Did someone die in this dress?

July 2013

Vintage fashion is more popular than ever. Is it a statement against the lack of quality and individualism on the high street? On the other hand, vintage echoes of mothballs, coffee stains and Austin Powers movies. Is it a silly trend that is going to die, or a subculture that’s here to stay?

Is vintage going to run out at some point? Why do old clothes make us happy? I decided to pin down Jade Stavri, a shop owner and loud cockney girl who enjoys football as much as all things old, to chat about weird fetishes, womanhood and the business of vintage.

Your vintage shop Scarlet Rage has just had its first birthday. How did you get in the business of old clothes?

It’s actually all thanks to mum, who suggested it. She used to sell in the Camden market, was 16 and skint as fuck, and later became a vintage furniture dealer. So I have antiques in my blood, I was basically born on a market stall. After graduating I worked for Disorder and Bonified magazines as a fashion editor, and I’ve also worked as a stylist as well as an assistant for them. One night I had to pick up a passed out boss from a bush at 3am on a Saturday night. I started realising it wasn’t my world; there was too much ass sucking. I’d rather help people dress well and make them feel good about themselves.

Ouch. Sounds like a proper parody of the fashion industry. What in vintage fashion then fascinates you?

-It fits me really well, as the cuts are perfect for womanly women.  I’m not your average high street girl, I have an ass and tits. I don’t think a lot of women on the high street look at their best, there’s not much personality or the clothes don’t suit their bodies. For me, working in vintage is also about helping others dress well and making them happy.

Vintage has been popular for a long time now. What do you think is behind this?

-People are drawing more inspiration from the past because nothing has evolved in fashion since the 90′s. The only designer who has blown my mind recently was McQueen with his digital print, and maybe Vivienne Westwood. People who don’t buy vintage are still wearing it without knowing! All the designers are drawing inspiration from the past. Why not then buy the original? Many of even the top designers today don’t produce proper quality: seams are falling apart, finishings aren’t amazing and such. Vintage clothes last pretty much forever.

Some tough words. There’s probably some sort of general thirst for nostalgia still going on? Just look at the continuous praise of vinyl, for example.

-People are looking at the past to feel joy. People want to be individualistic, everyone is trying to be happy. Hey, the weather and economy ain’t that good! And it’s about memories. People come into my shop and say “I bought this dress in 1959” and then I listen to their history of the dress and how it made them smile. Similarly, people listen to records from their dad. Kids love vinyl because it has the best sounds, the original sound – and it represents something from the past. 

I guess when you wear a vintage piece, you’re kind of telling a story as well?

-Absolutely. I have a lot of women coming in because they want to feel like they are living a memory, or someone else’s memory. I actually have an old wedding dress in my shop that has the old wedding photo attached to it! Some women just come in and touch the dresses…it’s a bit creepy. But hey, I don’t care. As long as you don’t have chocolate on your fingers, have any fetish if you like. It’s addiction, like crack or heroin. Terrible. 

Do you think it’s an ongoing trend or a subculture?

-Vintage is not a trend. There will always be a scene; women are always going to want one-off dresses. And there’s also a massive subculture of vintage. My shop assistant Rosie curls her hair every night and sleeps with rollers on. I don’t know how she does it. A lot of people mix vintage and high street, a lot of girls, younger girls, are not into true vintage but the 80s, which is cool, too. A lot of mums give their daughters their old clothes, except my mum who gave them all away! Usually mums had good taste.

How’s the situation in finding good pieces? You can’t obviously manufacture vintage clothes, is it going to run out at some point?

-It’s starting to run out in Europe. In the States they  have still got good stuff, and you can do amazing finds for example at old people’s attics. But in Europe it’s already quite hard to get your hands on any good pieces.

So could vintage be considered as an investment?

-Hold on to your vintage piece, hold on to it for a few decades, and it will increase in value. I have clients who are encouraging their daughters to start vintage collection at 13 years. It will be good money when they grow up.

Do you think vintage clothes represent some values in the society and culture as well, especially from women’s point of view? 

-It’s a celebration of womanhood. A man is always the head but woman is always the neck. Women back in the day, they didn’t have as equal opportunities as today, but they weren’t just dressing for their husbands, they were dressing for their mates, too. Look at my fabulous dress that I’m just going to make a pot roast in! 1920s were all about the androgynous look and values, and women were saying fuck off to corsets. Today, you can always come to a vintage shop and find something that fits perfectly because it represents all women, and was actually mostly made by themselves.

There are a lot of preconceptions about vintage, too. It can easily seem like you’re wearing some old table cloth from your aunt’s cousin and smell of mothballs while paying a fortune for it.

-So many people are opening vintage shops and not knowing what they are selling. This really pisses me off. They are for example charging according the wrong era, 50s prices for 80s clothes. People don’t necessarily know to look at the seams or zips to see the difference. Vintage is not second hand, the pieces are not bought at a flea market for one penny. But there is a lot of scamming in the industry which sometimes gives it a bad reputation.  And yes, the ‘did someone die in this dress?’ question is my pet peeve. Well, all I can say that if they did, they sure looked good!

And that would make one hell of a story, wouldn’t it. Thanks Jade. 

 

Words by MARIA KIVIMAA

Photography by KAROLIINA BÄRLUND and archives