When celebrity stylist Law Roach styled Bella Hadid in a 1959 Christian Dior dress for the Prince’s Trust Gala in April, it felt as though the stars had profoundly aligned. “It was the small window where Yves Saint Laurent designed for Christian Dior. It’s just this stunning, classic black 1950s dress and it was Law’s first time working with Bella, so it was just this magical moment,” says Brynn Jones, owner of the sought-after Los Angeles-based store Aralda Vintage, from whom Roach acquired the dress. “Vintage is so special. I save certain things for the right time and it felt like the perfect moment.”
“Perfect moments” are often mentioned when discussing the growing trend of iconic archive garments being given new life on today’s red carpets. When a vintage piece finds the right person at the right time — a retrospective muse of sorts — it feels far more momentous than finding a look from a recent runway collection. Part of this magic is how many specific elements must come together. “As much as we might send options, something being perfect enough to be walked on the red carpet is not going to happen as often as them getting a custom new designer piece,” Haile Lidow of Lidow Archive tells NYLON.
The challenges are endless. If the piece is rented, many archives won’t allow tailoring, as it damages the garment. Add to that, celebrity contracts with certain designers, as well as liability for the historic attire; a topic that has ignited the internet since Kim Kardashian walked the 2022 Met Gala red carpet in Marilyn Monroe’s 1962 “Happy Birthday” dress. Much of the industry sees this particular instance as the ethics being obliterated from the most ethical form of fashion, citing the wear and tear on physical manifestations of fashion history and the precedent it sets for other protected pieces. Tab Vintage owner Alexis Novak sees it as accumulating history. “Kim Kardashian is a public figure who will absolutely be of historical importance, so she added provenance and value to the dress. From an archival perspective, it will have double historical value.”
Recent response and admiration for vintage red carpet looks, as well as several major designers offering up their past works, suggest that the thrill of hunting for event-worthy archival pieces is far from over. Stylist Kat Typaldos, who recently dressed comedian Meg Stalter in a Jean Paul Gaultier corset for the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards, considers sustainability heavily when working with a client. “There's thoughtfulness and intention behind it because there's so much physical stuff in the world. Being able to repurpose something, especially on the red carpet, holds a lot of power.”
In addition to selling the aforementioned Dior dress, Aralda Vintage provided stylist Karla Welch with an ‘80s Loris Azzaro gown for supermodel Amber Valletta to wear on this year’s Met Gala red carpet, as well as a 1970s Norman Norell gown for close client Alexis Demie for a Euphoria red carpet event at the Academy Museum. Further kismet? Demie wore it on Norell’s birthday. Six months before the world went on lockdown, a nine-months-pregnant Brynn Jones opened her Beachwood Canyon store. Demie brought in Euphoria costume designer Heidi Bivens, who tapped Jones to provide vintage looks for the second season. “Maddy is babysitting and going through [her boss Samantha’s] closet, trying on everything,” Jones tells NYLON. “They decided to use Aralda exclusively and, ultimately, I was hired to decorate the whole closet.” In this scene, Demie wears a stunning purple gown by none other than Norman Norell. Jones has two upcoming television projects and recently worked with stylist duo Chloe and Chenelle Delgadillo to dress Olivia Rodrigo in an Aralda-archived Chanel suit for her visit to the White House in July 2021.
Named “Instagram’s foremost fashion historian” by Vogue, stylist and archivist Gabriel Held’s vast archive is a go-to for celebrities headed to the carpet. “When it comes to vintage, I love working with someone who knows her references and has done her research,” says Held. “It really shows when they wear it.”
A lifelong collector, Held began his business around the time John Galliano had gotten dismissed from his role as creative director at Christian Dior. “I anticipated that all of the Galiano-era Dior was going to become collectible, so I was like now is when I should buy it, even though my sourcing budget was so minimal,” he recalls. “That decision still helps pay the bills today.” Currently, Held’s clients include everyone famous and stylish, from Paris Hilton to Lil’ Kim.
In June, Olivia Rodrigo walked the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards red carpet in a cross-front vintage Jean Paul Gaultier dress from Opulent Vintage. Anita Todor started her beloved vintage shop 11 years ago, first by just selling her own clothes on eBay and First Dibs. Her first client? Kim Kardashian. “I didn’t know it was her at first… now I sell to all of the Kardashians,” Todor tells NYLON. (Kourtney Kardashian once wore a Tom Ford for Gucci dress for Dior Men’s Fall 2020 runway show in Miami.) She’s also worked with Halsey, Miley Cyrus, Shakira, Gabrielle Union… the list goes on. “We have over 1,000 pieces in stock,” says Todor of her prolific collection, which she often promotes via Instagram, sharing photos of celebrity-worn designer items from back in the day that are now available for purchase. “It’s exciting because it’s one of a kind. No one else is going to wear it.”
“It takes creativity to wear vintage,” says Tab Vintage owner Alexis Novak. “You’re not being told how to do it. If you’re taking one major vintage piece, you have to infuse your own personality and style.” Tab Vintage recently provided Dove Cameron with a Gianni Versace-era couture gown for the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, as well as Kourtney Kardashian’s Mugler look for the 2022 Oscars. The archive’s efficiency is unmatched. “I have a ‘slide’ for each piece in my collection that says why you should care about it, the reference images, the era, the designer,” reveals Novak. “When I’m sourcing I really look for things that will look good on a carpet.”
Lidow Archive launched in August of 2019 from owner Haile Lidow’s “complete obsession” with clothes. Her passion for vintage fuels her business even with the vast challenges it creates. “With vintage it has to fit perfectly. We don’t sell and we only allow temporary alterations,” says Lidow. The archive finds its way onto the red carpet through a different avenue: shoes and accessories. “Even if a celebrity is wearing a full custom look, they might need an earring or a pair of shoes,” Lidow notes. “Our Marc Jacobs collection has been on the red carpet quite a few times.”
“Gianni Versace said, ‘In order to be superficial, you have to be very profound.’ To appreciate beautiful things, you have to know how they changed the course of history,” says Pechuga Vintage owner Johnny Valencia, whose aim is to teach while styling and archiving, as shown through his vibrant social media presence. When working with vintage, this philosophy is of particular importance and is often the topic of his podcast, The Fitting Room. Pechuga provided Grimes with Marc Jacobs boots for the 2021 Met Gala, as well as the yellow Versace bustier from Fall 2012 that Kourtney Kardashian wore for her Vegas “wedding” and a fur Prada stole from 2011 worn (and bought) by Rihanna during her maternity style days. Valencia is particular about what he lends out — “One snag on a Christian Lacroix gown? I can’t!” — but maintains the importance of vintage on the red carpet. “I applaud all of my colleagues who are campaigning for vintage,” he says. “We need to celebrate the people who have come before us.”