David Pedroza: What inspired you about vintage couture, and how did it lead to opening Rare Vintage?
Juliana Cairone: RARE vintage came about accidentally because of my husband, my mother-in-law and a head cold.
We have an apartment here in the city and a house on Centre Island and my clothes had been slowly creeping out of the closets for years in both places until it got to the point my husband and my mother-in-law ganged up on me and said I had to do something about it. As I was going through things I realized I had a lot of vintage, looked on line saw and that there was a vintage show in a couple of weeks. The woman running the show was kind enough to let me participate even though I was not a dealer. Shortly afterwards I had a terrible head cold and was in bed for a week. I had enjoyed doing the vintage show and started writing a business plan for the store and I found the space on 57th Street that same week.
DP: What is your first vintage purchase?
Calista Flockhart in Juliana's Valentino Haute Couture, Circa 1970's
DP: Who is your favorite designer, and does his or her style influence the vintage you acquire?
JC: I have designers I love: Balenciaga, Madame Gres, Yves Saint Laurent but truthfully I love a little bit of everyone. I love a little Courreges dress from the 1960s, I love Marc Jacobs' grunge collection for Perry Ellis, I love Capucci, I love Chanel from Coco Chanel to Karl Lagerfeld, I even love this extraordinary Bob Mackie bolero I bought recently and I certainly did not think that I could love Bob Mackie until I saw that particular piece.
DP: Do you share the same taste in vintage as your clients?
JC: I only buy pieces for the store that I personally love or find interesting. I bought a spectacular Issey Miyake coat that is not at all my personal taste but as an object, I knew that is was an incredible collector's item and it sold immediately. In fact, I had clients and a museum fighting for it.
DP: Who is the Rare Vintage customer, and what does she want out of her vintage clothes?
JC: I don't think we have a typical RARE vintage client. We have very young girls who are building a collection (everyone has become much more aware of the value and uniqueness of vintage), we have clients who are very social and are out in the evening often and they don't want to be wearing the same dress as someone else, we have people who are just collectors and people who collect and wear.
DP: The workmanship in vintage and contemporary haute couture is so spectacular; has it changed the way you see quality in ready-to-wear or fashion in general in today’s market?
JC: I love the word 'petersham'. Petersham is the little interior grosgrain ribbon belt that is inside many vintage couture pieces. It holds the dress to the body and makes an enormous difference in fit. Valentino Couture dresses have a petersham and a little ribbon that is almost like a bodysuit so you have to step into the dress. Brilliant, a little complicated to get into but when you sit down and your dress does not bunch around the shoulders you understand completely. When I go into Bergdorfs and look at dresses which cost thousands of dollars, none of them have a petersham.
DP: How did you come about the Valentino Haute Couture Sale?
JC: It is funny but I have found that one month we may get calls with almost exclusively Saint Laurent or Chanel to sell. So it happened that when I was in Italy (I do quite a bit of buying for the store in France and Italy), I happened to come across Valentino Couture pieces. They were not from one person and the years ranged from very rare and early 1960s pieces to the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. We thought it would be great to have a capsule sale of the collection on 1stdibs.
Selection of vintage Valentino Haute Couture From Rare Vintage: (Left) Pink Gazar gown, Circa 1962, price upon request, (Center Left) Beaded Leopard organza dress, price upon request, (Center Right) Black Velvet and Gazar Dress, $2,400, (Right) Silk organza and Lace pin tuck gown, circa 1978, $3,000. Available at www.1stdibs.com
DP: Do you think vintage clothes, or vintage couture in particular, has become very important in today’s world?
JC: I think vintage has become very important in todays world. For one thing, designers source from us for inspiration for future collections and because shopping has become depressingly global - you can find a Prada store anywhere, all carrying the same merchandise - so what is the point of going to Milan and buying Prada when you can buy the same thing here in New York. And with the internet everything is so saturated. We have all seen the new Valentino collection on the internet and then we will see it on actresses who will borrow it and then finally it will be in the stores and by then you are already a little tired of it. But with vintage, even though it is something old, it is actually in a way something new and something which has not been seen.
DP: What are your 3 favorite pieces currently at your showroom?
JC: One of my favorite new pieces is a slinky rust colored jersey Yves Saint Laurent rive gauche evening dress with a plunging back and gold leather straps. It is so Saint Laurent and to me when I see it, I can also see Saint Laurent with LouLou de la Falaise, Betty Catroux, Marina Schiano all hanging out together laughing in a restaurant in Paris. It takes me to a different place and I love that transformative, dreamy quality in vintage. My other favorite pieces are not in the store yet but will be soon: it is a collection of Chanel couture runway jewelry. I have never seen anything like it for sale and the pieces are just incredible. It is all from the late late 80 and very early 90s.
DP: What are Rare Vintage’s 3 must haves for fall 2011?
JC: I f I were to choose three pieces that are must haves for the fall from RARE vintage I would choose a whimsical animal print sweater from Krizia (Givenchy and Balenciaga were definitely inspired by Krizia's original animal print sweaters), An incredibly beautiful couture heavy silk and velvet gown from Givenchy Couture that I am madly in love with. And a fun cropped vintage fur.
Animated Sweater, T Rex by Krizia, $650 at Rare Vintage NYC
Velvet Sheath with Leather and gold sequin appliques, Givenchy Haute Couture, price upon request at Rare Vintage NYC