Shopping VINTAGE@Intermezzo with Norma Kamali, Iris Apfel, and Company

Peter A. Berta, Director, Accessorie Circuit Intermezzo Collections
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner
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UBM Intermezzo Collections are held at the Jacob K. Javits Center three times a year: in May, January, and August. Their timing, in between the major women’s fashion markets, enables retailers to discover and shop the current trends in all ready-to-wear classifications — contemporary, activewear, casual and denim. And it guarantees immediacy. When Peter Berta, Director, Accessorie Circuit/Intermezzo Collections, came up with the idea of adding vintage to the popular trade show this past May (the “Firestarter” was Bridgette Morphew, creative director of Morphew Concept), it was in answer to retailers who craved something new and exciting.

Turns out, something ‘old’ IS something ‘new’ after all! He had no idea it would be as successful as it was. As he put it, “The stores were craving newness and it turned out to be the most talked-about area in Intermezzo. It was the most incredible thing we added”. He quickly realized “they were onto something and should move forward with this”. He did and the result was VINTAGE@Intermezzo, the first ever consumer-facing fair within the show which ran from Sunday August 6th through Tuesday August 8th.

He is a true believer that, “Vintage brings provenance to one’s wardrobe and represents another time, when clothing and accessories were not mass produced but crafted by hand with a true love for the actual product itself. It speaks to the journey that has brought us to today and influences the way we see ourselves in the future.”

Bridgitte Morphew with her display
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Consumers were charged $20 to shop the unmatched curated selection of one-of-a-kind apparel and accessories from 20 vintage dealers including Morphew Concept, Norma Kamali, Brent Edward Vintage, The Wayward Collection, Mia Vesper, Dusty Rose Vintage, Another Man’s Treasure, Lulu’s Vintage, Lady V Second Time Around, James Veloria, Bui’s & Whistles, Cabana Vintage, Kitschopia, IMJM Antiques & Vintage Couture, Les Femmes Vintage, Icon Style, The Bargain District, Lifestyle Boutique, and Natalie Como’s Wardrobe Revolution with one added surprise.

Lulu with her Lulu’s Vintage  Lovelies display
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

FYI, consumers and buyers were encouraged to wear their favorite vintage pieces and I chose a beloved black vinyl Courreges jacket from the 60’s, which to me, is the definition of modern vintage. Each dealer represented a unique facet of the industry with product available for both wholesale and retail and they were set up in a separate area to the left of the entrance to Intermezzo Collections.

Andrew Buis with his 70’s Mary McFadden pleated coat
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

I was not the only diehard vintage aficionado checking things out on an early Sunday morning. I also spotted designer Jill Stuart, apparently seeking inspiration for her unapologetically vintage inspired designs (she hasn’t met a vintage show she doesn’t like lol), and the bold, eccentric duo, Valerie and Jean who pen the blog, As a long time vintage lover and avid collector myself, I have gone to my share of vintage shows here in NY and have become quite familiar with many of the dealers, some of whom were in attendance. Show veterans like Lulu, Lulu’s Vintage Lovelies; Lara Kornbluth of IconStyle,;  Andrew Buis from BuisandWhistles ( can always be counted on with their eclectic selection. While Norma Kamali is not a regular vintage show exhibitor, she was the spotlight vintage designer at the Intermezzo Vintage show this past May and she had a prominent booth filled with her archives this time around as well (everything was stored pristinely in garment bags).

Marilyn Kirschner wearing an Iris Apfel necklace with Iris

A nice surprise was the ageless style icon Iris Apfel, who had a large booth complete with a blown up photograph of her posted above on the wall. She was selling some of her fabulous trademark accessories, priced from $50 – $2000, all culled from her personal archives. Of course, I had to buy something (how could I not want to get a piece of Iris?)

While she has already parted with many of her cherished items, as she told me, she has been collecting since the age of 11, so she still has a lot of merchandise to unload. And this gives her an opportunity to get rid of the old and make room for the new (and shop for the new, she does!) In addition to the tireless 95 year old’s ongoing design collaborations, she told me there will be a Barbie Doll in her likeness, which will make its debut in September 2018. She never stops and why should she?

Idiosyncratic Fashionistas Jean and Valerie at James Veloria’s avant garde filled booth
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Among the dealers I was not familiar with beforehand were  James Veloria Studio,  (they sell and rent special vintage and contemporary pre-owned clothing and accessories); Monique H. Alvarez of Lifestyle Statement, (the Brooklyn based luxury consignment sells both vintage and new); IMJM Vintage Couture (they have a great selection of vintage Chanel bijoux); and Morphew Concept, Ms. Morphew is a big believer that “if you can understand the past, you can predict the future trends and style movements”. She sums up her collection as a merging of “antique textiles with modern fit”. FYI, she is staging 9 – 5 presentations at her west 36th showroom during fashion week, on September 8th to be exact. For more information, contact 212 564 4331.

