Last night a coterie of fashion insiders and style mavens gathered at the Bloomsbury Institute to toast the publication of Decades, a beautiful tome by Cameron Silver, owner of the famous vintage boutique in LA of the same name.
Joining Silver in conversation was Sarah Mower, Vogue contributor and acclaimed fashion journalist. Though his book, 5 years in development and written in the first person, was the focus of the evening, we also got priceless snippets from Silver about contemporary fashion, the Hedi Slimane debacle and the scoop on some of the Hollywood starlets he has dressed in vintage couture.
Decades opened its doors in 1997 and Silver, previously a cabaret performer, was given the keys to the Melrose Avenue address on his birthday. Lucky enough to have been “embraced early”, one of the boutique’s early supporters was Richard Buckley, partner of Tom Ford, and the couple in turn introduced the store to Lisa Eisner, an editor at Vogue. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I’ve seen everybody naked!” exclaimed Silver, looking back over his career dressing the Hollywood elite. He dressed Nicole Kidman after her divorce from Tom Cruise, sold Katie Holmes an Hermes bag, as well as pieces by Ungaro and Lanvin. Most recently he worked Jessica Chastain on her outfit for the Saint Laurent Paris show during Paris Fashion Week. What was she wearing? “Original Saint Laurent, it had to be Saint Laurent.”
How did he find the transition from cabaret to vintage fashion retailing? “Decades is my stage,” explained Silver, “great retailers are great performers”. His newly published book celebrates these performers, taking each decade individually, and using both iconic and unexpected style icons to illustrate the mood and aesthetic of the time.
Though Silver is immersed in the world of vintage couture, he had plenty of interesting musings to share on contemporary fashion. “In the last few years things have started to look fresh”, he described, referencing the work of Proenza Schouler, Mary Katrantzou and Rick Owens, “Christopher Kane doesn’t look like anything else”.
As someone who knows a lot about fashion history, how does he feel about designers who borrow from the past? “Obvious references aren’t interesting, it is boring to be literal about references.” “Marc Jacobs is a genius designer” he continued, who “gets away” with very pronounced references to the past. Hedi Slimane by contrast, Silver believes, didn’t get away with such literal references in with his debut collection. “Girls have been dressing like that for 10 years”, he reasoned.
Silver travels non stop to source his clothes, “wherever I travel I look for clothes” he told us. His next stop is Berlin, where he will be looking at a collection of vintage Chloe from the 1980s. “It’s still a struggle” he admitted of his profession, “I am an old school retailer”. Old school maybe, but it is this perspective that has has made his book Decades such a unique approach to fashion history.