The Pechuga Blog
A Year in the Making
Monday night as I lay down to sleep I told myself tomorrow was going to be a better day. Something didn’t feel right, however. Was it really going to be a better day? I had to say it out loud. So I said it out loud in Spanish. Mañana será un día mejor. I found that more comforting.
Being the owner of Pechuga has been tough. I expected the work. I didn’t expect the paperwork, however. Nor did I expect the legal doings and the amount of people that were going to be involved in making this business not only successful but profitable. Oh, right, and a pandemic. I don’t think anyone was expecting that this year. After all wasn’t 2020 supposed to be the year of clarity? But I digress.
I woke up Tuesday from a DM from Steven La Fuente, Ashley Graham’s stylist, with a link and little heart emojis. The link was to Graham’s “7 Days, 7 Looks Feature” in Vogue, one of my pieces was in it. Tuesday did turn out to be a better day, indeed.
Any time Pechuga is mentioned anywhere I count it as a blessing (I got called a snake the other day by an anonymous user in the DM’s and even that was a blessing, it means they were thinking of me, I mean they took the time to write the message right?). But any time I’m mentioned in Vogue I’m always surprised. Pechuga, in Vogue? However, this time it wasn’t just any piece that was highlighted in Vogue and it wasn’t just on any person.
This was a piece a year and a half in the making.
In the Beginning There Was Rosé
July 2019, 2 bottles of rosé deep (fine maybe three, but who was counting), Jesse (the corset maker behind my Vivienne Westwood corset restorations one and two) was in his studio blasting Saweetie and working on our second project. I was taking pictures of fabrics, labels, I had just approved a $600 DHL customs and fees charge (heads up paying your bills drunk is the best way to go, it’s akin to falling flat on your face after a night of drinking and not feeling a single thing) for another Vivienne Westwood corset.
This Vivienne Westwood AW90/91 “Portrait” corset needed customs clearance (she would later sell for $12,000, by the way). That’s when I had another idea. The corset trend was in full throttle, Pechuga was spearheading the busty movement forward with rare Westwood corsets that at this point were locked up in museums all over the world but now suddenly found themselves in my hands (in Koreatown out of all places).
“Why don’t we make our own corset…?” I asked Jesse.
“Sure.” He said rather bluntly.
I continued, “…Because, see, I found this dress.”
Pechuga's White Whale
When I used to work for Vivienne Westwood there was a piece in the shop that I remember being completely enamored by. It was this red lurex corset with the most ostentatious bejeweled appliqués in peridot hues. It was from Vivienne’s SS13 Gold Label show, if I remember correctly it was around $2-3,000.
The corset was purchased by the daughter of a 70’s rock legend and I have never been able to find the corset ever again. In my weekly quest to locate the red number seen above, I stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.
Those appliqués! I knew this dress had to be from the same season as that red corset from the shop, I went ahead and purchased the dress and that’s when the wheels started turning. Now you may be wondering why this took a year and half to make? Well because with as much that piles on a daily (mind you, Jesse himself as a full time job) there needed to be a reason to push the project forward, after all I was going to be funding this all by myself (in the back, Shangela’s infamous Drag Race “Sugar Daddy” speech plays softly).
Finally in September of 2020 I got a call, a client needed a corset made for a project she was working on. There were two requests, the corset needed to be a size US 16 and preferably with sleeves. That’s when I called Jesse and we hit the ground running.
Let's Get to It
I wanted to use as much fabric from the dress as possible, purchasing the dress was a risky investment already. Ruining it by cutting it up was going to break my heart. However, Jesse said this was feasible, he would take the bottom part of the dress and use it as the side and back panels. As soon as we got the measurements from my client, Jesse started to make the muslin.
After a couple of days the body of the piece was starting to take shape. Jesse had boned the stomacher and the back. The appliqués had all been rearranged to flatter the shape of the corset better and now it was time to make the sleeves. For the sleeves I asked Jesse to send me some reference images. From the images he sent over I chose the sleeves from a 1770 stays.
I particularly loved this 18th century piece because of the soft ribbons at the shoulders. Plus this meant options with our new corset. The wearer can choose to take the sleeves off simply by untying the silk chiffon ribbons. I love having options when I wear certain pieces. My clients should have options as well.
Jesse was successful in using most of the fabric for the side and back panels. However we did need to make two more runs to Downtown LA to purchase more fabric, for the sleeves and for the ribbons, and lastly for the zipper closure. I wanted the zipper closure to be sturdy but I also wanted it to look expensive and dainty, I went with a metal teardrop ("Metal Teardrop" is also the name of my new metal rock band, we only wear Westwood, look us up).
An Emotional Rollercoaster
From start to finish making this piece was no easy task. There was a pandemic that we had to tip-toe around, fabric stores were operating at irregular hours, zipper shops were essential businesses but somehow trimmings weren't. Throughout the whole process, however, I had my client's expectations in mind and making her happy was really the end goal here.
