Is there a better chronicler of fashion history and all-around-beloved fashion personality than Cameron Silver? As the new star of Bravo’s Dukes of Melrose, Silver, the man most credited with making it cool to wear old clothes and co-owner of Los Angeles vintage emporium Decades, now has the adulation of a nationwide and global audience.
At a Vidal Sassoon Pro Series event last week, Silver exhibited his usual charm as we talked about vintage history, how more informed consumers have affected his business, and which modern designers he sees as having vintage appeal.
Fashionista: How does the supply and demand for vintage change in relation to the economy?
Cameron Silver: Our business went up during the economic crisis. The luxury customer was still shopping. In our modern consignment business, the consumer wanted something more affordable, [but] the clothes didn’t get any cheaper for us to buy. Our sales went up, but so did the value of the clothing. I would have thought, “Oh, we can get everything so cheap now that people want money.” But no, everyone needed money and wanted more money.
Thanks to the internet, everyone can be an informed consumer and become knowledgeable about brands and designers. How has that affected your business?
The consumer is much more intelligent. It’s nice to work with informed customers. It’s also [created a] broader audience. I keep reminding people, we’re not just rich, young Hollywood girls. It’s a very global business for us. [During our] show on Bravo on Wednesday, which was about this shoe event, we launched a shoe sale online at the same time. Our server crashed. Everyone wants something cool that has some value.
Does a more informed consumer make it harder to buy?
Good buys are harder to find, [but] good finds are more accessible. People know the value of their clothing so instead of just discarding it, they’re contacting us. My staff [just] went an hour out of the city [to] a storage unit with ton of Hermès bags and YSL. The clothes are still out there. I read obituaries. [Joking] You should see me at Cedars-Sinai. Just watching the heart. I see dead people.
Now things become vintage in a shorter period of time. Clothes I wore five to 10 years ago are collectible. You can be living and make money off your clothes.
Has there been a surprising source of consumer for you?
There have been more mainland Chinese coming to the store. There are so many Chinese buying property in Los Angeles. It’s so culturally the opposite because [they don’t] like to wear anything from the dead. But now I think the Chinese are just like, “This a cool jacket and I’m buying it.” We had a woman who bought three vintage furs from us. She spent [something] like $14,000 dollars. There was a Prada jacket for $400 that retailed for $1,200. She wanted to buy it for $125, because there is still that [cultural] mentality for bargaining.
Which current modern designers do you think will have vintage appeal?
Raf Simons and the Raf collections for Dior. I think a lot of what Alber [Elbaz] has done at Lanvin. Proenza [Schouler] is getting super collectible. Phoebe [Philo] for Stella McCartney [ed note: Silver was probably referring to the period when the two worked together at Chloe.] And we are having such a British fashion moment. Mary Katrantzou. Her stuff is so good. Jonathan Saunders. It’s nice to see that London is back on top. There’s so much street style inspiration.
You’ve said previously in interviews that vintage is for people who have authentic style. What do you think of street style in relation to authentic style?
Street style is where it’s happening. I always thought London was the street style capital. It’s inspired my life because I spent so much time in London in the ‘80s. My friend [Sarah DeAnna] has a book coming out called Supermodel You. It’s female empowerment but also [learning] the tricks models use because we’re all getting historically chronicled through websites and lay people. It’s [no longer] just celebrities, [it’s through] Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Everyone has to have a sense of street style [but] everyone has style no matter what they think. If you’re not in prison, you have style. Half of us dress like we’re in prison anyway, with those coveralls that are so popular and low-rider jeans.