Industry Insider: Doris Raymond of The Way We Wore
From the moment you step inside The Way We Wore, one thing is immediately clear: Doris Raymond truly has an eye for vintage clothing. Brimming with pieces that span decades, The Way We Wore is full of treasures that are a testament to the captivating beauty and creativity possible in fashion; and just next door is her designer inspiration corner, which is filled with archived textiles, fashion books, and essentially any item a designer would hope for when seeking out direction in their endeavors. From sourcing costumes for television and film to opening up the inspiration corner doors to the likes of Tory Burch, Michael Kors, and Tom Ford, Doris' work and dedication to vintage clothing is awe-inspiring. We got the chance to speak with Doris about what got her started in vintage, where she thinks the future of the industry is headed, and how vintage stores can function in an increasingly web-focused world.
How did you get started in the world of vintage clothing and textiles?
I got started with my love of vintage clothing when I was in 10th grade as it was the only way I could afford to dress myself. Add to that the fact that it was the 1970s and I had bohemian sensibilities. Because I was a sewer, I knew how to look for quality in the details.
What do you love most about what you do?
Treasure hunting! Even now when everyone is looking and the Internet has totally inflated prices in remote areas- the idea of finding the Holy Grail of fashion keeps me motivated. I also really enjoy finding EXACTLY what a designer responds to. You can tell by the sparkle in their eyes.
Where do you see the future of vintage going?
It will become more and more important because of the green aspect. Fabulous older and original vintage will make way for fabulous repurposed pieces, so the demand will increase and it will never go out of style.
In the past few years vintage has become a much more mainstream commodity. How have you seen this shift? What's your take on it?
Yes, that's good news and bad news. The bad news is over-saturation in the marketplace and people passing on historic or factual misinformation- most of it is innocent but when you get into higher prices, there is a nefarious element. There has also been a bastardization of the word "vintage." The good news is people are really beginning to appreciate the whole reuse, repurpose and recycle point of view so I am sure Mother Earth is smiling in her own way. I love the fact that people are exploring their personalities by what they put on their bodies and "uniforms" are not as important with the majority of the millennials.
Your inspiration corner is an incredible resource to designers, and costumers all over the world? How do people find you and what is that working relationship like?
Most designers find out about our designer inspiration corner by coming to the store and we tell them about it and take them next door. The other way, of course, is through word of mouth. That relationship is one of my favorites because we can actually look and see how the seeds of inspiration from our archives get translated into something relevant today.
How did you start the designer inspiration corner?
A few months after I opened the boutique in LA, I realized just how many clothing designers passed through our doors. When the space next door became available, the next step was a no brainer.
How important is vintage to the modern fashion and design world?
Hugely important. There are very few designers today that are coming up with original pieces. Exceptions happen with modern technology like 3D printing. For the most part, I can take pretty much any contemporary item - clothing or accessory - and tell you what era and specifically what detail was inspired from the past. Inspiration from the past affects every aspect of our lives; music, architecture, transportation, etc.
We see vintage being sold online on Etsy or eBay. What is the future of brick and mortar? Does the option to buy online take some of the original appeal away from it all?
That's a great question. I think traditional brick and mortar businesses will be greatly reduced in numbers unless they provide a unique product or experience. Vintage has a definite advantage over newly manufactured things because there is only so much of it available. I have sold high and low ticket items online but I think the bulk of my business will always be with a first-hand experience in the store. Nothing can replace the joy of touching a 1930s silk velvet bias cut gown and putting it on to see what it does to your form. I know that our shop is considered a "pro" shop, meaning that people understand the pieces are curated, restored and clean and they appreciate the selection and value. We certainly have lost business because of online dealers but many of those lost sales are not—at this point in time—people that would be our demographic.
What do you think designers gain from your archives? How does it impact their designs?
I think my archives supply elements of design that can be infused in today's clothing. I say purchasing an embroidery sample or print is a short cut in the design process and allows the designer to communicate to their vendors or factories in a 3 dimensional way. Often times - especially with prints - they are changed in a way to improve and illustrate that company's DNA. All of it impacts the end result.
We see a lot of the vintage aesthetic being mimicked in much more fast fashion brands. Does this dichotomy change the way in which vintage functions within the industry?
I think fast fashion is a slave to the trend forecasters. Other brands tend to design with brand consistency, adding a little twist here and a little splash there. The dichotomy is great for me because they are not all looking for similar things at the same time.
Do you see vintage at odds with current designers who are pushing out new collections?
We could never compete with the contemporary market. We usually sell an item that is only available in that size and color. Longevity in the vintage business means creating a niche market where you acquire clothing and accessories that are relevant today. My rule of thumb is to acquire pieces that either transcend time or have what I call a "WOW" factor. 37 years later, I'm still here. And because 99% of the time, vintage pieces are made so much better with attention to detail.
How has the quality in manufacturing and materials changed in the last 50-60 years? Does anyone ‘make it like they used to?'
Unfortunately the answer to your question on manufacturing goes back to the fact that quality is all about ROI. Outsourcing keeps costs down but quality control is not so good. Not so sure you can still say "you get what you pay for" because materials used in so many cases have been compromised. Cheap versus longevity seems to be an unspoken mantra. Upscale labels that are not mass produced often times have an old fashioned quality and are products that can last.