The corset was a success, the client was happy, I crossed off another task on my never-ending bucket list of things I wanted to achieve for Pechuga: design an upcycled piece for the shop.
This is what the original SS13 dress looked liked
...and this was the final result
7 Days, 7 Looks with Vogue
In mid-November I received another DM, it was a pull request for Vogue's newest series, "7 Days, 7 Looks". Ashley Graham was going to be the model featured and they needed looks sized US 14. I always get a bit nervous pitching pieces to clients. My thoughts sometimes betray me. What if they hate my options? Or worse yet, what if I send over options and they tell me that it wasn't what they expected it?
The Pechuga corset needed some mending, some of the metal boning was sticking out. I was a bit embarrassed to send over a piece with that slight imperfection. But as they say, time waits for no one and when Vogue and Ashley Graham want something uh, you better send.
The end result was nothing short of fabulous. Thanks again, Steven, for letting me be a part of this, Ashely for looking stunning, Jesse for bringing my vision to life. Hope you enjoyed the post, fellow reader!
Until next time.
Pechuga Corset Restoration 101 from Mangy to Marvelous
On the Off Chance:
Last year in April (when the world’s mood was decidedly calmer and Corona was still just a beer) I got a DM one evening. It was a colleague in the business and she had a very interesting question.
I was in Paris at the time, on a buying trip for Pechuga, and I remember I had had a bit too much wine that night. I didn’t see the name of the person who had DM’ed all I saw was a mangled corset.
“Oh, that looks fake.”
As a rule of thumb when I come across something that doesn’t sit right- I immediately have to brush it off as a fake. It’s hard to authenticate an item when you’re presented with only pictures. Feeling something, studying the make, the stitching on garments, or the plating and weight (if it’s a jewelry piece, for example) will never take the place of an image. Especially if the image is that of mangled corset on the floor.
Pechuga the Autodidact
I learn everyday. As I work and source pieces I’m simultaneously doing research. Just because I haven’t seen something before doesn’t mean it didn’t exist or that it wasn’t made, does the authentication of something become harder when the edition is 1/1? Sure. But this is why research is so important.
Two months went by after I was presented with the image of the corset above- in my mind it was still a bad fake. I was going through some pictures one night in June doing research for Vivienne Westwood menswear and I stumbled upon an image of this : a Vivienne Westwood men’s suit from Spring / Summer 1991, “Cut N’ Slash” from the 2016 “Reigning Men” exhibit at the LACMA. (Side note I helped source a pair of shoes for this exhibit).
And then I went down a rabbit hole of printed floral appliqué until I found as many references of this printed floral colorway on anything Vivienne Westwood related. That’s when I found this: another coat from VW "Cut N’ Slash" SS91.
Men's Coat from "Cut N' Slash" SS91, Vivienne Westwood
But another image of a men’s coat wasn’t enough - I needed to know if the floral printed appliqué was ever represented on womenswear. When lo and behold! The image that I had been waiting for.
Photo Montage of Vivienne Westwood SS91 "Cut N' Slash" Show
I work backwards a lot when I’m doing research and I didn’t study fashion design or art history (I studied economics and foreign languages in college) so a lot of what I encounter is really brand new to me (not to mention the fact that I was still in elementary school when all these shows came out). Through different sources I was able to narrow down the piece I was presented to Westwood’s “Cut N’ Slash” collection. Granted it’s not rocket science what I do for a living but it does take a level of skill (and maybe more obsession) to go through endless amounts of images, videos, and books.
After doing a fair amount of research one night at around 9:00 pm I shot my shot.
The seller and I affectionally called this piece a “Frankencorset” because my initial thought (based on the photos) was that the stomacher (the front of the corset) had the fabric sewn on from another garment and stitched onto a plain satin corset (it only took 2 months to prove myself wrong). To my surprise when I DM’ed the seller asking if the piece was still available she said it was still with her (no one wanted to buy a mangled corset, go figure). When I saw the corset in person I audibly gasped. It was misshapen, the side panels were torn and stained, the straps had signs of fraying, and there was boning coming out from the bottom.
Putting in the Work
I’ve worked on another Vivienne Westwood corset prior to this one. I believe the last one I restored was from “On Liberty” AW95, a gorgeous white lace piece that my corset maker, Jesse, and I totally reworked and restored. This SS91 piece was going to be another challenge so I got on the phone again with Jesse and we started scheming. Here’s what went down.
