Last night I attended the Fashion Group International of Los Angeles’ event, “Vintage Viewpoint: Vintage Influence on Contemporary Fashion” at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandizing (my alma mater).
The panel was composed of four individuals who come from backgrounds in fashion- either as antique dealers or as designers. Present were Alicia Estrada, CEO/Designer, Stop Staring!, Madeline Harmon, Owner, Chuck’s Vintage, Shareen Mitchell, Owner, Shareen Vintage, Doris Raymond, Owner, The Way We Wore, and the moderator/master of ceremonies was Kevin Jones, FIDM Museum Curator.
As soon as this event popped up in my inbox, I signed up right away. Never mind that I’m still not back to normal after the time difference of the midwest, never mind that I’m tired of traveling- I was determined to go. So I got my little self up to Los Angeles, hung out with my best friend, then dolled myself up vintage (and neglected to take any pictures), and headed out to FIDM in the evening.
I was slightly hesitant, after thinking about it, as to whether or not it would be applicable to me and my upcoming clothing line. After all, critiquing and noticing fashion trend’s influence to vintage fashion has been sort of a hobby/interest of mine and many of my close friends for as long as I remember. To be completely honest, I mostly went to see if I could glean some knowledge from Alicia Estrada, who is the designer behind the highly successful vintage-inspired clothing line “Stop Staring.”
And I’ll be honest. As soon as I drove into the underground parking garage, a fear and dislike gripped my heart. I am a survivor of FIDM. When I went to school vintage was not “cool.” I left just at the cusp of vintage becoming mainstream. I was laughed, made fun of, talked down to, and chided for wanting all of my designs to harken to different eras. I was told I should do costume design, and that my designs really had no place in modern fashion.
Now, as a graduate, and a gal who spent a lot of time making a brand and an (albeit tiny) name for myself and my vision, and now among the rank of those hopeful to start a ready to wear line, here I am, back in my old stomping grounds, feeling pretty shy and yet willingly submitting myself to a “fashion event.” I even paid for the privilege.
I exit the elevator, head down to the galleries, and find I am one of the only people wearing head to toe vintage fashion. I’m mixed in among the “cool”, sporting fancy jeans mixed with bohemian vintage. Students who attended for some reason. Designers and big wigs who know their stuff in the industry. I generally feel really confident in myself and believe in my vision, but those old feelings crept back and I felt like no one really “got me.”
UNTIL I heard Alicia Estrada talk. What an inspiring story! One of eleven children, she got into fashion via the punk scene, and decided to do vintage inspired clothing, because she “hated fashion.” Thank the LORD, I felt so much more at ease. I was always the weird one- more tomboy than girly as a teen, the one who hung out in the art room and mixed authentic vintage with modern clothes just because I liked them. In fashion school, I hung out with the outsiders- the punks, the artists, the alternative fashion scene. In fact, I wrote some pretty horrid poetry about how much I disliked fashion and fashion school in general.
But vintage fashion- that’s another thing. I can talk all day, study all day, and drool over the tiniest detail. It really is “timeless”.
Whatever your take on her clothing line, Alicia Estrada’s story is fantastic. She takes vintage elements and makes them apply to our modern culture and body types. She really bridges the gap between authentic vintage and modern fashion, and she does it well. At first, she was shunned by the authentic vintage clothing shops. Modern fashion thought she designed costumes. But now, she’s featured in mainstream magazines and has celebrities wearing her dresses. I only dream of meeting that success.
Not only that, but I’ve found out she’s a woman of faith (like I am), and into family. She was encouraging, she took time to talk to people after the panel, and she said many times that “there’s room for more designers in the vintage market.” It’s SO refreshing to not hear someone get all up in arms when a noob comes along with a dream in their niche. I always said “there’s always room for more vintage patterns.” Now I’m glad that there’s others saying “there’s always room for more vintage fashion.” Because, you know what? The market just keeps growing and growing. So I was incredibly blessed to go and hear her answers and speak with her very briefly.
The other panelists were mostly those who dealt with high end authentic vintage fashion, and sell primarily to designers, celebrities, and those with money for those higher price point vintage items. I admit, I didn’t recognize half of the names that were dropped during this panel discussion (I don’t keep up too much with celebrities and designers), but it was interesting to hear just how many designers now come to authentic vintage clothing dealers searching for inspiration. I remember I even had Betsy Johnson say “Nice dress.” to me at a LA Vintage Fashion Expo once. That was pretty cool.
But, also hearing the perspective of the curator of the FIDM museum was interesting. Some vintage is so rare, it really should be preserved for future generations. So, although it may make me squirm to hear of someone wearing authentic Victorian garments in everyday life, others have no problem with it. And still others want a recreation of it. So there’s room out there for the authentic vintage clohing, the reproductions, and the archivists- but all are under the banner name of “vintage”.
An interesting point that was brought up was the question of “knocking off” vintage fashions. I’ve seen this question asked in the blogoshere in relation to wearable fashion and vintage sewing patterns. In general, all panelists were agreed- unless it’s a modern designer knocking off another modern designer (say, for example, the 90’s is back- doing a knock of of another designer’s piece from then is in pretty poor taste), most agreed that they have no problem with someone making copies of vintage originals as long as it’s not iconic to a specific designer. And with the wide world of the internet, someone out there will know where it originally was from. Most modern designers, however, will just take elements of vintage for either structural design elements or textile inspiration. There’s a few out there who do head to toe (Ralph Lauren springs to mind), and there’s niche brands who will do this, like vintage reproduction companies, but most take something and put their own spin on it. And, if you know real vintage, you know sizing and textiles now are VERY different than they were back then, so getting an exact replica is really pretty rare and not always in your best interest.
So, in the end, I still don’t really like “fashion.” I don’t like hobnobbing and “networking”. It feels fake and forced. But I do enjoy the insight from people who have been on the road and survived in what I want to do.
And hey, one of the vintage expert panelists actually asked if the dress I made was vintage. So I must be doing something right.
Got any thoughts? Please let me know below!