I virtually met Malie Raef earlier this year when I discovered her amazing website Vintage Shopping Guide.com. She walks the fashion line working as a men's fashion designer and through her vintage fashion resource business. Malie has been there, done that when it comes to vintage fashion, and she wants to share her wealth of information with all vintage fashion mavens.
DC: How did you get involved in the crazy world of fashion?
VSG: I was born and raised in Houston Texas. I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I didn't know I would end up in menswear. I studied in Miami University of Art and Design. Then, my father insisted that I get a Bachelors degree, so I moved to Atlanta where I double majored Fashion Marketing and Design. Well, when I graduated I was kind of stuck in Atlanta, GA where there are not too many fashion design jobs. My very first job was with the Sero Shirt Company. It was a menswear company that did a label called Madison Trader. Well, that ended up being the very best thing that could have happened to me because the company was very small and I got to do EVERYTHING!
Unfortunately the Sero Shirt Company closed down a couple years later. From there I moved back to Miami to work for Perry Ellis International. (PEI is where I also met my now fiancé, Joe!) After a couple years there I made a big leap to come to NYC. I am still here and have worked for the same company, Phillips Van Heusen, ever sense. I design for both the Geoffrey Beene sportswear and the Van Heusen sportswear lines. And I love it!
DC: What is Vintage Shopping Guide? How did Vintage Shopping Guide come about?
VSG: VintageShoppingGuide.com is an online resource for all things relating to vintage clothing and accessories. We have a store listing of all vintage stores across the country. We also do interviews every other week with designers, stylists, curators, etc. talking about how they use vintage as inspiration in their work. We also list all fashion exhibits from around the world, and there is a VSG Blog.
VSG got started because as a designer you have to constantly shop for inspiration. That means shopping current designers at high end boutiques all the way to the down and dirty vintage stores. I had compiled a list of vintage stores from all the cities I had lived and visited. People I worked with were always asking me where to go and I would email them the list. Someone pointed out that this should be on the web, and VSG was born!
DC: Your articles and interviews are always so intriguing. How do you decide whom to interview?
VSG: There is really no special formula. I love talking to people and when I visit a store or a vintage trade show I start talking to people. Sometimes people recommend other people to me or sometimes I read about someone, and I think they might be interesting. Almost all the time people are willing to be interviewed.
DC: Which has been your best interview yet?
VSG: There have been some really good ones! But I learned a lot from Kerry Taylor from Kerry Taylor Auctions in London. She has worked for Sotheby's Auction House, and specializes in the super high end clothing and textiles. At that time I knew nothing about the auction side of vintage. She explained everything so well, and I ended up using much of the information later in my e-book How to Make Money Cleaning Out Your Closet in the chapter on selling via auction houses.
DC: What is your philosophy on vintage in the modern fashion landscape?
VSG: Don't date yourself! I love vintage as much as the next person, but I never wear it head to toe. I like to mix it in with current fashion so that it becomes just a cool skirt or an interesting top I have on. I would much rather someone say to me, "Hey, that's a really nice dress. Where did you get it?" Then I can say, "Oh, it's vintage." Smirk!
DC: How do you feel about some designers infusing so much vintage reference into their collections? How much is too much?
VSG: As a designer myself I am a little bit bias. I love to see designers using inspiration from all kinds of different sources. But I don't like it when they just copy it exactly. I believe you have to make something your own by changing it up just a little bit. You know, change the fabric, add a tuck here, change the sleeve or the collar. Do something so it is surprising and fresh.
DC: What's been your best vintage score?
VSG: I have two. My adorable fiancé got my engagement ring at Doyle & Doyle, and estate jewelry store here in NYC. It turned out to be a 1930s vintage Tiffany! I was ecstatic!
Then, when I was looking for my wedding dress, one day I decided to stop into this vintage store close by to where I work. I wasn't expecting to find anything as they don't really specialize in evening gowns. Anyway, I totally scored on my lunch break when I found this super pale pink rejected prom dress that is covered in tulle. It is strapless and super tight in the bodice and then poofs out like a princess dress down to right above my ankles! I feel like such an ingénue in that dress! The best part, is that even with the slight alteration, the dress was only $175. I love a bargain!
DC: Which are your favorite vintage stores in NY? LA? Anywhere else?
VSG: In NYC for jewelry you can't beat This N' That Collectibles. For casual clothes I go to Cheap Jacks. For the best selection of boots it has to be Daha Vintage. And for fancy vintage you have to go to New York Vintage. In LA, for casual I like Wasteland. For a more memorable evening dress The Way We Wore is incredible. In Miami you have to go to Miami Twice and Back-N-Style.
DC: You just developed an Ebook. Tell us about it.
VSG: With the economy being in such flux lately I was getting a lot of emails from people wanting to know where and how to sell their items to the vintage stores. So I decided to make a step-by-step guide that takes people through the steps of giving to charity, selling to a resale shop or vintage store, selling it themselves via online auction, and selling via action house. I worked directly with vintage store owners and auctioneers and other people in the vintage business to find out the inside scoop on what to look for, and what someone can expect from each kind of deal. The e-book is called How to Make Money Cleaning Out Your Closet, and it is available on VintageShoppingGuide.com and on Amazon.com Kindle Store.
DC: Who is your favorite designer-not living?
VSG: I adore the lady-like silhouettes of Dior, in the early years.