Bubble baths...but make it fashion
There’s always a risk when you’re handling a piece, especially one that’s almost 30 years old. Dealing with stains is a bitch (for lack of a better word). Dealing with 30 year old stains? Now that’s a bitch and a half. My main concern with the corset I was handling was the stomacher- fortunately for me the stomacher didn’t have any major stains, the side panels and the back were the real issues but something told me that there was hope. The floral design was printed on silk and embroidered onto silk satin, I figured that if there was any color bleeding then it would’ve happened during the course of 30 years, right? So what could possibly go wrong from here? I delicately hand washed the piece and it gets ruined further? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
To my surprise the majority of stains were lifted. I used a liquid detergent diluted in cold water and let the piece air dry flat on a white towel turning it every hour. Now that the piece was as clean as it could’ve possibly been I noticed the side paneling and the stomacher took on a different luster. This piece used to be gorgeous! Seeing it sort of come back to life compelled me to continue with the project (yeah not gonna lie I almost gave up) and then we really got down to business.
Putting in the Work
The Fabric Shopping
Silk satin vs. silk chiffon
Jesse and I made a date to go to Downtown LA and source materials for our project. In the sourcing process we took into consideration several factors. What size did we want this to be? I looked at my sales though and based on that 4/6 US (Italian 40/42) was the best selling size for me in Vivienne Westwood corsets. So we went with that. Fabric composition was then chosen, in order to conform to the body we needed something with stretch but that was going to also retain its shape, we went with silk stretch satin. Color. Did we want to pull a wild card and pick a color that matched the floral print embroidery? Or did we want to stay true to the color of the original piece? I’m a purist. So we went with a champagne color, I wanted this SS91 piece to remain as true to its form as possible. She was getting a face lift after 30 years fitting that it was all being done in Los Angeles.
No these are not the same color
We then visited another shop to pick the exact same color thread to match the same color fabric we had just chosen and then we bought the boning. As for the zipper in the back we decided to keep the original (hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it).
2 yards of champagne, silk stretch satin, por favor
I’m a perfectionist (surprise) but I also let those around me (the experts) take control. Someone once told me: would you take your computer to a mechanic to get it fixed? Obviously not and now I apply that simple logic to everything I do. So I listened to Jesse and the sales assistant at the fabric store and together we all made the best judgment for the piece at hand. I’m still a business and ultimately it was going to be my job to sell this piece. However, there is a degree of creative freedom that I needed to hand over to Jesse and trust that he will do his best to make my vision come to life.
This is me having a vision…
The Panels and Pattern
In college I took a sewing lab class which consisted of me in the dungeon of my university’s costume department. I don’t know why we had a costuming department (it was called "The Enchanted Cellar") in an agricultural college (I went to UC Davis) but there I was 3 hours a week thinking I was going to be the next Valentino Garavani. Jesse, my corset maker, on the other hand knows all the technical sewing and pattern making procedures. This is what he went to school for.
I love watching Jesse work. He’s so patient and knowledgeable and seeing him makes me proud to know him. He’s Salvadoran like me and being around him feels like family. He has funny quips that he says when he’s not working but takes on a very serious demeanor when I ask him to explain to me what he’s working on next. With this SS91 piece he first started off by taking off the side panels with a seam ripper.
Boning & More
Now that we had the fabric and all the corset accoutrements Jesse sketched out the patterns and then started the preliminary steps in putting the SS91 piece back together again.
Let the boning begin
We had to rebone the back panels, stitch the side panels to the stomacher, rebone the stomacher, then hand-sew pieces that needed to be sewn, and then put the zipper back in place. Seeing as how I don’t know how to do any of those things I decided to pop open a bottle of chilled rosé and pour a glass for Jesse and myself and then let Jesse take the wheel. I saw a lot of steaming, I heard a lot machine sewing sounds, and then the occasional “ouch”.
As Jesse was taking the SS91 corset apart I noticed two very odd things. The corset had the label sewn inside of the strap, every single garment I’ve come across has always had a label sewn on the outside. A tiny square piece of fabric with a name is sometimes all you need to start a hunt. In this instance I always wondered why the label was hidden on this garment.
Side note: When I read Vivienne Westwood’s autobiography I remembered that around 1994/95 Westwood moved her manufacturing to Italy (there was a blip in time where some pieces were even made in China!) The label inside of the Vivienne Westwood SS91 piece we had said “Made in England”, this coincided with the time period and collection I narrowed it down to.
Omg what is that (as said in Cardi's voice)
Then as we really started taking the piece apart I noticed another thing. Tape! Masking tape on the ends of some of the boning. The piece must have been made in a hurry or it may have been made as a representation only. Was this a sample that I had in my hands? Again I referred back to Westwood’s autobiography and I remember reading that Westwood didn’t have much money in the early 90’s (she actually went bankrupt around this time) and pieces were being assembled backstage before hitting the runway. Could this have been one of those pieces? Could Westwood have touched this piece herself? Who knows. I build a story around every piece in my head with every piece I get and this SS91 piece seemed to be extra special.
