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.
Johnny shot by Josef Jasso
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alexander McQueen by Sarah Burton Helmet from SS14, there were 40 of these made, I was able to source two, one in gold and one silver. Only the gold one was kept, it now sits on top the bust that it came in on top of my bookshelf (an earthquake hazard for sure, each helmet weighs around 8 pounds)
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.
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.
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 thin- king or how their team assembled it and why. I’ve learnt so much about quality, stitching, and professional textile care.
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.
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.
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.
Chanel SS95 Barbie jacket, last worn by Helena Christensen. The supermodel Barbie from Norway.
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.