Thursday, December 8, 2011

Style Banter With Cameron Silver

In an earlier entry, I wrote about vintage king Cameron Silver's upcoming visit to Singapore. After which I was inspired to have a cyber chat with him to discover more of his sartorial insights and his take on the vintage couture. Thanks to him, Style Canvas is now launching 'Style Banter', where I will be talking directly to interesting personalities and sharing the information with you. I can't think of a better person than Cameron for my inaugural Style Banter. Enjoy!

What made you ditch a successful singing/performing career to open Decades? Did you have an epiphany or some sort of a fashion eureka moment?

CS: I think my epiphany was realizing that I wasn’t going to make a living singing Weimar cabaret songs and surrendering to my love of fashion and ability to spot “goodies".

When you first started Decades, how did you manage to source for the merchandise? Did it take you long? Tell me a little about the start up process. The struggles before the fashion fairytale came true.

CS: In 1997, I could still find great vintage in thrift stores or at estate sales. The value of collectible fashion had not been established. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it certainly was more accessible. I miss the old days when I could find a 1970s Sant'Angelo handkerchief dress for $25 at the Pasadena Flea Market! As the store became more known, people not only were excited to have their clothes at Decades, but we helped to establish value of their clothing so the value went up and sellers made more money while buyers paid higher premiums.

A Sant'Angelo patchwork handkerchief skirt

In short, how would you explain the difference between vintage and mere secondhand clothes? What qualifies secondhand as vintage?

CS: Vintage clothing has resale value and is collectible. Used/second hand clothing is really quite an accurate description of those garments; whereas, vintage implies a certain degree of quality and historical relevance.

In your opinion, when did the trend of vintage clothes really take off?

CS: I like to think right about when Decades opened vintage became demystified and more socially acceptable. In 1997, we are at the height of minimalism with Helmut Lang ruling the runways, but Decades and our vintage collections encouraged the idea of “dressing up” again and expressing yourself through fashion and individuality.

Do you remember your first celebrity client who actually walked into Decades?

CS: Gina Gershon may have been the first celebrity to shop at the store and then many other celebs selected clothing from us such as: Michelle Williams wore a vintage Pauline Trigere from us on Jay Leno, but the first big red carpet moment may have been Tea Leoni in vintage Don Loper at the movie premiere of 'Playing God'. This was followed by Nicole Kidman in vintage Loris Azzaro at the NYC premiere of Moulin Rouge.

Tea Leoni in vintage Don Loper at the movie premiere of 'Playing God'

What makes a celeb choose vintage over couture?
CS: When you wear vintage you OWN your style and are not making an “endorsement” for a designer by borrowing a dress. Vintage offers mystery and positions the wearer as a fashion icon rather than fashion follower.

For someone who has never bought vintage pieces, what is the price range she should expect to fork out at Decades?

CS: We start at around US$180 for a simple silk blouse to around US$45,000 for a major Christian Dior Haute Couture gown or Schiaparelli gown. I would say our median range is around $1800 to $4800, but higher premiums on more elaborate pieces.

What is your favorite fashion era and why.

CS: 1970s and the Halston look – so chic, effortless, and quintessentially American and sexy!

Halston style in the '70s

Where do you shop for yourself?
CS: I shop everywhere. If I go into a store and don’t buy something from the store there is something wrong with the buyer! However as a world traveler, I am drawn to unique pieces and love to support emerging and new designers, as well as the big brands.

You are known as to be an avid Hermes fan. How many Hermes bags do you personally own and which is your absolute favourite bag?
CS: I have a massive collection of Hermes travel bags including one I designed myself that we call the Cameron bag. My favorite bag is probably my crocodile HAC/Haut a Courrois bag, but I can’t really travel with it until I have a G550!

Note: The Hermes HAC bag is the inspiration that launched Kelly and Birkin. The HAC, Haut a Courrois (means high belts in French), was actually the original ‘Birkin’. The HAC and the Birkin are slightly different; the HAC is taller than the Birkin and the handles are shorter. The HAC comes in a 28, 32, and 36 cm size whereas the Birkin is available in 25, 30, 35, and 40.

What are some essential fashion items that you will always pack when you are traveling?
CS: Black Levi’s jeans, Brooks Brothers non-iron dress shirts, Black cashmere V-neck, Black Lanvin bow tie, and a blazer – as I never know when I am going to be invited to a black tie so this is a way to dress up and down with one outfit. I always bring something unexpected and festive and especially something I have never worn before that is really outside the box so I have a surprise in my luggage. I always take a pair of crazy Christian Louboutin shoes, too!

Have you been to Singapore? If yes, when was your last trip?
I was last in Singapore in the early 1980s. I am so excited to return!

I read that you eat healthily. What's your favourite food and your typical meal like? Would you try Singapore's famous dishes such as chilli crabs and chicken rice?
CS: I like everything fancy but food: I tend to eat a lot of salads, so dinner can often be a large salad with my homemade vinaigrette. For sure I will eat chili crabs and chicken rice! I try to avoid carbs, but when in Rome... :)

I am looking forward to meeting Cameron next week. Perhaps I might be the one who initiates him to the chilli crabs! Check back on Style Canvas to read about my shopping experience with him. :)

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