The Way We Wore is Doris Raymond’s incredible vintage boutique in Los Angeles selling clothing and accessories, as well as designer ready-to-wear, haute couture, and museum-quality pieces. The space next door on South La Brea Avenue serves as an inspiration resource library to American and international fashion designers. For our spring 2016 Art Issue, Whitewall spoke with Raymond about the evolving market of vintage fashion.
WHITEWALL: We read that your first experience with vintage finds was with your mother at auction. How did that eventually lead to your interest in vintage fashion?
DORIS RAYMOND: It was an evolution. I was selling at the Marin City Flea Market, just over the Golden Gate Bridge. When I first got to San Francisco in 1974 I was a waitress and walking from my place of work to my apartment I would pass four thrift shops. In the seventies, you could buy things for nothing. So I would spend all my tip money on these wonderful treasures, beautiful beaded bags, collectible objects. I lived in a three-bedroom flat, and when I broke up with my boyfriend and moved into a studio, I had to get rid of all this stuff. I went to the flea market and saw I made money. Gradually, I veered away from anything old and wonderful to just clothing and jewelry. In 1981 I opened up The Way We Wore in San Francisco.
WW: Eventually you opened The Way We Wore in Los Angeles in 2004. When did you start noticing that fashion designers were a big part of your client base?
DR: Maybe three to four months into having the store I realized that L.A. is a crossroads for designers from all over the world to observe street fashion and to shop vintage. So when a space became available next door, a year into being here, I took it. I thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to create a space for designers.
Next door is about elements that can be infused in design. It could be a gorgeous bias-cut thirties gown where the shoulders are rotten but the integrity of the design is still there and the value is still here.
WW: Past clients for you have included Jeremy Scott and John Galliano. What are they and other designers looking for?
DR: It totally depends on the company. It can be print-driven, an interest in silhouettes, or surface design. Every designer gives us a template before they come in, and we try and do a pre-pull since there is so much.
WW: Since this material is vintage, do designers ever come across a material that can no longer be fabricated?
DR: Yes. That’s something that I’m in awe of, that these designers and design teams for the most part have to know about whether something can be sourced and at a price point that allows them to manufacture it. Very few things are hand-done anymore; most of it is machine, and some of the things from the turn of the century through the twenties cannot be made today by machines. Machines have been reconfigured, melted down during the war; it’s just not available anymore. I remember years ago I showed John Galliano some Deco lace and he was intrigued by the lace because it was so beautiful, but it was not possible to make anymore.
WW: Does what is rare or popular in vintage fashion change over the years?
DR: Yes, a lot of that is also sociological. If you think about Carnaby Street in the sixties, there was a very small window of time where women wore paper dresses. So in the late seventies or eighties when vintage started to become something, paper dresses were novelties. Nowadays, the Campbell’s Soup paper dress sold for 6,000 dollars at auction. Things change because of the availability, sociological importance. A Zoot suit sold at auction for 70,000 dollars a couple years ago. That was a very specific point in history, and there aren’t very many Zoot suits that exist. Every decade or every three to four years something in the clothing market becomes significant and relevant.
WW: What are you seeing now?
DR: I would say great seventies pieces, great Halston, great Georgio Saint’Angelo, anything that has that chic boho or Studio 54 feeling. That’s going to stick around for a while, because when you put something like that on, it makes a woman look very beautiful.
WW: Your store has such a range—from affordable wearable clothing through the decades to the second floor full of more expensive, designer pieces. Plus, you have the design library next door. What’s next?
DR: Nowadays my purpose is to divest. My purpose is to inspire the next generation, and that is to offer affordable clothing. That’s what our new website, Voguely Familiar, is going to be. Everything is going to be 99 dollars and under. It’s going to be great stuff; it’s not going to be schlock. It will hopefully inspire people to dress as individuals and to repurpose and recycle.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s spring 2016 Art Issue.