The Final Product
No Pechuga restoration would be complete without finally going through the master himself, Johnny the tailor. The piece that I had waited off on buying and had done research on, the same piece that had been stripped down to its bare blocks, was almost, almost done.
Pre-pandemic, non socially distance sussing
There was just one last part that needed to be fixed that Jesse didn't feel comfortable in mending, there was a fraying that needed to be taken care of one one of the straps and Johnny was the guy to do it. Once this was done it was time to document the piece.
Jesse took the SS91 piece from this :
After three buying trips, two evenings of research, 48 hours of actual labor, and one visit to the tailor she was done! I photographed the piece, I allowed it to go out for one pull (it wasn't worn), and sold it a collector for $2,100 USD. Given that I had to pay to acquire the piece, purchase all the materials to restore it, pay Jesse for his labor, and finally pay Johnny I thought that this amount was a reasonable price to ask.
Ultimately I was very proud of the results, the finalized VW SS91 corset proves wonderful things can be achieved with the right team, trust, and a positive outlook. Moreover, there's nothing that compares to the feeling of seeing something you've envisioned come to life.
Until next time, mes amis.
Pechuga Does Paris
I remember buying my tickets to Paris in August of 2018. I had just quit my full time job (backstory: I used to work for Vivienne Westwood here in Los Angeles) to focus on Pechuga. I was on the floor of my studio, almost in tears from frustration, setting up my new printer (orders were coming in and the lack of printer suddenly became very apparent).
Exasperated and very overwhelmed (I had just quit my job and I couldn’t even figure out how to properly install an inkjet printer that, in hindsight, my little nine year old cousin could’ve done for me) I did what any responsible millennial would do and purchased a round trip ticket to Paris for a month. I immediately printed out a photo of the Eiffel Tower (with my newly installed printed) and pinned it on one of my boards. I would be leaving April 1st, 2019.
But why did I choose France for my first buying destination? Allow me to elaborate…
Isn't She Lovely *Plays in the Background*
The Two Boards
I have two boards in my studio. One is a white board where I write my daily tasks and daily affirmations, the other is a cork board where I put photos of my long term goals and yearly reminders. On my white board hung the photo of the Eiffel Tower I had just printed out (see above). I stared at this picture for the next seven months to come. It was basically a reminder to get up off my butt and work. Even when I didn’t want to. And boy did it do the trick.
On my cork board I had this photo pinned:
A Mood and a Vibe
It was a happy woman in a bikini with a man taking a photo of her. I cut this image out back in January of 2018 at my friend Nike’s “mood board” party. I know nothing about the image (trust me I tried researching it just now) but I made this scenario in my head that this woman in a bikini was in the South of France somewhere, living her best life. I figured that if I saw this image every other month it would soon come true, right? I could be that woman in the South of France, chilling, smoking a cigarette and getting my photo taken. By the way the gold, sun pin seen here is from Christian Lacroix (a Paris find).
“Fuck This I’m Going to Paris”
I speak French fluently, I’ve been studying the language since I was a kid and studied all sorts of fun things in France back in 2008 for a year at Sciences Po. Paris. When I graduated college and finally ended up working for Vivienne Westwood as a Wholesale Account Exec. I begged the company to send me to Milan for the MAN show. When the Gold Label shows came around I begged the company again to send me to Paris. I also speak Italian fluently (to major in I.R. I had to take another foreign language and Italian sounded spunky so I was like, why not) so I figured I could take wholesale orders down in both Paris and Milan seamlessly.
“No!”, that was always the response I’d get from my boss, Isaac, at the time. He told me I was better suited to work in LA (a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one). Only once was I sent out of Los Angeles- to New York- to set up the newest Vivienne Westwood NY boutique. A trip that was supposed to be over in a week turned into a month. My boss, Isaac, forgot to book my ticket back to Los Angeles that time- you can imagine my surprise when I tried to check in at JFK (looking back on it I had a very funny relationship with Westwood corporate).
"NO! You're staying in LA!"
Anyway, this trip to France was monumental for me. It was my big “fuck you” moment to my LA bosses at Westwood. If Vivienne would never send me out to Paris then fuck it, I was going to send myself. With my own business. The mission? To buy all the cute vintage Vivienne (and Versace) in sight.
Some months later after my decision to go to Paris, Viktor & Rolf showcased their SS19 couture collection (in Paris, where else) and one of the dresses really spoke to me.
It was like the universe was trying to tell me something, or whateva'
Alright. If you’ve read this far, wow, thanks for reading my rant- hopefully it gave y’all some insight as to why I decided to book it to France for a month. I didn't stay in Paris for the whole month, however. From Paris I took off to London, then back to Paris, then off to Marseille with a day trip to Aix-en-Provence, only to return to Paris for Los Angeles. I got into heaps of trouble in each city but for the sake of the business we’re gonna keep it PG-13 on the blog.
