Amarcord Vintage Fashion has brightened up New York City's vintage market for the last decade with both a vast collection of European & American fashions and a fabulous eye.
INTERVIEW BY KANDICE WATSON
K: How many years have you been working in the vintage industry:
P: I’ve been in the industry for debatably 20 years….but Amarcord has existed for about 13 years.
My personal love for fashion began with my mother. She was a seamstress working from home. I remember the exquisite dresses she was making for me, my sister and our dolls, and for some selected clients. She could afford very little clothing for herself, but I remember everything she bought was fashionable, refined, well done, tasteful; I still have some of her dresses. She has also always had amazing hands. In fact, I still bring to her my most precious finds to launder – like Chanel silk blouses, Pucci silk jersey dresses, and more – she can do miracles and will never mess up, unlike dry cleaners! Our wears lasted forever; maybe that’s where I got my passion for preservation.
K: What first attracted you to vintage?
P: As a teenager, I chased the trends; every season there was a staple fashion item, and I made sure that I got my hands on it. My real venture into fashion began in the early 80’s. I lived in London when I was 18, and I remember buying fluorescent garments reminiscent of the World’s End Buffalo collection. When I went back home I looked so wild that I got hired by the most cutting edge club, and my fashionable club culture career began. Following that, as the artistic director of many alternative clubs throughout the 80’s, I embraced each and every fashion trend from New Wave to New Romantic to Goth to Mod to Psychobilly to Techno. The designers of the 80’s happened to be guests in the clubs I managed. Fashion played a big role in club culture, in fact music and fashion have always been allied. I fed on that connection, eager to be current with trends – in music, art, design and fashion. I attended trade shows, Pitti Trend, MilanoVendeModa, Premier Vision, etc. I still have every Vogue Italy, the Face and i-D from the 80’s (available in the Archive for consultation – insert wink here!). My outfits were written up about and I had a lot of fun creating them – every night a new costume. Without my knowing, my 80’s wardrobe was the beginning of the Amarcord Archive.
K: When did you open your first store?
P: December 2000. When we launched the first store in the East Village, the goal was to bring something innovative to the New York vintage market. The envisioned result was a boutique-like atmosphere featuring mainly European fashion, carrying both known labels and undiscovered, yet well-manufactured clothing and accessories. The Amarcord goal was to show that high-end vintage is not only about those few sought-after brands, but that there is much more beauty in fashion, especially Italian, that needed to be exposed. We filled the racks with collectible designers as well as interesting and beautiful things from overseas fashion companies unknown in the U.S. Every season, our selection, since the first store opened in December 2000, is presented as an actual collection – well-edited, color and outfit coordinated, and reflecting the current trends. Our aesthetic provided a jolt to the existing New York vintage market, which immediately earned us recognition as the Best Vintage Store by New York Magazine, an honor we are proud to say that we were bestowed with again in 2010.
K: What is your favorite fashion accessory?
P: I’m an equal opportunity shopper. Shoes, handbags, jewelry – whatever makes a person feel confident and sexy, that’s the accessory that I find most interesting. The amazing part of accessories is that they can transform a look entirely, and they also play a major part in communicating a personal message to the world: “This is who I am.” Vintage accessories allow shoppers a whole other level of personalization; they truly get the opportunity to portray themselves in a light that no one else can be seen.
K: Who is your favorite designer?
P: This is going to be difficult! I personally find reasons to appreciate the intrinsic aesthetic of each designer’s style; every one, local or famous, has something to say. In fact, I admire a wide range of designers – from early classics like master bias cutter Madeleine Vionnet and sportswear pioneer Jean Patou, through 1950’s “sculptor” Capucci, innovative Dior with the New-Look, glamorous Schuberth, to the funky and cutting edge Comme des Garcons and visionaries Gaultier and McQueen, and many, many in between. I must say that some of my favorites are the Brits from the happy hippie times of the 60’s and 70’s – Jean Muir, Bill Gibb, Zandra Rhodes, Biba. I also have a particular attraction to that modern elegance of the late 70’s early 80’as interpreted by Callaghan, Basile, Complice, Erreuno and such... Oh, and I go crazy for the way Miura and North Beach Leather and NY accessories’ artisan Maximilia worked the skins. I find the sobriety of Americans Albert Nipon, Geoffrey Beene, Oleg Cassini, Halston very chic, but on the other end I get very excited when I find the excessively busy Koos Van Den Akker pieces. Same for the exhilarating colors of Falconetto and Pucci. I also like to collect 1960’s Livio de Simone from Capri and Malia or Shaheen from Hawaii, each evocative of the glory of these two far apart vacation destinations.I can’t get enough of the interesting volumes of Norma Kamali or Romeo Gigli or Issey Miyake, or of the geometric shapes of Ferre’, or of the “intellectual designs” by Yohji. And I’m amazed by the futuristic vision of the 1960’s creations by Pierre Cardin, Courreges, Paco Rabanne and Rudi Gernreich. Fiorucci was refreshing and fun, leading among many cool Italian jeanswear companies of the 70’s. The extreme fashion of Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End turns me on. But on top of it all are the Victorian clothes, with Worth who started all. The laces, the beadings, the satins… breathtaking! I fancy the late Victorian / turn-of-the century garments, rich, elaborated, embellished, so sumptuous yet so goth! I bow in front of all that hand work! Between the couturiers and the prêt-a-porter brands, the renowned and the modest, my favorites list could be very long; many deserve homage, I feel bad leaving so many out, but maybe another time...
Lastly I’d like to commend all those minor manufacturers who captured the fads of the moments and left us real snapshots of our society, and especially, allowed shoppers of all means to be fashionable.
K: What is your favorite decade in fashion?
P: I think I’ve said enough above to capture this one, too
K: Who is your historical muse or inspiration?
P: Again, I’m going to have to say ‘see above’ – there are just too many to name.
K: What is the "look" you prefer for a woman?
P: I’d have to say the Amarcord look (although I am biased, obviously). The Amarcord woman is chic and stylish. She is the perfect mix of uptown elegance with downtown cool. She is intelligent, appreciative of outstanding craftsmanship; she knows the current trends and follows them to a degree but desires something unique and fresh in each of her looks. She is a girl about town; her wardrobe needs are varied and all-encompassing. The Amarcord woman is sexy, confident and cool, whether she’s in leather pants or a ball gown.
K: What is your fashion motto?
P: Wear what you love.