With a cu­rated col­lec­tion of Gianni Versace’s cre­ations com­ing up for sale next month, Panna Mun­yal ex­am­ines the ap­peal of decades-old de­signs

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The art of in­vest­ing in vin­tage fash­ion

V in­tage Versace. The phrase it­self has an aura about it, one that whis­pers of swishes of fabric and whirls of colour, lov­ingly brought to­gether in high-fash­ion gar­ments that have re­mained rel­e­vant over the years.

To mark the 20th an­niver­sary of Gianni Versace’s un­timely death, a col­lec­tion of the de­signer’s time­less cre­ations will be avail­able from next month on on­line shop­ping plat­form Far­, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wil­liam Vin­tage. The Lon­don-based bou­tique spe­cialises in high-end col­lec­tions of vin­tage cloth­ing, and o en wel­comes the likes of Amal Clooney, He­lena Bon­ham Carter and Vic­to­ria Beck­ham.

The bou­tique’s Versace trove fea­tures more than 500 pieces, from Gianni’s early 1977 de­signs through to his fi­nal au­tumn/win­ter 1997 col­lec­tion. This in­cludes the Andy Warhol-in­spired Pop range from 1991, the Miss S&M pieces from 1992 and the Punk col­lec­tion from 1994. “The fo­cus for this vin­tage Versace col­lec­tion was to cel­e­brate Gianni’s life and ca­reer 20 years a er his death, and also to build out those pieces that re­flected his ex­tra­or­di­nary, lux­u­ri­ous and op­u­lent ap­proach to cloth­ing,” says Wil­liam Banks-Blaney of Wil­liam Vin­tage.

So why in­vest in vin­tage fash­ion? Ex­clu­siv­ity, for one. Wear­able vin­tage fash­ion is fi­nite, and its col­lec­tor base is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially, as com­pared to a few decades ago. “Lux­ury is all about pieces that no one else has. And, to be to­tally can­did, there’s noth­ing worse than walk­ing into a room and see­ing an­other woman wear­ing ex­actly the same dress as you,” says Emily Both­well, founder of Lon­don-based Peek­a­boo Vin­tage. “By the same ex­ten­sion, if you see a piece of vin­tage you love, grab it. Even if it’s not quite the right fit, still buy it; it doesn’t cost much to al­ter the arms or waist of a gar­ment. Be­cause, usu­ally, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good,” she adds. Plus, in the fast­dis­pos­able ver­sus sus­tain­able fash­ion de­bate, vin­tage emerges the win­ner.

The mar­ket for these one-off pieces sky­rock­eted in the early 2000s, when Hol­ly­wood stars looked to vin­tage haute cou­ture for red-car­pet events – no­tably Julia Roberts, who picked up her Os­car for

Erin Brock­ovich in 2001 wear­ing a re­splen­dent vel­vet and satin Valentino gown, from the de­signer’s 1982 col­lec­tion. Since then, celebri­ties such as Kate Moss, Naomi Camp­bell, Bey­oncé (who col­lects vin­tage Chanel) and Alexa Chung have in­creas­ingly turned to vin­tage for high-pro­file events and ev­ery­day wear. Of course, Moss some­what in­fa­mously ripped the vin­tage Chris­tian Dior satin dress that she wore to the Golden Age of Cou­ture gala in 2007. While that was fel­low at­tendee Court­ney Love’s fault – she mis­tak­enly stepped on the gown’s train – it should per­haps serve as a re­minder that when in­vest­ing in vin­tage, it is im­por­tant to ver­ify not only the prove­nance of a piece, but also its qual­ity and con­di­tion.

“The mark of good vin­tage is un­prece­dented qual­ity that stands the test of time,” agrees Candice Fragis, buy­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing di­rec­tor at Far­fetch, who

says that, thus far, vin­tage bags and ac­ces­sories have been the most sought-a er items on the por­tal. BanksBlaney adds: “Con­di­tion is the first re­quire­ment and it greatly in­creases the rar­ity of a piece. When you in­vest in vin­tage, fo­cus on con­di­tion, rel­e­vance and on pieces that are in­trin­si­cally rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their de­sign­ers – these will al­ways be cov­eted items.”

As with any in­vest­ment de­ci­sion, knowl­edge is key. This is where spe­cial­ist vin­tage stores and auc­tion houses come in. Far­fetch, for ex­am­ple, only works with bou­tiques that have been cer­ti­fied by the brands that they stock, or with those that hold the of­fi­cial ar­chives of spe­cific col­lec­tions and de­sign­ers, so they are in the know about the his­tory, make, main­te­nance re­quire­ments and rar­ity of the clothes, shoes, bags and ac­ces­sories they are sell­ing. For in­stance, BanksBlaney re­veals about the Far­fetch vin­tage col­lec­tion: “A num­ber of very rare and high-value pieces will be avail­able, but the 1992 har­ness dress and Gianni’s spec­tac­u­lar Oro­ton metal pieces are among the most im­por­tant and ex­pen­sive. We have fo­cused on pieces that are uniquely and un­mis­tak­ably Gianni in his golden pe­riod, and they range in price from £200 to over £30,000 [up to Dh140,000].”

The ap­peal of a one-off item also lies in its her­itage and the sto­ries it can tell – or that its new own­ers can build on. As the owner of Los An­ge­les-based Ro­coco Vin­tage puts it: “An­tique cloth­ing is ei­ther steeped in his­tory or mys­tery, and learn­ing about it or dream­ing it up is half the charm of wear­ing it. It’s rather like hav­ing a bunch of won­der­ful imag­i­nary friends hang­ing out in your closet.”

“You can also switch your look based on an era you ad­mire. So one day I might be in 1970s gear and the next day in 1930s dresses,” adds Both­well. She says she ad­vises her clients to wear vin­tage reg­u­larly, but never more than one piece at a time. “To me, that would be over­do­ing it. I would in­vest in a beau­ti­ful white cot­ton dress, be­cause that never dates, but I would pair it with a con­tem­po­rary belt and shoes, maybe a lived-in leather jacket when it’s cooler.” She lists de­sign­ers such as Ossie Clark, Hal­ston, Theo Porter and Frank Usher as her favourite vin­tage go-tos.

There’s no real cause for con­cern about the aes­thetic ap­peal of a piece that was pro­duced many moons ago, though, be­cause, as Fragis ex­plains: “Fash­ion is cycli­cal. The house Gianni founded, for ex­am­ple, is still an enor­mous voice in the fash­ion world, and his de­signs are the be­drock of that. O en, the styles and trends of to­day were cre­ated yes­ter­day. Buy­ing the orig­i­nal de­sign in the form of vin­tage is, in fact, a more au­then­tic and unique way to ref­er­ence on­go­ing trends.” This might ex­plain why some of the most stylish women and men in the world choose to in­vest in decades-old de­signs.

RARE OP­POR­TU­NITY The vin­tage Versace col­lec­tion, which will be avail­able from Far­fetch next month, fea­tures sig­na­ture Gianni Versace pieces from the 1970s, 80s and 90s

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