La Tour de Pechuga
Of course the list everyone has been waiting for. In the IG stories the one question that kept on popping up was, “Hey Pechuga, where are you shopping?” Et voilà ! So I went ahead and compiled a list for you beautiful people.
I’ve divided the list like so:
- Dépôt Ventes (consignment shops)
- The shops in Les Puces de Saint-Ouen ( Saint-Ouen Flea Market)
- And online / IG (based in Paris)
The Dépôt Ventes
So the dépôt ventes in Paris are essentially consignment stores on crack. There are the really niche, higher end ones that will have brands alphabetized from Alaïa to Zandra Rhodes, some that only specialize in certain brands (think floor to ceiling Chanel), and a few charming ones that I’ve been visiting since 2008.
The $$$ will denote the price with three dollar signs denoting the highest price.
My friend Ian, @ian_archives, took me around one weekend to some of his favorite spots. Here’s where we went:
Dépot Vente Luxe $$$
14 Rue de la Tour, 75016 Paris, France
This shop is divided into two different boutiques, the womenswear (which is the biggest) and the men’s which is conveniently located across the street. The women’s shop comprises of 2 huge street level sections and 2 massive sections underground. You walk in and you don’t even know where to begin, which can be incredibly overwhelming so I suggest you come here with time. Lots of time.
The racks are all alphabetized and there’s an abundance of pretty much anything under the sun. One rack, for example, had Jean’s by Jean Paul Gaultier, Gaultier Femme, Gaultier Maille, Gaultier Soleil, and more Gaultier to make your head spin. There was also a lot of Karl Lagerfeld. Chanel by Karl, Chloé by Karl, Fendi by Karl - Karl by Karl!
There is a salesperson in each section and they were very friendly. The basement level section was just madness. Some pieces did have signs that said, “Ask For Assistance”, but these were the sable fur coats at 17-20,000€. Girl, did they mean financial assistance?
Ian and I then decided to visit the men’s store across the street. Here you had to be buzzed in. The layout of the shop was a little peculiar, like a short, narrow hallway with a glass room that took up most of the shop’s space. The room is secured with another door that is locked, where the watches and jewelry are housed. There was a basement level, too, with a winding narrow stairway. Again, come here with lots of time to spare.
Coeur de Luxe $$$
21, rue de l’Annonciation, 75016 Paris, France
Go here for Chanel bags, jewelry, and RTW. You’ll find contemporary Chanel, 90’s and 2000’s Chanel, and pieces from Gabrielle Chanel's atelier. I’m not even kidding. I remember there was a proper vintage yellow bouclé jacket that served as the inspo. for all the brightly colored cropped, tweed jackets of Chanel SS1995 and when I tell you that I died.
Linda Evangelista, Chanel SS95
And when I came back to life I looked to my left and there hanging off the wall was a FULL après ski Chanel suit. The full look. Jacket and all. I considered purchasing the set then and there. But then I was like, OK chill. Be sensible and think of the LA market and where you are. Lugging a full ski suit from CDG to LAX was just not the most ideal of situations. But hey- if you have enough space go for it.
I have to say the best part of Cœur de Luxe was the set up. You can tell that shopkeeper, Alexandra Leleu, really takes her time in curating the right pieces and maintains the space as shoppable as possible. Clutter is far too common in this business and there's a fine line between eclectic and messy.
5 Rue de la Renaissance, 75008 Paris, France
Next and final stop with Ian. Scarlett Vintage. Ian, my vintage shopping guide, told me about this very eccentric woman who owned Scarlett. Now, I don’t remember if Scarlett was the shopkeepers name but when we finally arrived at the boutique's storefront the first thing that jumped out at me was a pair of Galliano gazette print jeans. I knew I had to go in!
Only problem: CLOSED. PLEASE CALL +33….
This is the thing with the smaller shops in Paris. The smaller the shop the more erratic and unpredictable the hours are going to be. Scarlett was closed just ‘cause (*shrugs*) and on the front door was a cell number to call directly. So I did just that. I asked the raspy voice that answered if the boutique was going to be open tomorrow. She said yes. So Ian and I decided to come back.
Insanity. The woman that received us had this ginormous sea-shell covered (I don’t even know what to call it) desk (?) near her register. For some reason that’s what stuck out to me the most upon entering. But what was inside the shelves of this Little Mermaid prop was the best part. YSL and more YSL. YSL from the 80’s, YSL by Tom Ford, and Chanel. CRAMMED and twisted in this perfectly chaotic luster.
YSL by Tom Ford Mombasa Belt
This lady knew her stuff and I was very impressed at the selection of items she had. There was just a lot to look at so your eyes jumped from one corner to another making it a bit difficult to focus on what treasure may have been right in front of you.
