VIVE LA VINTAGE
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.”
FROM LEFT: CARDIN DRESS, $3,430, MOLLIE PARNIS DRESS, $1,692, LANVIN CAPE, $1,692, WILLIAMVINTAGE.COM