintage pieces used to be made to last. Therefore, those pieces of the high quality that cannot be compared to the quality we have today. Obviously, we have a clear link to sustainability whereby. If you acquire a vintage Chanel bag from the 1980s or 1990s, the quality of lamb leather is incomparable to the today’s quality.
Who would you consider to be the best vintage collector in the world?
Recently we had a collaboration with the granddaughter of Samuel Goldwyn Liz Goldwyn, who was selling 300 pieces out of her extensive fashion archive with Vestiaire Collective to support Dress for Success, a charity that empowers women by offering support, tools and professional attire. We are very lucky to be able to have this collaboration. Liz Goldwyn lived in Hollywood and has collected her vintage pieces since she was thirteen years old. Liz provided a few pieces from Balenciaga’s White Collection within a price range between € 200 and the most expensive dress of € 20.000. I would name her as one of the most amazing vintage collectors. There are still some pieces left in our “Archive Series”.