Everything Old is New Again: Vintage Brings Glamour to Luxury

Comments by LUXURY GURU Karen Weiner Escalera, president & chief strategist at KWE group,

“Vintage consumption is flourishing online and off. Call it the renaissance of retro, from once-passé décor aesthetics, to traditional barbershops for classic haircuts, to old fashioned sweets appealing to our inner child. Even the colors of yesteryear are back. Honeysuckle pink, specifically Pantone 18-2120 TCX, is the new-crowned hue of 2011. It recalls the lipstick our mothers wore, or maybe the tile in our ‘50s bathrooms.”


It used to be that vintage was just a point of view and a fun way to shop.  Many of us in Hollywood back in the day discovered the great sale prices, the fantastic quality and as we were making movies, we really couldn’t copy a 1970s blouse for an actress.  You just had to go out and get one from a vintage shop near the studio.  Of course,  I used to wear 1940’s tailored jackets in the 1990s because I couldn’t afford the Donna Karan versions, which were the price of my car payment and rent check combined.  Now I am pretty sure that the real reason was because the quality and cut of these jackets was what really attracted me and who didn’t want to look like Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not”?  This return to vintage, is something as a wardrobe stylist we have kept a deep dark secret.  We didn’t want anyone to know what a goldmine this was.  Quality, history, workmanship a unique personality; these are all the the things that a luxury brand works very hard to capture in their marketing especially if they don’t  already have it.  If they do, they can mine their archives, and re-fresh what makes sense for their audiences.

Perhaps one of America’s great gold miners, is Ralph Lauren.  He decided that to create a luxury brand he would mine the world of the British Aristocracy. After that, he moved to the Old West.  He then decided that the glamour of old Hollywood from the 1930s and 1940s was worth reviving.  No one has been able to pull of this luxury empire quite as well as Ralph. He did it from the bottom up.  I recently walked by his beautiful new location in Paris.  I couldn’t help but see how the brand had come full circle.  There it was, merging  its re-created luxury history with a physical embodiment of its own creation with a building that already had a history  in a city that is the epicenter of luxury.  So, why ‘re-build it’ when you can just appropriate it?  That’s the genius of Ralph. He’s like his own movie studio, creating dreams that are giving his merchandise its own “old world” history.   Its aspirational marketing at its very best, and, I think in the American fashion scene, he’s done it best. Of course, there is the story of quality, materials, vision, and other aspects of his business that make it unique and  the “American Dream” of companies.

The new story, is that luxury brands are just beginning to realize that they don’t really need to put out “new” “fresh” “young” ideas when they can discover the genius of their founders.  In times of distress, when the world seems like its turning upside down, the luxury audience turns to the things they admire, recognize and feel comfortable with.  This is the gold mine, waiting to be discovered and mined, and a major trend this year for luxury marketing.


Pikke Allen

Content Curator