Subscriber Spotlight*: David Ornstein – Manhattan Vintage Show Impresario

David Ornstein
Photo: manhattanvintage.com

The oldest and most prestigious vintage show in New York is The Manhattan Vintage Show, held at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 215 West 18th Street. It is seamlessly produced by David Ornstein, his wife, Maureen McGill, their sons Adam (who is Director), and Ben, who is in charge of Internet development. It is a family affair.

The Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion

The ultimate vintage showcase brings together the country’s top vintage clothing and antique textile dealers under one roof. It is always a magnet for fashion designers (Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Anna Sui, Jill Stuart, Mary McFadden, Vivienne Tam, have all faithfully attended) costume designers, retailers, editors, and stylists, in search of inspiration (or just in search!).

Marilyn Kirschner’s Vintage Collection featured at the February 2018 Manhattan Vintage Show

Cameron Silver of Decades Vintage, What Goes Around Comes Around’s Gerard Maione and Seth Weisser, Tziporah Salamon, Hamish Bowles, Lynn Yaeger, Valerie & Jean (aka The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas) are regulars. Some of my most favored pieces (a rare Pierre Cardin bag, an iconic Issey Miyake red felt pleated bag and rainbow-striped caftan, a zip front jacket made of genuine jaguar), were purchased at this show. My vintage collection was the featured exhibition at the February 2018 event. After a one-year break (except for two separate online sales), they are returning.

Hamish Bowles perusing the aisles of the Manhattan Vintage Show
Photo: .manhattanvintageshow.com

The upcoming show will be held on Friday, April 9th, and Saturday, April 10th. The two-day event will be pared down, and all health and safety rules will be scrupulously adhered to. Instead of 80 – 90 of the country’s top vendors and dealers, there will be around 40. They will have two sessions with 300 at each session; much wider aisles. Masks and temperature checks will be mandatory. Many veteran vendors will return, and they will be welcoming others who are new to the scene. People following along at home will also be able to shop virtually via @thevintageshow on Instagram, as well.

Maureen McGill
Photo: manhattanvintage.com

David and Maureen met in the early ’70s. The aesthetically minded duo had early careers in special education. Maureen was raised in a home where antiques were prized. She is also a superb seamstress who made clothing for her 9 siblings. David had an early appreciation of art. When the couple, who reside in Albany, first got together, they would go to flea markets in the Woodstock area, and David would buy antiques. On one such buying trip, David purchased a box of dresses. This piqued a lifelong interest in vintage clothing, and Daybreak Vintage was founded, www.daybreakvintage.com.

A Moschino Exhibit at the Manhattan Vintage Show
Photo: manhattanvintageshow.com

This is their 47th year in business. I’ve known David for almost that long. In 1975, they began showing at the 26th street Flea Market and eventually became vendors at the Pier Show and Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, which launched in 1992. There was supposed to be an MV show the week after 9/11. Alan Boss, who owns the Metropolitan Pavilion (and the 26th street flea market), asked David if he wanted to take it over. David decided to stage a small show at the Holiday Inn on west 57th street. It was the first event after 9/11 and was a huge success.

The vintage clothing arena is multi-dimensional; retail sales are just one part. Vintage rentals currently comprise about 99% of Daybreak Vintage’s business, according to David. They provide costumes for some of the biggest movies and television shows shooting in New York, around the country, and in Canada. It all began when Emmy Award-winning costume designer Peggy Ferrell started buying from them at the Pier Show. Their involvement with “Iron Weed,” 1987. starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, and “Ali,” 2001, starring Will Smith was just the beginning.

About 20 years ago, the couple sold their two retail stores in Albany and bought a 20,000 square foot warehouse. They recently purchased another 20,000 square foot building and have not looked back. Among the other celebrated costume designers, the Ornstein’s have collaborated with our 85-year-old Ann Roth, Sandy Powell, Ruth E. Carter, and Marcie Rogers.

Mad Men TV show

The impressive roster of movies and TV series they have worked on includes heavy-hitters like: “Mad Men,” “Orange Is the New Black”, “Marshall” (2017), “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2020), the soon to be released movie “Respect”, starring Jennifer Hudson, and the upcoming Netflix miniseries, “Halston”.

Daybreak Vintage Rentals
Photo: manhattanvintage.com

There was no movie business from March to September, but they made up for the lost time. Current projects include Aaron Sorkin’s movie “Being the Ricardos,” starring Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz, and “The White House Plumbers”, an HBO miniseries starring Woody Harrelson. A movie based on Judy Blume’s seminal 1970’s novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” is keeping the Ornstein’s busy as well.

David is passionate about what he does. By his own admission, he can wax poetic about something as seemingly insignificant as a perfectly placed buttonhole for hours. He is one of the most personable and nicest guys around. David has an informed eye, is knowledgeable in all areas of fashion, and is especially adept at conception and marketing. He successfully merges the old with the new and staying relevant by bringing vintage into the current era, which is really what it’s all about.

*David Ornstein is a subscriber of Lookonline since 2017.

Marilyn Kirschner
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.

3 Comments
  1. Wow! Great article! Wish I’d seen Marilyn’s collection at the Vintage show in 2018.

  2. Great article Marilyn…I did see your collection at the vintage show in 2018 and loved all your own great vintage pieces.
    Nice interview with David & Maureen. Hope to see you next weekend at the Spring 2021 show.

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