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The Glass Wardrobe Files – we interview Johnny Valencia the founder of Pechuga Vintage

The Glass Wardrobe Files – we interview Johnny Valencia the founder of Pechuga Vintage

Note: Interview first posted on The Glass Magazine on November 23, 2020 online and published in print. Interview conducted by Lily Rimmer. Photography by Josef Jasso, grooming by Yvonne Perez

SELF-diagnosed as addicted to vintage fashion,  Johnny Valencia acknowledges his extraordinary shopping habits. Nevertheless, what may be a hindrance to others has become a business model for Valencia – Pechuga Vintage.

Researching with a ferocious passion, buying with impressive speed and sharing his finds with intelligent care, Valencia brings fashion joy not only to his loyal followers but to his many A-list clients as well.

Valencia in Vivienne Westood blazer and shirt, earrings by Schiaparelli, rings by Valentino and Vivienne Westwood all from Pechuga Vintage, shot by Josef Jasso, grooming by Yvonne Perez

 

How did you begin your collection?

I started thrifting in high school and then seriously collecting during my last year of college in 2010. I had just finished a year abroad in Paris, where I collected whatever I could find – from ‘60s mink diadems to 80’s Escada skirts. My first “big” purchase, however, was a Comme des Garçons Homme Plus suit. While working at Vivienne Westwood post- graduation, clients began praising my side-hustle and in 2018, I registered as a small business owner in Los Angeles.

Gucci by Tom Ford AW97 fox fur chubby

Can you tell us more about Pechuga Vintage and its purpose?
“Pechuga” means breast in Spanish, which shares no correlation to fashion – the name is not to be taken seriously. My goal with Pechuga is to showcase my cool finds, and the purpose is to reach those who want to understand fashion history and look sexy while doing so.

Vivienne Westwood navy blue corset with strass orb, c. 2000's

How would you describe your style?
My style is athletic pirate. To explain – my go-to is a track short, a Vivienne Westwood jumper, and whatever accessory I have available – a Valentino ring or a skeleton earring. My fashion icons are Monsieur André Leon Talley, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Thalía, Jean Paul Gaultier and Naomi Campbell.

Marc Jacobs SS17 "Farah" Boots

Why have you chosen to collect the brands that you do?
I love the intelligent designs of Vivienne Westwood; the sexy and chaotic, yet so perfectly considered, designs of Jean Paul Gaultier; Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld because the man was a marketing genius and Gianni Versace because of his mind. John Galliano is always a fun discovery and Alexander McQueen’s pieces give me goosebumps when I touch them.

Jean Paul Gaultier Soleil eagle print mesh set, c. 2000's

How do you source your archive pieces?
I usually get what I can only describe as cravings that turn into binges. I’ll obsess over certain pieces, reach out to relevant contacts and start purchasing until my binge is satiated. I also like to check in with sellers to see if they’d be willing to sell what they’ve been holding onto. I may not remember a name, but I’ll know who has that Chanel prototype helmet from the 2000s sitting on their closet shelf.

Yves Saint Laurent AW87 cartwheel velvet hat 

Which items tend to become your most treasured and why?
Anything Vivienne Westwood; pieces that were made the year I was born; is the piece archived at a museum? If it is, I’ll treasure it simply because it’s unattainable.

Vivienne Westwood AW21 limited ed. kitten corset

How does seeing and touching a piece up close alter your understanding of it?
It makes me appreciate the craftwork behind it. Sometimes I’ll lay out pieces just to see what the designer was thinking or how their team assembled it and why. I’ve learnt so much about quality, stitching, and professional textile care.

Vivienne Westwood AW90/91 Boulle print corset

What opportunities has your collecting given you?
Collecting has allowed me to realise my entrepreneurial dreams. I’ve met wonderful people and I’ve been a part of so many amazing projects that would’ve been impossible with- out Pechuga.

Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld SS96 microbikini

In your opinion, what does our love affair with archival fashion pieces mean for the fashion industry at large?
I think it means that we’ve become more intelligent, sustainable consumers. I’d like to think that I’m contributing to a positive change by doing my part in reviving these pieces. If not, then at least initiating a conversation.

Marc Jacobs AW16 "Lili" Boots

How have your purchasing habits changed as your collection has grown?
They haven’t. My taste and obsessions vary from week to week depending on mood, but my purchasing habits are for the most part unchanged. If I can’t stop thinking about a piece, then I will not sleep until I have it.

What advice would you give to someone starting their archival fashion collection?
Don’t be afraid to get dirty. I found an Issey Miyake plantation shirt at a garage sale and ‘60s Dior frames on a sidewalk. Secondly, give imperfect pieces a chance. And thirdly, the more you study the designers that interest you, the better you’ll become at sourcing. It’s hard to look for pieces when you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Gucci by Alessandro Michele AW17 crystal mask with grosgrain ribbon

What have been the high points of your collecting?
Managing a business driven by passion and accidentally starting a trend with my Vivienne Westwood corset collection.

 

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Bum History : Le Faux Cul de Vivienne Westwood and Louis Vuitton

Bum History : Le Faux Cul de Vivienne Westwood and Louis Vuitton

   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: pechuga_vintage@gmail.com. I will try to respond within 24 hours. 

Thank you for reading and until next time! 

Johnny Valencia

Owner 

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