Vintage 77 $$
77 rue de Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris, France
My heart! So a little bit about this shop. When I lived in Paris back in 2008 I would walk up and down the Rue de Ménilmontant (my apartment was ALL the way up the hill) and I would pass by this store on a daily. One day I noticed this gorgeous blue Lanvin scarf with a print of Louis XIV in the window and I thought to myself, “I need to find a reason to own this”. Back in 2008 I was studying Political Science and Diplomacy. I didn't need Lanvin.
What I thought I looked liked in Paris
But that didn’t stop me. My friend’s birthday was coming up in July of that same year, I recall, and I thought- well, what better gift to give to a French girl than a giant Lanvin square? With the Sun King on it? And I purchased it for my friend Margaux.
Anyway, every time I go to Paris I make it a point to go to Vintage 77. The shopkeeper (oh gosh, I feel terrible for not knowing her name) has YSL by Tom Ford, Issey Miyake, Comme des Garçons, Léonard (France's answer to Pucci). And the prices are just TOO good to not walk out with anything. Go, go! But again look at the schedule before going, the space isn’t that big but it’s very welcoming and warm.
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen ( Saint-Ouen Flea Market)
142 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen, France
Going to the Saint-Oeun flea market is a whole experience, I kid you not. The market is divided into 15 different sections and each section has a list of vendors that each specialize in different goods. The section that you'll want to go to is the Marché Paul Bert Serpette. Here you'll find vintage/antique clothing and mid-modern century/antiques for the home.
One of the fist shops I ran into was a Chanel Gripoix boutique. I honestly wanted to cry. And I had literally just stepped foot in the market. I thought: only in Paris can this even be a thing. Floor to ceiling Gripoix. Are you kidding me? Life changing.
Christy Turlington, Chanel AW1991
To help me navigate the market I had Tanis, the owner of Vintage Star Paris, guide me through the merchant stalls.
18 Rue Paul Bert, 93400 Saint-Ouen, France
First stop was Les Merveilles de Babellou. There was this really kitchsy sort of red carpet outside the store, with velvet rope barriers. Everyone that walked in there had to come in through the red carpet. It was cute. I was a vintage VIP.
I wasn't fully prepared for what was inside this small, unassuming boutique, however. To my right a mannequin wearing Yves Saint Laurent from the Russian Collection of 1976, above this mannequin a shelf lined with quilted Chanel lambskin belts. Next to the belts a vitrine of rare bijoux, from Dior. And it was just one thing after another. Paco Rabanne, a full Versace outfit that I'm more than sure was at the MET, Balenciaga, Moschino from Franco's time. There's no music playing in the shop so all you could hear was one audible gasp after another (all coming from me).
Yves Saint Laurent, AW76
Les Merveilles de Babellou was just this kind of place. It was as if someone had seen into my dreams and produced it and had put all the fashion pieces I could've ever conceived and just brought them into one place for me to look at. The fact that this was accessible was what got to me. It was like I was shopping a museum.
Oh and as if that weren't enough the boutique is divided into two spaces. You leave one shop, walk a bit further up and step into another space full of Gucci, Givenchy, & Guy Laroche (the O.G's).
The store has a schedule from Friday-Monday and is open by appointment on week days. Be sure to check their website as things are always subject to change.
96 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-
Tanis then took me to visit Maxime, the lovely shop owner of de Laurentis. Maxime introduce himself and we started talking fashion, how the market was evolving, and where to vintage shop if I ever found myself in Marseille (Maxime hails from this seaside town). Our conversation was cut short, however, because my eye caught this brightly colored Versace skirt in the corner (talk about short attention span). I knew the color combination instantly but neither Maxime nor I could pinpoint the direct color inspiration, was it Commedia dell'Arte? Or was it Pop Art? It's the kind of thing that can keep you up at night.
Maxime was later able to confirm that the skirt was from SS91, Pop Art collection
From de Laurentis I purchased some Marc Jacobs, Dior, and McQueen. But what the shop really specializes is is in rare Margiela, Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane, Comme des Garçons, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. Maxime's space is also very well organized (not sure if you guys have caught wind that I'm a stickler for organization) and he himself has a great outgoing personality. It's like shopping with a friend. You're more than sure to walk out with something and the prices for the items are amazing.
Dior Homme AW03 by Hedi Slimane, Luster Jacket
de Laurentis is open Friday 10 am - 1 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am - 6 pm, and Monday 11 am - 4 pm. However, be sure to reach out to Maxime (I've linked his contact info.) as times are subject to change.
Chez Sarah $$$
18 rue Jules-Vallès, 93400 Saint-
Final stop with Tanis: Chez Sarah aka the Mecca of all vintage fashion in France.
