September 10, 2012
Silver in the City: 15 Minutes with CameronSilver
L.A.‘s Vintage King talks movies, fashion and a Bravo TV show
By Nancy Staab
…And he waxes poetic about his latest vintage score (Alber Elbaz for YSL red trench dress), Faye Dunaway, and Pink Suede Loafers!
LuxeCrush caught up with the dashing vintage expert and owner of L.A. boutique Decades to talk fashion, film, his new book and upcoming Bravo TV show. Why was Cameron Silver in our city? To screen Atlanta filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper’s fashion doc. Versailles ’73, which he narrated; to give a book talk at Saks Fifth Avenue for his upcoming tome Decades: A Century of Fashion; and host a pop-up vintage shop (Chanel, YSL, Balenciaga, Roland Mouret, Dior, etc.) in a luxury suite at the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta.
You look dashing. First THE essential question: Who are you wearing?
“A dove-grey suit from a designer in Montenegro, it’s very ‘80s looking, with pink suede loafers by Max Kibardin, and a Pucci tie. Tonight for the Versailles ‘73 film screening I am wearing a vintage Brioni jacket from the recent auction of Ebony magazine’s fashion archives in Chicago.”
Tell me about how you got your start as a vintage fashion dealer
“I opened my vintage boutique [Decades] in an Art Deco building on Melrose Avenue [Los Angeles] in 1997. There had been 14 failed businesses in a row before mine."
"When I opened, American fashion was all about street style, basically the opposite of fashion. The Oscars was the only night of glamour. Celebs were still wearing jeans and scrunchies in those days. In ’97 it was all about minimalism: Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang."
"Hermès Kelly bags went for only $2,000. Now it’s a lot harder to get those. It someone dies and has a lot of Kelly bags it’s like manna from Heaven. There are less mother-lode collections today because people understand the value of their vintage more.”
What have been some of your most recent, collectible finds?
“I just got an Albert Elbaz for YSL red leather trench dress from an editor in London. This was a couple seasons before Tom Ford took over. It looks so relevant, even today, and is super collectible. I also kept all my Victor & Rolf for H&M and Versace for H&M, even though mass-produced.”
What would be your Holy Grail list of vintage finds?
"I’ve already received most of my Holy Grail fashion items at Decades, but I would love an early Vionnet in the flapper style, a piece by Valentina, not Valentino, and there are pieces coming up in the Greta Garbo Auction."
"I also love Stephen Sprouse pieces. I am very eclectic in my tastes. Early, hand-painted Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld would also be on my list and a Halston dress made for the opening of an Andy Warhol exhibit in ‘70s London for one of Warhol and Halston’s muses, the New York society beauty Barbara de Kwiatkowski.”
How did you and your Decades boutique cultivate such a celeb clientele?
“Cultivating a flawless fashion persona is almost a prerequisite for actresses these days. It all began when Anna Wintour started putting actresses instead of models on the cover of Vogue. I help them to cultivate an effortless glamour.”
Who are some of your top celeb clients?
“Some of my clients include Julia Roberts, Marissa Tomei, Chloé Sevigny, Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and Salma Hayek. I also have great social and fashion ladies as clients. Nan Kemper and Dodie Rosenkrans were clients.”
What is your philosophy for dressing vintage?
“Vintage is very democratic. Everybody can wear it. But never dress head-to-toe vintage. If you do a vintage dress, do a modern shoe. Vintage head-to-toe freaks me out."
"In general, I like very modern accessories. People who have become real style icons have worn vintage like Kate Moss, Chloé Sevigny, or Renée Zellweger--Renée in that vintage yellow Jean Desses gown was never better. But each of these women styled their vintage in their own way. Kate Moss does not try to actually look like a flapper from the ‘20s.”
What’s your advice for making a matchy-matchy, vintage Chanel suit modern?
“Break the pieces up and wear them separately."
"Make your vintage Chanel suits look subversive. Wear the jacket with skinny jeans, a sexy heel and a tank top underneath.”
What should every well-dressed man and woman have in their closet?
“A perfect, appropriate suit—for men and women. And both men and women should have a tuxedo. Also tons of clean white shirts: Brooks Brothers for men, vintage YSL silk shirts for women. Every woman should have a little black dress.”
What’s your latest fashion obsession?
"I am obsessed with slippers right now, to wear out, in velvet or leather."
You started out in theater and you claim retail and fashion are the ultimate theater. So what are your favorite fashionable films?
“I am mostly drawn to movies from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s: The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) with Faye Dunaway playing a photographer, the French film Diva (1981)."
" Dressed to Kill (1980) with Angie Dickinson in a clean skirt suit and lizard gloves is perfection”
Does your client and friend Rachel Zoe make an appearance on your upcoming Bravo TV show?
“No, but she did give me amazing advice. My Bravo show should air late January or February 2013. The filming took eight months, it was exhausting!”
What are your future plans?
“I have a couple more books I would like to do—a manifesto about fashion and one about the relationship between gay men and straight men and how they can help each other out. I would also like to create a brand. I have done some fashion collaborations, some denim and modern vintage-inspired shoes, but I would like to do my own brand. Cool things are brewing.”
For more info visit www.decadesinc.com Silver’s book “Decades: A Century of Fashion” [Bloomsbury] is out Oct. 16 and available for pre-order for $36.58 at amazon.com Silver’s Bravo T.V. show, with the working title of “Decades,” will air in January or February 2012.
The official book description for Cameron Silver's Decades: A Century of Fashion, which will be released Oct. 16, via Amazon.com
“It's the story--from Cameron's contemporary perspective--of twentieth-century style and innovation. The syles he showcases, along with his perceptive and witty commentary, dispel many of our preconceptions about decades past: the Edwardians weren't all buttoned up after all, the ubiquitous Audrey Hepburn wasn't the only fashion icon of the fifties, and yes, it was actually possible to dress with elegance in the eighties. Each chapter opens with a pair of women who epitomize rival hot trends, decade by decade--like the luminous Cheryl Tiegs, with her sunshine sexiness, versus Bianca Jagger, the dark disco goddess of Studio 54. The chapters close with a designer of the decade: think Chanel, YSL, and Dior at their most fabulous. Cut tall and slender, the book features 200 archival images of vintage fashions that still look stunningly modern. It's a bubbly, beautiful, spirited volume that will make you see style in a totally new way.”