Monica Pineros at Mia Vesper’s booth
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Also new to me was Mia Vesper, who in fact, just recently launched her collection of fabulous one of a kind pieces made from vintage tapestries. It’s all about recycling and reinvention and the tapestries are sourced from all over the world and manufactured by an expert team in New York City. You can walk on the gorgeous rugs, and wear them as well. Brilliant! She even hopes to partner with ABC Home sometime in the future and I could easily see that happening. She has collaborated with Monica Pineros on a small group of one of a kind metal chain pieces, which have been picked up by Moda Operandi (not bad!).

Iris Apfel and Laurie Schechter
Photograph: Richard Renda / Totally Cool ®

On Monday, Intermezzo show director Peter Berta, wore one of her one jackets. Also milling around and/or doing some shopping on that day were Laurie Schechter (who bought a fabulous Iris Apfel cuff), Richard Renda, Robert di Mauro, Tziporah Salamon, Laurel Marcus.

Lifestyle Statement’s Balmain 2007 gold chain dress
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

I certainly don’t have to be convinced of the upside of buying vintage. At a time marked by such sameness on the retail level, it’s wonderful to find something one of a kind; something that you know you won’t see on everyone (or anyone) else for that matter. The esoteric, exclusive, hard to get element is certainly part of its appeal as is the individuality and uniqueness it interjects within your wardrobe: it’s something guaranteed to set you apart from the pack. There is no high compared with scoring that one of a kind piece. Quite frankly, the older I get (and the more I see), the more I appreciate it.

But admittedly, not everyone ‘gets’ it. To educate those who still think of poodle skirts when you say the word vintage and to answer the questions: what defines vintage, how can retailers best use vintage to set their stores apart, how to use vintage to inspire new designs and make what’s old new again, Mr. Berta conceived of ‘The Value of Vintage’ panel discussion which took place on Monday at 2p.m. at the Crystal Palace/Accessories Magazine Lounge at the Javits Center.

Lauren Parker, Iris Apfel, Norma Kamali, Stephanie Solomon
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Lauren Parker, Editor-in-Chief of Accessories Magazine, interviewed the legendary award winning designer Norma Kamali, the one and only Iris Apfel, and Stephanie Solomon, a fashion industry veteran who served as Fashion Director of Bloomingdale’s for 30 years and most recently as VP/Fashion Director of Lord & Taylor. She asked them to weigh in on vintage both professionally and personally, but the lively discussion went far beyond that and included discussions about millennials, social media, the future of fashion design. It was a packed house with a number of seasoned fashion pros (Marylou Luther, Nicole Fischelis, Jeffrey Schwager) in the audience. It was obvious that the big draws were Iris (who pretty much stole the show, as she tells it like it is, and had everyone in stitches), and Norma, both of whom are revered for being iconic, one of kind rule breakers. And as it turns out, the  idea of being one of a kind, the driving force behind vintage, was a phrase that was used throughout the approximately hour long discussion.

When Lauren began, she cracked everyone up saying that when she went over to Iris’s booth to say ‘Hi’, on Sunday, she wasn’t there because she was shopping (everyone laughed).  For the record, Iris reported that she purchased a fabulous Victorian coat and a jacket from Comme des Garcons.

Lauren Parker: “What is your favorite accessory piece”?

Stephanie Solomon: “A bracelet that I fell into while shopping in some crazy place in Milan. It was a 1940’s gold bracelet. I had no money at the time but I spent everything I had on this bracelet…still my favorite and most coveted piece..And my aunt’s wedding ring I still wear. I believe jewelry has energy and passes on good luck to people.”

Norma Kamali: “The cat’s eye glasses I’m wearing. I found them 40 years ago and I have been making them in different materials ever since”.

Iris Apfel: “I have so much vintage I guess it’s all favorite! Would somebody please define vintage? I just purchased a jacket from Comme des Garcons at the show and was told it was from 2016. Does that mean anything that was made even a week ago is vintage? Vintage used to be an elegant way of saying ‘old clothes’ but for me, it seems that the term can be used to define something that is unusual, not run of the mill, and one of a kind, regardless of the age. Age doesn’t mean anything in and of itself. Just look at me.”

