The idea of creating the vintage designer store, Wardrobe quaintly enough occurred to its owner, Alyona Moulton-Thomas, inside a wardrobe. Having moved from Dubai to Muscat a decade and half ago and hankering to accomplish something constructive with her time, Alyona eventually became inspired to initiate her business seven years ago when she visited a friend’s house and glimpsed her walk in wardrobe crammed with clothes, shoes, and numerous handbags. Alyona then wondered to her friend that if she wasn’t using many of those handbags, why didn’t she just sell them? And thus took root of her Wardrobe journey.
A vintage aficionado who loves shopping in New York and London vintage stores, Alyona describes herself as a bargainista. “I would like to own beautiful things although not necessarily at exorbitant prices,” she states, underlining the philosophy that led to her opening Wardrobe three years ago, stocking a range of vintage handbags, shoes, clothing, and accessories.
“The concept of vintage is admittedly unfamiliar over here in Oman, unlike in the West,” she says. “However, our clients have nonetheless swiftly grasped and appreciated the trend.” She talks of certain suppliers who regularly clear their wardrobes and sometimes send 10 to 20 bags at one go. Furthermore, the fact that few places in Oman stock exclusive designer brands is also an essential aspect of the store’s allure. “One woman’s mistake may be another one’s delight,” pertinently points out Alyona, remarking Wardrobe subscribes to the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle policy. “Many of our customers believe in recycling and in our little way, we are helping people buy things they love at a reduced price and being green at the same time.”
Intent on maintaining quality control, Alyona firmly establishes that Wardrobe does not accept objects which are evidently unwanted and of poor quality. “Our main requirement is that the products should be in great condition, or as I like to call it, pre-loved,” says Alyona. “The new bag or shoe is simply waiting for new ownership.” As for the big issue of authenticity, she says, “I have been in this business long enough and mastered the art of distinguishing a fake from the real. I am still nevertheless learning for there are undoubtedly new tricks in the market to deceive us.”
Obviously, rare models are more expensive and Alyona possesses items such as a 1994 Chanel handbag which is unique for it does not have chain-strap handles as Chanels are wont to do. They also have a whole stock of shoes including Chanels, Tods, and Jimmy Choos. “We continually receive lots of latest new handbags,” says Alyona, implying the penchant nowadays for having the current ‘It’ bag and the consequent rapid turn-over of handbags.
One of Wardrobe's customers concurs, saying that she often sells her older bags to purchase newer ones to keep up with the latest trends. “The bags would otherwise be idling at the back of my wardrobe,” she says, having sold various Chanel, Christian Dior, Fendi, and LV Bags to Wardrobe.
Another customer says that she often calls in to browse and see if there’s anything new; if she’s lucky, she often encounters limited edition designs that are not available elsewhere in Oman.
Apart from their historical and aesthetic significance, vintage items also have intriguing back-stories to them and that also contributes to their appeal. Alyona tells me about her mother-in-law’s fifty five year old bag which she has kept on display. “She used to take it for horse-races,” she says and we momentarily gaze at the bag, imagining the journeys and characters it has encountered.
While chatting to Alyona and her store manager, Dasha, there is a relaxed, intimate vibe to the place. “I am interested in turning Wardrobe from being just a store into a space with unique fashion items, great conversation, and, some delicious coffee, much like a ladies’ salon,” says Alyona, who’s constantly thinking of ways to re-present her store for the future. “We would like to conjure up the feeling of walking into a wardrobe; that magical, feminine space full of fashion and possibility,” she concludes.
Wardrobe is located on the mezzanine floor of Al Aasfoor Plaza, Qurum, Muscat, Oman. For further details email Alyona on firstname.lastname@example.org
– Priyanka Sacheti