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!
StephanieJune 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm (9 years ago)
How cool to hear that there is room for more people in the market! I wish more businesses would be so inclusive because really, there’s always some niche that has been over looked by the market.
I can’t wait to see what your ready to wear line turns out to be! :D
TanithJune 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm (9 years ago)
Good on you for going despite your concerns. You never know when something will turn out to give you the boost you need, and I’m glad your optimism was rewarded by some of the speakers.
I love when established players are supportive and encouraging. So often there is elitism and exclusionary attitudes instead, and it’s a terrible shame.
Also very interesting to hear the viewpoints on copying vintage designs. I’ve wondered about this in my work, when I’ve really wanted to make a specific vintage hat exactly as it was. Thank you for sharing the ideas about that issue.
Val LaBoreJune 26, 2014 at 7:58 am (9 years ago)
I don’t wear vintage, and am not into designing but I have to say I am impressed by the two words Betsey Johnson said.
You go girl!
SabrinaJune 26, 2014 at 11:01 am (9 years ago)
I really enjoyed this and found it inspiring. I was actually accepted to FIDM when I was in high school many moons ago. Due to cost, I could not attend. Years later I found myself getting into Elizabethan historical re-enacting. Since buying an accurate gown is just way too expensive, I look at portraits and design and make my own gowns. From this I got back into my love of fashion, but like you I really don’t like the modern looks and wear a lot of vintage looks. I have gone to Costume College a few times and always find new inspiration. In August I will actually be taking classes in fashion design and hope to launch my own line in the future. The view points on coping vintage designs are very helpful . Good luck in your endeavors!
EmileighJune 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm (9 years ago)
This even sounds amazing! I completely identify with you. I’m the only head-to-toe vintage person that lives in my town, I’m pretty sure, so I often feel like an “outsider” and get weird looks. I say there’s definitely room in the market. It would be amazing if vintage repro styles got popular enough to be carried in more places. (I’m a little bitter about there only being one vintage/vintage repro store in the entire southern half of Missouri, that I know of. And I’ve researched hard.)
KristinJune 26, 2014 at 4:57 pm (9 years ago)
Blazing your own trail can seem lonely at times, but in the end is so much more exciting than being part of the herd! I would agree that there’s always room for more vintage elements being included in modern clothing…vintage repro or not. Best wishes on your movement forward in your own clothing line endeavors!
LinBJune 27, 2014 at 10:22 am (9 years ago)
I am among those who feel that, while some vintage clothing is so precious that it should be preserved in a museum, clothing is clothing. If a thing is in good enough condition, and it fits, and you like it, wear it. If you like the look of vintage anything, and you want to replicate it in a way that allows you to use modern fabrics and modern sizing, go right ahead. “Vintage” covers so many decades (centuries?) and so many silhouettes that any woman or man can find a cut that suits their body type and their lifestyle. And as for borrowing ideas from vintage, isn’t that what humankind has always done, borrow ideas from one another, making alterations that let clothing work for people groups who live in very different climates and cultures? I have no qualms at all about poring over the pages of Dover Books reproductions of Victorian fashion magazine illustrations, taking a sleeve from here, a collar from there, a ruched trimming from another gown, and combining them into something that I would like to wear, and do wear.
So glad you faced your dragon, and walked into the seminar, and found confirmation and something very positive from it.
PorcelinaJune 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm (9 years ago)
I really enjoyed reading this post – well done for going to the event and being involved, and I love your account of all of the issues that vintage can bring x