SS: “Iris, you used a term that resonates very strongly right now: “one of a kind”. I just read a business analysis that said customers are more than 60% more likely now to look for one of a kind items now than they were one year ago. That, in and of itself is a trend”.

LP: “Do you think some customers don’t have the confidence to buy vintage, and are unsure how to wear it”?

Iris: “People have to get to know who they are in order to carry off something. Just because it’s a trend doesn’t mean it will look good on everybody. The worst faux pas is looking in the mirror and seeing somebody else. So many of the current fashions look ghastly on the people. You have to know who you are physically, mentally, spiritually and what you can carry off and feel comfortable with.”

LP: “Do you mix eras when you wear vintage? How do not look like you’re wearing a costume?”

SS: “Mixing is the only way to go but if you see something vintage and relate to it, and feel it’s something you have to have, you can’t go wrong. What’s great is that vintage has a history behind it but you need to know your body, your style, and what will be attractive to the world and to yourself.”

LP: “Norma, I read on your website you are very influenced by the 40’s.”

NK: “I’ll tell you the history of this. When I was 14–16 years old I had no money but I realized I could find one of kind things in vintage stores that were just becoming underground popular. And I could go to S.Klein and buy a dress, take off the decorations, add vintage, and I had something that was me. In the later 60’s when I was in London, Antiquarius was a focal point for me. By the 70’s everyone dressed the way they wanted and would kill themselves if they looked like anyone else. And nobody had a stylist. That creativity was an expression of who you were.”

“The 70’s allowed everyone to be fully expressive and be creative with clothing. And because vintage was in such great numbers, 20’s, 30’s 40’s, 50’s vintage, I used to buy big big trash bags full of it and I sold it in my store too. From the 70’s to now, vintage has gone through this kind of a movement (and Norma moved her arms up and down to illustrate). We really need more expressive individuals who look amazing. However we live in a time when everybody is looking forward or looking down into their devices. Looking backwards in history takes a lot of interest. It’s not a characteristic of a millennial to want to do that. In order for vintage to have a life today, I think we need to say that it will be okay for people to not dress like every other person  on Instagram.”

“And where are all the expressive, gorgeous individualists with style on Instagram wearing vintage? Where are you? There are not enough of you. There are plenty of pretty girls with pretty dresses that all look the same. But I’m putting a call out. Where are all of you on Instagram who have style and know how to make vintage rock and look fabulous? (This was met with rounds of applause!) So, do it, so that looking forward, you can use Instagram by taking vintage and mixing it together to make it look modern and today. It’s critical that that expression exists.”

IA: “What has happened since the 70’s that made everyone so uptight about getting dressed?”

NK: “I think a lot happened. Prior to women going to the workplace, there was a transition from the Mad Men time of cone bras, girdles, stockings, garter belts (you want to kill yourself just thinking about it) to not wearing any underwear at all. That was my favorite and I can’t say I am wearing any underwear at all! (laughs from the audience). I think women working changed it up. Looking expressive or individual was not something we were able to do in the workplace so there was a need to look like men, wear a power suit, As the generations go by, girls want to look more and more like each other; the same poses, the same dresses.”

SS: “Isn’t that the purpose of Instagram? I want to be YOU! I want your LIFE! I want to buy YOUR earrings. It’s a ploy to get you to buy my life. And that is anti-creative. We need to celebrate those women who don’t copy my earrings, handbags, because it may not look good on you. Find yourself. In the 70’s we didn’t have that. We didn’t have all these influences. We were encouraged to be as creative as we could be and we were rebelling against our parents. You didn’t wear what your mom wore. We wanted to be the opposite.”

NK: “The individual exists. Being an individual means you have courage, your self- esteem is pretty intact and you have a sense of self that is key to who you are. Women have it sometimes, and sometimes we don’t. We’re hormonal human beings who feel good about ourselves at times, and and sometimes we don’t. But the idea of expressing yourself and creating beauty is something the individual can always do. And that individual can survive through different eras and make a name for herself.. And men can do it too.”

LP: “I want to talk a little about retail. So Stephanie, tell us about Cameron Silver’s Decades Vintage pop up store within your Dress Address department.”

SS: “The pop up store was a total unmitigated success. I was shocked! It’s something you don’t often see true vintage ready-to-wear and that’s what it was with Decades. People just gravitated toward it and prices were normal, they were not so inexpensive that it was a giveaway. Re there is an undercurrent starting to happen. The numbers on websites like The RealReal consignment shop ( are pretty impressive so I think millennials are beginning to appreciate the value of vintage and it resonated at Lord &Taylor very strongly.”

