Shrimpton Couture Weighs in on the Future of Vintage
I've been so taken with the idea of vintage lately and it's due in part to my reaction to over-consumption which I'm as guilty of as anyone (except I'm not anywhere near as bad as that lady on Oprah whose shopping and hoarding addiction left her house unliveable and a warehouse was needed to store it all when it was finally removed). But who wants vintage if your options don't provide a desirable and sustainable alternative to the shiny new clothes fresh off the runways that we're used to oggling, lusting after, buying and wearing? And one may be without the time or resolve to rummage through the vintage shops, if there are nearby options available.
I've always loved the idea of vintage but in practical terms (ie. what was I really buying) I found myself in this category until I discovered Shrimpton Couture, owned and run by the passionate and knowledgeable Cherie. I was at once won over by the carefully chosen and well-presented selection of truly good vintage, and further by the reworked pieces from a design duo called RSVP, two very talented individuals who Cherie works closely with and who prefer to remain anonymous as they are accomplished in another field (how mysterious!). And to top it all off a host of handpicked, talented accessories designers contribute collections of handmade adornments made of vintage findings created specially for Shrimpton Couture in the designer's own unique style.
The purpose of this post is two-fold: First, I wanted to show some of my favourite pieces from the shop because they are too wonderful and exciting not to share (and I know many Swelle readers will appreciate lacy dresses both flapper and Edwardian, and there are lots of those). And second, I got to thinking about the future of vintage and whether the older vintage we enjoy now can sustain passing down to future generations, and also if what's been created from the 90s to present and beyond will be worthy of collecting in the future. So I asked Cherie to weigh in and she provided thoughtful answers to my barrage of questions and thankfully, offered hope for our vintage loving future as well as a positive interpretation of an era in fashion that to me seemed somewhat lost and undefined until now:
With corners being cut more and more in production in the making of 'designer' clothes today will the majority of the garments last? And as for design, will it still translate decades from now or be worthy of appreciation? Can the 90s and the noughties be defined through fashion in a significant way that will really mean something to future generations? Lastly, do you see any one fashion house or designer in particular producing collections that will live on?
I often worry about the future of vintage; even the mass produced items of days past were very well constructed and the concept and manner in which clothing were produced was very different. Mass production in the 1950s could mean thousands of items. Now it can mean millions. That being said there are still many designers that produce beautiful, well made, ready to wear pieces and I suspect that many independent designers that manage to get some notoriety now will become the future highly collectible of tomorrow. Dealers will just be forced to sift through far more crap to find the gems!
However, I doubt it will be too different then. I buy mainly from a small, trusted group of collectors who know my tastes and level of quality of demand, but I do still occasionally make a 'thrift trip' - I don't think I will ever get over the thrill of finding that diamond in the rough - and am astounded at how much awful, cheap clothing ends up at local thrifts. My gut tells me this will be the case in 20 years, too!
As far as design translating - well good design is good design. Don't you agree? I think that as soon as women where "unshackled" so to speak form the confines of corsets and undergarments that strived to change the shape of the body, that design really started to become what we tend to think of as modern design. There really are only a dozen or so basic shapes that the entire world of fashion revolves around since the turn of the century so I think in the far future you will see more of an impact in the advancement of fabric technologies rather then some "new" cut or shape. Personally I would just like to see advancements in preserving fabrics; I could cry when I see some early 20s pieces and what they get reduced too.
In the future when we look back I think what will define the nineties and noughts is not that it had a defining look but that the defining look was undefined. I know that might sound odd at first but I think that for the first time historically woman have really come into their own for the most part (broad generalization I know but bear with me) globalization has changed the way we think, feel and ultimately, how we dress. The seasons are no longer dictated as they where - season are no global and designs put out more collection a year then ever to cope with woman who work and travel globally. Everything we do is influenced by a mish mash of cultures and that rubs off onto how we dress. We can go on the internet and see girls on the street in the US, China, Australia, England, Paris....all the corners of the world and it instantly changes the way we look at our clothes as individuals. I think that we will look back and see this time period as the one that freed us from a"look" and became an ever evolving, fluctuating flow of trends.
To indulge your vintage lust you can follow Cherie's regular column at Herald de Paris. Her debut article lovingly recounts her introduction to vintage as a teenager and if you don't 'get' vintage, this may turn you:
"I have heard stories of the first time a girl fell in love in the 1950s wearing a cupcake of a dress with a cinched in waist and full, full skirt. Occasionally, there are still bits of confetti lodged in the lace of the bust of these party frocks from high school dances from a more innocent time. I have heard the story of the dress, worn by its owner who is now bent and stooped, a dress made with her own hands to go to her first dance with a boy, in the days when that was as risqué an event as a girl would have in her young life."
Beautiful, well-constructed clothing with a soul - what can top that?