Chez Sarah is one of the older establishments of vintage fashion, it's owned by Sarah Rozenbaum (Sarah's dad started the business). The shop is big, it stretches the length of 3/4's of a city block, back in 2014 Sarah opened another boutique (across the one she already has) just as long, but with more of a focus on men's fashion.
Here you'll find clothing from the late 1800's to the 1970's, some 90's pieces here and there (rare) and if you're lucky maybe a 2000's piece amidst the whole lot. All the RTW and Couture items are in cataloged in alphabetical order. If you ask the information on something there will be someone to come over with a giant binder and tell you the year, the fabric composition, and the price.
Baby, they mean business. Of course I went in with a Pechuga mentality (ie. shopping habits). And to be honest, I wasn't disappointed. It's a blessing and a curse to always be able to find something cute anywhere you go.
My "cute" finds? A Paco Rabanne vintage chainmail dress from the 60's and bitch! (OK sorry, expletive, cover your eyes) a Jean-Charles de Castelbajac teddy coat. I honestly hate being cursed with good taste.
Paco Rabanne, 1966
Teddy Coat from Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, AW88
The teddy coat wasn't as severe as the one here (the one that Sarah had had less teddy bears on it) but for 800€? Not a bad deal.
I highly suggest going to the Marché de Saint-Ouen just to absorb the art alone, some of the shop owners are lovely. I had a conversation about Victorian fashion with one vendor that went on for more than half an hour. Alright! Now to the last section of this list.
My Instagram Shopping Addiction
The shops above (with the exception of de Laurentis) are all really old school. Only a few have really caught on to the use of social media (the lady from Vintage 77 loves Facebook [bless] but FB isn't really the go-to platform nowadays). So if you can't go to Paris allow me to introduce to you Instagram shops based there. I'll highlight my three favorite ones (I met the people behind the shops in person and I have to say they are some of the loveliest people I met during my stay).
Online and by appointment only
Marie is the queen behind Nina Gabbana Vintage, supplying us with daily Gaultier serves, and Prada mid-90's treasures, and a daily dose of fashion herstory. Marie and I started talking when I was in LA and we made it a point to meet up in Paris. Our first rendez-vous took us to the Jardin de Tuileries, where we spoke about everything under the sun. My penchant for Vivienne Werstwood, Marie's love for Franco Moschino, her avocado allergy (I mean everything).
I didn't expect that Marie and I would meet up at least two to three times every week and start talking daily. Our tastes in fashion and our love for history and vintage in pop culture was what really made it so easy to talk to her. Highlights from Nina Gabbana Vintage include tribal print pieces from Jean Paul Gautlier, a Dolce & Gabbana mesh crystal tank top (as seen on JLo from "Jenny from the Block" video) and a Moschino hand spray painted jacket.
The Nina Gabbana girl
You can contact Marie via DM's or visit her site to see her items. This is NG's instagram @ninagabbanavintage.
Online and by appointment only
Behind Vintage Star-Paris is Tanis- you may remember her as the oracle of the Marché de Saint-Ouen. Like Marie, Tanis and I started talking to each other before I was set to leave to Paris. She sounded like a lovely person, and like me, I gathered she was more of an anonymous voice behind her shop showcasing more the clothes, snippets of Paris, and new arrivals than herself.
Tanis' taste in fashion is also very similar to mine, highlights from Vintage Star-Paris include rare pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier AW97/98, a corseted hip belt from Plein Sud, and an 1980's Ungaro black skirt suit, in black crushed velvet.
Jean Paul Gaultier AW97/98
You can contact Tanis via DM, her instagram is @vintagestarparis.
Online or by appointment only.
Byronesque has two home offices, one in New York (headed by Gill) and another one in Paris. When Gill caught wind that I was going to be in Paris for a month she set up a meeting with her business partner Justin.
My first meeting with Justin over pints in the Marais had us talking about Claude Montana, the punk days in London, and the social evolution of Paris.
Claude Montana tights and dress, reissue via Byronesque
Byronesque's approach to fashion is subversive, it's dark (black is the color du jour, every jour), there's a seriousness to what Gill and Justin do (they were responsible for releasing re-issues of Montana's most iconic designs from the '80's), and they take client requests to a whole new level.
The Byronesque app allows you to create a profile and send in requests for anything your mind could think of. Their sprawling network of dealers all over the world will try to source it for you (I should know, I'm one of the dealers). The shop currently has an all Balenciaga by Nicholas Ghesquière sale. Their tag line? "Pray for your size".
Balenciaga by Ghesquière AW03, Look 22
You can reach them via DM their instagram is @byronesquevintage.
Karl Lagerfeld shot by Helmut Newton, 1976, Paris, France
Well this concludes this list. Thank you so much for reading! Yes, I know it was long but I was there for a month (consider this the abridged version). I had a ton of fun writing this I hope you have fun reading it. If you're the shop-owner and want me to add (or change something) feel free to reach out to me and I'll amend any info.