“The other section we have is a vintage jewelry case which we’ve had since 2005, and it’s doing very well. Retailers should investigate this more closely.”

“Of course, the problem with vintage is you can’t reorder. You have to replenish. But there are trends in vintage. We all know Gucci is the bomb right now, but if you see vintage Gucci, it’s happening there as well. It trickles down from ready to wear to vintage”.

LP: “Iris, what’s selling at your booth?”

IA: “We’ve sold a lot of statement necklaces. People are beginning to like bold jewelry and not just discrete itsy bitsy things. If you’re going to wear jewelry, it should make a statement. Nothing is as transformative for an outfit, as knockout jewelry. You can take a little black dress and go from work to cocktails to a big time gala by simply changing accessories. With good, architectural, basic pieces you can completely change your look by changing your accessories. You can make dozens of outfits with very little. It helps people be more creative as well”.

LP: “Pop culture. Anything you guys look to for inspiration?”

NK: “This is such a fantastically disruptive time that looking for inspiration in places or through vintage is not what I think we should be thinking about now. I did the sleeping bag coat in the early 70’s and I still sell it. I did sweats in the late 70’s and I still sell sweats. I did a jersey collection of 8 dresses and I was wearing a lot of vintage in the 70’s and I said to myself that I wanted these dresses to be vintage of the future. And actually, the top I’m wearing is a short version of one of the dresses. And this top can be worn 8 to 12 different ways and I still sell it. So sometimes vintage is timeless. In fact, really good vintage is timeless and I think you’re seeing an example of that with Iris. There are things that will always look good and they are decades old. The sleeping bag coat was recently on the cover of a magazine and I did it for Lady Gaga’s upcoming show. So, vintage that is great for you is timeless and an investment you make for yourself forever. I think that’s an important thing to think about. If you love something, it will last forever.”

SS: “With vintage, it’s all about the appreciation of quality. There’s something so valuable about that. It’s a counterbalance to fast fashion and it emerges when you realize the value of workmanship, craftsmanship and creativity and all the things that make good, classic fashion that lasts in your wardrobe. It’s a nonexistent idea right now. It’s a counter argument to fast fashion.”

LP: “One key point is that vintage is sustainable. It’s recyclable fashion. It’s not doing any damage and retailers that want to get into this should use this as a selling point.”

At the end, the discussion was opened up to the audience. One woman who identified herself as a retailer with a clothing store in Charleston that has been around since 1893 said that she had been “a devotee of Norma’s” for decades and has over 300 pieces. “I wouldn’t give one of them away. Every time you went into the wholesale business, I was the first one there. Because It stands the test of time and I could name the designers who stand the test of time on ONE hand and still have fingers left over. The technology of your work, your life, your personal life, is truly an inspiration.”

IA: “Let’s face it; there are not too many real designers out there. And most of them don’t get the credit they deserve. A lot of the designers today are media freaks. They are in and they are out and they don’t have much talent. It seems to me if you’re a real designer you have to know how to conceive of something. You have to know how to draw it, sketch it, cut it, drape it, sew it, and these people design by committee.”

NK: “It is true that the industry has changed tremendously and I think a lot has to do with technology, and I am sort of mixed up kind of person because I’ve been around a long time but there’s a part of me that also thinks like millennials and I’m there. I know that kids are not trained in pattern making; they are not trained in what Iris is talking about. The training for that and the desire to know that is no longer a requirement because of the way clothes are produced and designed nowadays. So one of the things I’ve thought about was, if pattern making and draping are not really used any more or very rarely, then, does that mean the sewing machine is no longer going to exist? So I’ve created a collection that I haven’t actually delivered or sold yet but it’s made entirely without a sewing machine, without a needle or thread.” (This met with wild applause from the audience)

“And the beauty of that is there will be a time when there will be no sewing machines in any country because the millennials will all be communicating this way (pointing to her IPhone) and they’ll say. Why am I sitting at this sewing machine? I want to be taking a selfie of myself at McDonalds’s instead. And so the irony of the millennials and the disruption they’ve ceased, is really another door opening to a new kind of creativity and it is disruptive. So I had to challenge myself to see how creative I could be if I didn’t use a sewing machine and I didn’t use the tools that are part of my DNA. I mean really, if you take patternmaking, draping, sewing, and sketching away, you’ve just dismantled, taken my identity away. And so in the quest for never losing my identity, I tried another way and it was very exciting and very fulfilling. And so I think there will be original design even if the mechanics change. But you are right. The desire for people to have the skill set, to do things the way they were isn’t there anymore and the training isn’t there anymore”.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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