Nouveau vintage: why the Eighties and Nineties are well worth collecting
Have you ever wondered what to collect next? What are the gems to look out for now? Those elusive items that in times to come we will wish we had kept. We certainly have, which is why we’ve got an eye on what’s going on on the catwalks, and the better Eighties and Nineties items in charity shops are already attracting attention like never before. Selfridges, barely into the New Year, declared the Nineties were ‘vintage’ (though technically being 20 years old makes them retro).
One lady who is pioneering the future vintage trend has agreed to let us into the secret of ‘nouveau vintage’: Jeanne Suica is quite possible the vintage world’s leading expert on Eighties and Nineties fashion, and has sourced one-off items for clients from Paris to Hollywood. I met up with Jeanne to find out how she picked up first what we are all missing out on.
Naomi Thompson : Jeanne, tell us how it all began
Jeanne Suica: I started in the consignment business in 1994 on a part time basis at Encore on Madison Avenue in New York. It was an eye opening experience in many ways. Their back room was a museum of contemporary items from every famous person you could imagine. Years later I opened my own consignment store in New York and started to dabble in vintage.
When I moved to London I continued to buy and sell vintage in small bits but concentrated on contemporary since that was the easiest to source. I wasn’t really that interested in vintage until I purchased a Gaultier dress at a thrift shop for $40, never ended up wearing it for Halloween and sold it at auction for the equivalent of $1,000! I guess that was the starting point of taking it a bit more seriously and starting to study collections and looking for higher value pieces. I began to look for Eighties and Nineties and realized that I had fallen in love with some designers that emerged from this period.
NT: Do you think this will be an emerging market?
Jeanne Suica: Yes I do. If you are concentrating on designer labels it is much harder to find important pieces at reasonable prices. I tend to only sell designer pieces but again it depends on what you want to do as a business. What are the trends and needs of the marketplace and can you and do you want to source pieces as the trends change? For the past year so many dealers and collectors have been looking for Eighties pieces and even vintage dealers that have focused on earlier periods have started to mix up their inventory to meet the demands.
I still respect the dealers of course who tend to stick to the periods that they love even if they do roll their eyes when I tell them that I’m a dealer who deals in Eighties and Nineties. We should all be focusing on what we truly love and appreciate, and while I have the upmost respect for earlier periods and the dealers who specialize in those, I’ve found that this niche is very successful for me and my clients.
NT: Who would you say your clients are?
Jeanne Suica: Most of my better items are sold through auction. I find that this is the best and most efficient way to sell. I work very closely with a major auction house and even bring pieces of my clients up for auction. I sell privately to collectors and museums (who by the way are incorporating more and more newer labels into their collections).
I source inventory for various dealers and of course sell to fashionistas who find that a gently-worn modern item is much better than paying full retail for. Since I moved to Paris two years ago, a lot of doors have opened for me and I have access to a lot of items that are desirable for the UK and American markets in particular.
NT: What is your best find?
Jeanne Suica (pictured above): The Gaultier dress that I mentioned above. It was a great return on my investment and more importantly opened my eyes and mind into another world which I didn’t know that much about. Another piece was a great top by Boy London which was bought at my local charity shop for 50 pence and sold for over £100. Money is great of course but for me it is the thrill of finding a special piece and having it end up with someone who will appreciate it.
NT: What services do you offer?
Jeanne Suica: A mix of services from advising clients on the value of their treasures and where they might achieve the best price. Estate services for clients (private clients and businesses) who are downsizing or moving and need advice on where they should sell their items. Even clothing dealers who may have a fabulous piece but don’t have the market for it may contact me. On occasion, museums looking for particular pieces for upcoming expos, the list goes on…
This month I just started selling a number of newer designer pieces on www.designer-vintage.com and www.jeannesuicashop.com. I’ve also started an affiliate type program for fashion blogs to host and sell small collections of designer items for me.
NT: Who should we be collecting now?
Jeanne Suica: The market for Japanese designers (Eighties – Nineties) appears to continue to be strong. Chanel of course, the stronger signature pieces sell quickly and of course it seems that everyone continues to ask me for Birkin bags. Again it comes down to what you love, so follow your heart in what you buy and want to collect. Trends as we know will change so just continue to learn all you can about designers and eras and keep on treasure hunting!
NT: With the huge popularity of Herve Leger and body con dresses in general, what do you think will be the next big trend to re-emerge?