Cameron Silver, owner of world known trend-setting vintage couture boutique Decades located in Los Angeles, visited Kuwait recently on his much anticipated Decades: A Century of Fashion book tour that was held at local fashion hub 4 Concept Store.
Silver's book, Decades: A Century of Fashion, has made waves internationally and was sold out within the first 48 hours of its release back in 2013. This comes with no surprise, since the book is considered a must-have for all fashion enthusiasts and in it Silver highlights the most significant fashion moments and trends in each decade of the 20th century. The book is a treasure trove of interviews and pictures of the most compelling fashion influencers, editors, models and designers including the iconic Jackie O.
Silver, who began his career first as a singer, stumbled upon his new fashion passion for vintage clothing while searching for men’s vintage apparel. The search gave birth to what is now known as Decades, one of the most famous vintage boutiques worldwide. Amongst opening a vintage couture boutique and publishing a book, Silver simutaneosly wrote articles in Harper’s Bazaar, appeared on fashion critique shows on E! Entertainment, and even styled A-list celebs from his Decades closet for red carpet affairs. Some of the celebrities that Silver styled include Gwyneth Paltrow, Chloe Sevigny, Julia Roberts, and even Lady Gaga!
Silver, who was named by Time magazine as one of the '25 Most Influential Names & Faces in Fashion' in 2002, is also responsible for altering the way people look at vintage clothing. He literally helped make vintage clothing a trend.
Khaleejesque’s Fashion Editor Dalal Al Subaie interviewed Cameron Silver in his visit to Kuwait and despite all the success and fame, Silver hasn't lost his humble, humorous, and witty personality.
You opened Decades vintage couture boutique in 1997. Back then vintage items weren't as popular as they are now, how has the transformation been?
At the beginning it was still early for it to be a trend and for it to be socially accepted. I remember people would come to the store and be like “that's used?” and then “would you have a size 6?” You know, once you put it on and if you look good in it, you'll buy it. I always remind people that we do glamorous clothing, we're not selling work wear… we're not doing boring. People were happy wearing vintage.
Where do you acquire your vintage items from? How do you find them?
Everywhere around the world, and I know in this region there are really good clothes. We actually have started to get some Saudi women to send their clothes because they feel that they rather take the money that the clothes sell for and give it to charity instead of just throwing away a Dior couture gown. I think that there is a treasure trove over here. I think I need to come back and just shop in the region. But I've noticed some of the Arabian women feel uncomfortable, saying “I don't want people to think that I have to sell my clothes.” And I say nobody who consigns with me needs the money necessarily, they do it because they know it has more of a life and give all the money to charity. I mean how amazing is it that you can give $10,000 or $100,000 a month to a charity.
Other than the Middle East, is there somewhere in particular you source your vintage items from?
Paris is very good for French couture. I go to auctions, flea markets, private homes, estate sales, funerals, weddings (laughs Silver). I say you already wore this dress, take it off!
When choosing or buying the vintage items for your boutique, is there a certain criteria you follow?
Obviously a great designer label is desired, the condition should be beautiful, and they have to look modern. No one wants to look like they're in costume… except me! Of course in time things change, so sometimes you don't get the item in the original condition or form, so some alterations are done. For example, shortening the hem. But I am always interested in keeping the same design alive.
You have changed the way people look at vintage items, when did you finally realize that your store made a difference in the fashion industry?
It’s very hard for me to be objective about my success but I would say it was when Time magazine named me as one of the 25 most influential people in fashion. I was like wow! Was that a joke? That’s kind of amazing. That was a watershed moment where I realized ok, that will always be on my tombstone. And my parents are proud of me, so when my parents are happy, I am happy.
What is the most luxurious item you have sold?
Probably some of the Hermes bags, like the crocodile Hermes ones that can cost between $50,000-$60,000. We've had gowns like an important Dior couture gown selling for $30,000, but in general not everything is so expensive. You can come to the store and buy a vintage Yves Saint Laurent blouse for $300, so there's something for everyone.
Is there a certain celebrity that you love dressing?
Yes, for me it’s always Cate Blanchett. I like Chloe Sevigny, just because she has interesting style. I like cool young actresses who are coming out, who are not internationally known yet. They are whom we are working with right now, you know, TV people. Of course my favorite people to dress are chic women.
How can women in the Gulf shop for your vintage pieces?
We recently did a pop-up shop at Harvey Nichols Riyadh in Saudi Arabia for 4 days, which went very well. We almost sold half of the inventory. We might even do a pop-up in Dubai in the future. Women from all around can shop online; we ship worldwide so anyone can shop with us. I mean we’ve already shipped to Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Riyadh, and Jeddah in the past.
Is this your first visit to Kuwait? Did you stumble on any fashionable finds?
It’s my first visit to Kuwait. I went to the souk today and bought my mom a green velvety bisht with gold stitching which she can wear with black pants. I know she’ll love it. I also bought her a gold necklace with the word mother written in Arabic and English from Riyadh.
Since you are interested in fashion, is there any chance of creating your own brand?
Yes I am interested in creating my own brand. I am very interested in design, which will be a separate thing, under my own name Cameron Silver. I have business people I am working with, but it’s about the right financial partner. I'm being very careful.
Moving on to your book Decades: A Century of Fashion, what can readers expect to find in this book?
It’s a coffee table book that is so beautiful enough for the table, but has real essays for each decade in the 20th century. Decade to decade, I take you on a journey identifying what I think is most distinctive of each decade. It’s not a definitive history of fashion; it’s more of what I love. It’s a personal journey, a real knowledge of fashion history and its relevance today. That’s why the book has been successful, it’s accessible and it matches every room. Every house in Kuwait must have that book (chuckles Silver).
Finally, what has caught your eye this decade in terms of new trends in fashion?
I like modern fabrics, the very technological fabrics being done on classic silhouettes. Men’s fashion is what is exciting right now. Men’s is the new frontier. I believe that women’s fashion is inspired and inter-related to men’s nowadays.
For more information on Cameron Silver and his boutique visit www.cameronsilver.com
This article first appeared in the April/May/June 2014 Urban Issue.