Archive | October, 2012

Observations from a Project Runway Junkie

19 Oct

If you follow us on Twitter, you know that I am a Project Runway junkie. Last night was the finale for Season 10 and while the final 4 designers were not the best we have seen on the show, the finale was definitely a nail-biter between 2 very different yet equally intriguing collections. If you are unfamiliar with the show, in a nutshell, it is a fashion design competition that starts with 15 designers and is whittled down each week through elimination design challenges. The challenges include everything from the wacky “Create a garment out of candy” to my favorite, the “Avant-garde challenge” which gives the designers the opportunity to push the limits of fashion design. The final 3-4 contestants (depending on the judges’ discretion) create 10 look collections and show at NY Fashion Week. The final four contestants were Melissa, Fabio, Christopher and Dmitry.

Melissa is a tough-as-nails, semi-goth, 31 year old from San Francisco with an affinity for structured garments in black and leather. Take her to any 80s concert with The Cure or Depeche Mode and you are guaranteed a great time. Although she struggled with overthinking designs and time management, she had a definite “look” that was her own.

Fabio is a 29 year old from Brooklyn who has a hippie/hare-krishna vibe to him. You just want to sit down with him and a chai tea and a clove cigarette and discuss the philosophy of buttons. His designs of draped pastel silks in multiple organic layers are ethereal works of art and full of soul. With all the huge egos on the show, Fabio was the calming presence that seemed to keep everyone sane.

Christopher. OH, Christopher! For some reason he reminds me of Winnie the Pooh eternally searching for his honey pot. He was one of the youngest designers, at 24 and from Massepequa, NY. Not one of my favorites, his signature design element consisted of frayed raw ends of chiffon layered in skirts, tops, and gowns. Probably not my choice for one of the final 4 as there were other designers (Sanjia) that I would have loved to have seen collections from.

Dmitry is a 33 year old New Yorker who emigrated from Belarus at the age of 18. A former ballroom dancer, Dmitry’s story is the epitome of the American Dream. He is soft spoken, but still very Slavic in that he is serious and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. He was one of the best tailors on the show and his clothes always fit his model perfectly.

After the final runway shows, it was evident that Dmitry and Fabio were the front runners. As much as I loved Melissa and felt it my obligation to root for the only female designer, it was clear that her collection was not as innovative and compelling as Dmitry’s or Fabio’s. I won’t give away the winner, you can go here to find out for yourself. But here are some more pics of Dmitry and Fabio’s collections. Who would you pick?

Fabio Costa

Dmitry Sholokhov

All image courtesy of www.mylifetime.com

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We Won! Sort Of…

9 Oct

We recently found out that we won the FW Weekly’s Critic Choice Award for Best Place to buy Cheap Threads. While we are honored to receive any “Best Of” award, I can’t say that this is the “Best Of” category that we were striving for the most. Best Jewelry, Best Vintage, Best Cowboy Boots, bring it on, we are totally ecstatic. But when your award comes with a caveat, it doesn’t quite feel as genuine or as exciting. The caveat, it appears for this award, is our clearance rack. As worded in the copy, “This is a vintage dress shop that’s only cheap by comparison—unless there’s a rack of sale outfits out front.” Cheap by comparison to whom, we are not sure. In comparison to ourselves? To our non-clearance priced merchandise? In comparison to any other non-vintage boutique? If that’s the case, I beg you to tell me where you can find a hand beaded wool sweater for $60 or a Neiman Marcus fur collar cashmere coat for $150.

1960s beaded wool sweaters

Cashmere coat with fur collar

Yes, the items we sell have been worn before. But they have also stood the test of time and are still around after 40+ years. I can’t say that will be the case with the “trashion” being procured today at places like Forever 21 and Old Navy. If you want “Cheap Threads”, go there because in 2 years, they will be just that, threads.

For far too many people, “vintage” is the same as “thrift”. It is cheap, possibly stained or ripped, and you have to spend hours digging through piles of not so great items to find that diamond in the coal. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dig. But the intent of Bess & Evie’s is to do all that work FOR our customers so you are presented with only precious stones, no coal. Anyone who knows me knows I am one of the most frugal shoppers ever. I NEVER pay full retail price for clothing or shoes from major retailers because I know how much the markup is. Knowing that, I am very conscientious about how I price items in the store so that my customers feel like they are getting a fair deal. I have to make money to survive just as much as the next person, but my integrity as a fairly priced retailer is far more important. Maybe that’s not the smartest business practice but it’s the truth.

