Wil­liam Banks-Blaney on how m mean­ing is stitched into the clothes we wear


It’s cloud­less in London, which ac­cord­ing to Wil­liam BanksBlaney, a for­mer in­te­rior de­signer now dubbed the King of Vin­tage, means ev­ery­one is in a “foul mood.” Sun­shine aside, the founder of London-based Wil­liam Vin­tage, a store and on­line em­po­rium brim­ming with 1,500 pieces at any time, is chipper as we chat. Fresh from a trip to Toronto to over­see the in­stal­la­tion of four dresses on per­ma­nent dis­play at the Shangri-La Ho­tel, BanksBlaney ex­plained why he thinks vin­tage shop­ping is the ul­ti­mate pick-me-up.

What in­spired you to open your shop?

“A re­ally great friend of mine had been go­ing through quite a tough time in her mar­riage. She lives in Scot­land, I live in London, and I said, ‘ Let’s go to Paris for the week­end. I’ll get you drunk, I’ll feed you fat­ten­ing foods.’ I wanted to take her vin­tage shop­ping be­cause it’s a re­ally en­joy­able way of re-en­gag­ing with life. We went to a vin­tage store, and they were so rude to her that they made her cry. I thought, ‘ This is not how it’s sup­posed to be.’”

What are your tips for pick­ing out vin­tage pieces?

“Buy some­thing that you can im­me­di­ately ab­sorb into your ex­ist­ing wardrobe. Per­haps it’s a re­ally great LBD or a re­ally fan­tas­tic 1960s swing coat that you can wear to work. Your first foray should be pieces that you just get. So of­ten you fol­low up and think, ‘Oh, hang on, I need to buy new shoes and a new bag, and change my hair, and prob­a­bly change my whole life.’”

Clothes are so per­sonal— do you hear a lot of sto­ries from clients?

“I met a woman who lived in Palm Beach and Eng­land, and had quite an unas­sum­ing house. I opened up her wardrobe, and the most ex­tra­or­di­nary col­lec­tion of fab­u­lous vin­tage was inside—all de­signed by Coco Chanel or An­dré Cour­règes or Valentino. She re­mem­bered her fit­tings and hav­ing the jewels made to go along­side. The women who were liv­ing and lov­ing and par­ty­ing and buy­ing clothes in the ’50s and ’60s have started to die out. There’s a huge part of that re­ally amaz­ing cul­tural history that’s dis­ap­pear­ing with them.”

What’s your favourite thing about vin­tage?

“I love see­ing these pieces of cloth­ing find a new life. I al­ways try to re­mind our younger clients that these sweet old ladies are the very women who were wear­ing mini-skirts in the 1960s—who were part of the drive for equal pay, for em­pow­er­ment. There are so many sto­ries that are about fashion but are ac­tu­ally about so much more than that; they are about be­ing a woman.”


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