The Four Seasons of Vintage

Spring

A favorite vintage Maison Martin Margiela from my wardrobe

A favorite from my wardrobe: vintage Maison Martin Margiela

Sleeves made of fabric traditionally used in linings

Sleeves made of fabric traditionally used in coat linings

The other day, I got to thinking about the contemporary fashion designers whose vision I have consistently admired over the years. This list includes in alphabetical order: Nicolas Ghesquière for his past work at Balenciaga and currently at Louis Vuitton, Isabel Marant, Martin Margiela, Stella McCartney, Pheobe Philo, and Yohji Yamamoto. In trying to isolate why I’m drawn to these particular designers, a pattern emerged in my taste: natural fabrics, expert tailoring, a thoughtful regard for the past while looking forward to the contemporary moment – a knack for turning the classic on its head.

And so, it comes as no surprise that I happily watched the new short documentary about the Belgian designer Martin Margiela. An inspiring tribute to a groundbreaking moment in fashion gone by but not forgotten. Released with the support of YOOX Group, you can watch it here.

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Weekend Style Inspiration

The White Bag

Rodo, Firenze

Rodo, Firenze

I broke a six month old vow of not adding to my current Rodo bag collection when I bought a white faux reptile bag two days ago from an Ebay seller in Tennessee. Since last writing about the origin of my desire for these vintage Italian bags here, I gifted three bags to various loved ones, leaving me with eight bags. The catalyst for my unforeseen purchase I chalk up to the resurgence of white bags in fashion. And so, it is likely that right along, without being aware of my intentions, I had begun harboring the notion of acquiring one. Though white never seemed particularly suited to my wardrobe or to my sensibility (I’ve always felt more at ease with black or neutral or jewel tone accessories) it may be that after so many years of living in a city with year round sunshine I finally understand the charm of the white bag. It pairs well with all black ensembles, with pastels, and with bold prints, imparting both a carefree and jet set look to the wearer. I’ve made up my mind to love my new Rodo bag and to carry it without second guessing the purchase.

Now I can only hope that when this newcomer to the circle arrives, sometime next week I’m told, it will like me as much as I am inclined to like it.

My current Rodo bag collection

My current Rodo bag collection

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Essays and Musings

From Yesterday to Tomorrow

32cm box Kelly, 1984

My 1984 Hermès 32cm box Kelly

Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, 1956

Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, 1956

When it comes to building a wardrobe, I believe in investment pieces. As far back as high school, influenced in equal measure by the thrift stores I frequented and classic Hollywood cinema, I set my mind on acquiring a vintage Kelly bag. I was rather young to begin saving for a Hermès bag, but there is a time in one’s youth when a person forges headstrong desires for iconic objects that will resonate through the years. A number of things attracted me to this handbag. First, Grace Kelly, who’s style I greatly admired, disguising her pregnancy behind her purse, had been featured in Life magazine carrying her namesake bag. Second, the timelessness and craftsmanship of such an object appealed to me. Third, the bag evoked a glamorous life that was far from the reality of my lackluster teenage existence. Luckily, the Kelly bag is a classic trapezoidal style that has been much copied, and so it was easy enough through the years to find substitutes in vintage and department stores.

Owning surrogate Kelly bags did nothing to quell my inclination for an actual Kelly. In fact, it had the opposite effect, serving only to stoke my desire for knowledge. The history of Hermès, various types of leather, and the artisan process of hand crafting a Hermès bag became the focus of my research. Until I understood the mechanics of making a Kelly, any identification I had with the bag would not be complete. Lack of this identification, I feared, would dampen my chances of finding a prospective vintage bag to set about acquiring.

My metamorphosis from dilettante to collector took hold in my thirties, shortly after I moved from New York to Los Angeles. I got to know the shops in my neighborhood where vintage bags congregated, and began methodically inspecting those bags I came across. Through this process I became familiar with the feel and smell of the leather, the detail of the diagonal Hermès stitching, and the artisan stamps. Both sales assistants and shop owners were gracious in allowing me to examine bags – they somehow understood my process and my wish for the perfect Kelly. Why did I long for such a bag? I don’t think I have the answer. The whole experience of researching the bags and learning about the rich history of the Hermès house provided an escape from the hard reality of contemporary manufacturing practices. It was a return to a connection with craft that I had had in my youth: my father was a stonemason and my grandparents had exposed me to the antiquated rituals of making clothes, bread, wine, and cheese.

It wasn’t until my fortieth birthday that I found the bag I had imagined owning for so many years. Ushered into middle age, I had at last realized the dream of my youth. I had met the past, and the past was elegant: a 1984 32cm box Kelly with gold hardware. When I set eyes on her, I saw right away she had suffered color loss and that the leather was dry, but I knew she would be restored to her former glory with some polish and conditioner. My vintage Kelly bag stands now as a symbol of a time gone by, conveying me from yesterday to tomorrow.

Grace Kelly with her Hermès Kelly bag

Grace Kelly with her Hermès Kelly bag

Grace Kelly with her 18 month-old daughter Princess Caroline, 1958; via HuffingtonPost

Grace Kelly carrying her bag with 18 month-old daughter Princess Caroline, 1958

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Weekend Style Inspiration

The Ladylike Bag

After years of hauling large statement handbags with chunky hardware, women can now remain virtually hands free thanks to the return of the ladylike structured bag for Spring and Fall 2015. I especially like the contrast of an elegant small bag paired with a tomboy or unisex look. And the colors are no longer just basic black or brown – pastels and jewel tones are readily available, ensuring a bag fit for every outfit.

Tamu McPherson; image Tommy Ton

Tamu McPherson; image Tommy Ton

via Harper's Bazaar

via Harper’s Bazaar

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Viviana Volpicella; via Harper's Bazaar

Viviana Volpicella; via Harper’s Bazaar

Linda Tol; image Tommy Ton

Linda Tol; image Tommy Ton

The Sartorialist

Maria Duenas Jacobs; image The Sartorialist

Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear; image Tommy Ton

image Tommy Ton

Liya Kebede; via Harper's Bazaar

Liya Kebede; via Harper’s Bazaar

Margaret Zhang; via Harper's Bazaar

Margaret Zhang; via Harper’s Bazaar

Tommy Ton

image Tommy Ton

image Tommy Ton

image Tommy Ton

 

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Personal Style

Maria Luisa

Maria Luisa Poumaillou; via Garance Dore

Maria Luisa Poumaillou; via Garance Dore

The Venezuela born buyer Maria Luisa Poumaillou, who helped begin the careers of Helmut Lang and Jean Paul Gaultier, along with many other fashion stars, died Tuesday of cancer. In 1988 Poumaillou opened the doors to her eponymous boutique Maria Luisa in Paris, famous as an important shop selling well known designers alongside up and coming new talent. While this is by now a familiar store concept, with the likes of Kirna Zabete in New York and Maxfield in Los Angeles or Colette in Paris, it was ground breaking at the time. In reading about Poumaillou, I was greatly touched by her elegance, innovation, and confidence – she credited Martin Margiela as an inspiration that helped her to keep her business going – and in a past interview with Business of Fashion her words offer encouragement to all those pursuing their vision: “You’re only good at what you really love. So, be true to yourself. Be daring and keep a very open mind.”

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