Most importantly, I hope this helps you, dear reader, navigate a portion of Paris. I wish I had this list prior to going but hey, I was fortunate enough to meet some lovely people abroad that took me around. Which leads me to my next and final point.
When going into someone's shop, and this isn't just for the boutiques in Paris, say, "Hello", flash a smile, you'd be surprised at how one simple greeting or a grin can change the mood. It's not only polite but it's also respectful. Same goes with DM'ing someone on Instagram. There are people behind these accounts. Start off the message with a, "Hello how are you?"- or a "Hope this finds you well". It sets a tone for your conversation with the owners instead of, "How much?" or "Price?". Which may come off as rude or a bit robotic and distant and this may cause them to not want to engage. Just Pechuga's two cents.
Expect a short list of my finds in the South of France very, very soon.
Again, enjoy reading and leave a comment! Any questions feel free to reach out. And happy hunting!
Not too long ago I posted a photo of Louis Vuitton monogrammed boot on my Instagram stories (I post new arrivals, inspiration, and my obsession du jour there - it allows me to openly interact with y'all and I want to believe that it sort of gives insight to the method to Pechuga's madness). I was surprised to see how much attention the LV boot garnered with questions pouring in asking me where to buy and why I had also tagged Vivienne Westwood. Many, as I found out, weren't aware of the Vivienne Westwood for Louis Vuitton collaboration. And here is where things got interesting. By the way I don't think the boot was ever sent to production. Sorry to break it to y'all.
The elusive boot
The year was 1996. Pokémon had just been introduced to the world, Bill Clinton had just gotten re-elected, and the Louis Vuitton monogrammed canvas was turning a cool 100 years old. To commemorate the centennial, Louis Vuitton commissioned seven leading designers of the time to create a unique item and interpret the monogram.
The designers and their creations:
Azzedine Alaia - Leo Alma bag
Manolo Blahnik - Oval travel trunk
Romeo Gigli - Cylindrical shoulder bag (for the life of me I could not find the ad)
Helmut Lang - Record trunk
Isaac Mizrahi - Transparent plastic shopping bag
Sybilla - Bag pack with umbrella
Vivienne Westwood - Bum bag
The pieces all ranged from 450-26,000 Francs (around $650 - $4,500 in 1996) with the Gigli, Alaïa, Mizrahi, Sybilla pieces produced in larger quantities and the Lang, Blahnik, and Westwood pieces produced in limited issues. The Westwood "Faux cul" (fake ass in English) bag was made in a quantity of 100 (Westwood herself confirmed it in a 1996 interview).
Pechuga is the mannequin
To launch the release of these items Louis Vuitton had parties all over the world in all the major cities: Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, New York, and Hong Kong. There was even a themed event where two giant bananas clad in the Vivienne Westwood Louis Vuitton bum bags danced along with models dressed as Josephine Baker.
The bags the bananas are wearing are next on my list
I have a list of clients that in turn have a list of items they're looking for. I go through these lists every so often to see what items I come across and for whom. Being the Westwood fanatic that I am I thought to myself, "Hmm, now wouldn't it be great if I could find this bag? Now wouldn't it be great to have an excuse to buy it?" Hours of e-mails, some phone calls, a meltdown with my assistant, and a credit card charge later: EUREKA! The coveted bum bag was mine. All mine. Out of 100 issues I was able to get the 66th one. The 66th! Sorry. Still freaking out over it.
Nadja Auermann (left), Vivienne Westwood, SS1996 "Les femmes"; Model wearing "Les femmes" jacket and hat with LV bum bag shot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
I texted the first name on my LV x VW Bum Bag list. A client that recently impressed me with her Vivienne Westwood, "Pagan V" Spring Summer 1990 cow print, chiffon ensemble (you either get it or you don't). The exchange I had with her went something like this:
"Hey girl. I found the VW x LV bum bag."
"Yes. Need. Done."
"Cool. Kthnx. Yay. Bye."
If you guys read the Dazed article on Pechuga last month you may have realized I talk like a surfer guy on the phone...well I text like a valley girl. There's no in between and I don't know how to quite feel about that (I blame growing up in Los Angeles).
Now on with the bag! It arrived yesterday. And I can not even begin to describe the NERVES. Was it going to be in the condition I was told it was going to be in? Was I going to have to make angry phone calls? Was my hunt going to be worth it? Was I going to cry?
Well the hunt was worth it. I tried on the bag. Beautiful. I put it on my mannequin. Stunning. I hopped in a car with my precious cargo and off into the sunset I rode to deliver it to its final destination.
Vivienne Westwood wearing the LV bum bag and boots, shot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
If you have any special requests please be sure to write them in the comment section below, DM me on Instagram (@pechuga_vintage), or shoot me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to respond within 24 hours.
Thank you for reading and until next time!
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