Picking vintage at a rag house

As far as the clearance rack goes, yes, every once in a while I make a bad buy, and something I loved when I bought it is still sitting around 6 months later. Or a vendor gave me some coal mixed in with some gems, and when they don’t live up to my standards, out they go. When that happens, those items end up on the infamous clearance rack. But I still hope that someone finds that great 80s beaded cocktail dress for $5 and are thrilled that they found the deal of the year, just like someone else finding that fabulous leather trench for $75 and thinks they found the deal of the year.

The infamous clearance rack

At the end of the day, the adage “there’s no such thing as bad press” still is true. I had a customer come in just today who read about us in the FW Weekly and had no idea there was a vintage store even in Fort Worth. So, for that I am thankful. I guess even back-handed compliments can pay off in the long run.  But I hope that people will look beyond the clearance rack to see all of the carefully selected items in the store and find that treasure that’s been waiting for them.

On the Road–Warrenton Antique Weekend

2 Oct

This past weekend was the Preview Weekend for the bi-annual Antique Weekend fair in Round Top and Warrenton, TX. While a large portion of the Round Top booths and barns are not open, there is plenty to see and do and buy in Warrenton during Preview Weekend. April was my first time to attend the fair and I took my 18 year old daughter. This time, I got a bunch of friends together and we rented a house in Smithville which was about a 35 minute drive to the fields.

The River House is on a great property near the river and a perfect getaway for a family or girls weekend. Bring your earplugs though, because there are a pair of roosters next door who think no one should be sleeping past 4 a.m. Smithville is not known to be a happen hot spot after about 6pm, so head on down to Bastrop for dinner at the Bastrop Brewhouse for beer and grub in a Luckenbach-esque beer garden. The macaroni and cheese is to die for.

Antique Weekend is a mixture of antiques, yard art, vintage clothing, jewelry, linens, tools, dishes, glassware, furniture, Persian rugs, architectural salvage, on and on and on. Pretty much if you are looking for it, you can find it in Warrenton. Even things you are NOT looking for, you can find in Warrenton; like this lovely stuffed raccoon in a bucket of peanuts. It’s on everyone’s Christmas list right?

Also, with Halloween right around the corner, there was lots of tacky Halloween décor, but really, aren’t decapitated babydoll heads way scarier than a tin witch riding a broomstick?

image courtesy of Mrs. V's Vintage

Prices can be all over the place. We learned that you should never buy something at the first booth you see it at because inevitably you will find it at another booth for less. 99.9% of the dealers are willing and ready to deal so don’t be afraid to haggle. I, of course found the .1% guy at a booth where I found a street sign with my daughter’s name on it. Grumpy old hick, why are you even out here selling if you “don’t haggle”?

One thing you will find in abundance is vintage jewelry. Everything from $2 bins of crap to glass display cases of designer costume jewelry. Again, prices on the high end stuff can be well, high. We found this great snake bracelet at a price of $125. Probably not a bad deal, snake jewelry can be pretty hard to find, but, not a dealer friendly price. I settled for a $3 each or 4 for $10 table and walked away with some great pieces. Be ready to hunker down and dig if you really want to find the great pieces. Most dealers likely won’t even have all their good stuff out so if you are looking for something specific, let them know.

One of my favorite places for a chair and latte is the Coffee Bug; a 1969 VW beetle that’s been converted to a coffeewagon. Grab a latte and take a few minutes to show all of your treasures to your friends.

Most of all, Antique Weekend is an adventure. You can go with something specific in mind to buy, but chances are you’ll end up coming home with something you never expected. I think my favorite purchase was a ceramic “Old Rip”, who was probably the most famous horned frog in history. You can read his story here.

Spring Antique Weekend dates are March 23-April 7, so put it on your calendar now. But you can’t book the River House, that’s mine. It will be my birthday weekend so, come by and party with us on Sunday night! Happy Hunting!