VMR - Runway from the Past

Taking us on an archival journey, VMR in Chicago flaunts designer garments of yesteryears, which we wish we could hang in our closets too!

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: September 22, 2014

Taking us on an archival journey, VMR Chicago flaunts designer garments of yesteryears, which we wish we could hang in our closets too!
“Can you believe this?”, said Mark Gill, holding exquisite blue lace pants from Balenciaga in his hands. Exquisitely crafted, the blue denims had a layer of matching floral blue lace on it. “I love this handmade Argentinian jacket,” said Tina Kourasis as Mr Gill nodded his head and shifted to some supremely preserved Jil Sanders handbags. 
This exciting conversation was going on in the back room of VMR in Chicago. Working on the concept of Vintage Modern Resale (VMR), the store sells vintage clothes and handbags, which Mr Gill has collected from clients he has known for 20 years. “We only work with clients we have known for long, know how they live, how is their lifestyle, their house…,” said Ms Kourasis.”It really tells you how they take care of their garments,” explained Mr Gill as he saw my puzzled expression. “By going inside their house, by seeing how they curate and maintain their homes, is a true testament to how their wardrobes would be,” he continues.
It was a Fendi pop-up shop, showing their Autumn-Winter 2014 collection, that led me to the store. Little did I know that there were so many other wonders to see too! 
Fashion’s playground
VMR exudes class and luxury - a compliment to Mr Gill who has been a top-notch stylist for as long as he can remember, and Ms Kourasis, who is originally a lawyer by profession. They select clothes very specifically as they know what will sell according to the tastes of their clientele. “We are so sure of what we collect or choose from the new collections that we just send a picture to our clients and it’s done. Sold,” says Ms Kourasis.
The store itself is minimalist in design. The white floor and wall highlight the clothes, choosing to present them as objects of art, rather than mere shopping satisfiers. A painting in light colors, a desk and two chairs complete the store. Located on the seventh floor, the magnificent view of downtown Chicago adds to that feeling of being ensconced in a fashion heaven.
Unlike any other store, you won’t see many clothes hanging out there. Not to say that they don’t have stock. It’s more of a smart strategy. “Whenever you go to department stores, you are bombarded with clothes. So we rather make stories here which people can comprehend easily,” said Mr Gill. Another valid point by Mr Gill was that most clients call before they come, giving them time to prepare ahead. “We know most of these clients for a long time and understand their tastes. So we pull out only those clothes which we think they may like and put them in the fitting room.” Ms Kourasis shakes her head as she says, “You will never find a ton of clothes on the floor. Never.”
Vintage glamour
One question that kept popping in my mind was that someone who has that much money would prefer to buy a new piece rather than an old one. Mr Gill dispelled that theory for me. “Today’s world of retail and luxury is not as it used to be 10-20 years ago. The fabrics of yesterday are much better than today. Also, when there are pieces designed by the iconic designers of before themselves (who are probably dead now), from whom these clients already have clothes and love, they are happy to buy two more pieces here if they find it.”
Ms Kourasis cited the example of Yves-Saint Laurent before it became Saint Laurent. They sell a lot of YSL clothes from before it was changed to Saint Laurent. “That was the most drastic change,” rues Mr Gill. “Now it is so expensive and so skinny and mini. Our clients are happy to buy previous clothes of YSL,” says Ms Kourasis. “Average size at YSL used to be size 10, and now it is triple zero!” says a truly stunned Mr Gill.
Sample an Alexander McQueen black and white hounds tooth jacket and skirt, made when Mr McQueen was alive, the pattern of which is now being used by Dior and other brands blatantly. “It’s a masterpiece,” said Mr Gill, with a twinkle in his eyes, as he pointed out that it is made of cashmere wool and has leather buttons. Also hanging is a classic Louis Vuitton plaid green long coat with a belt. And my favorite? A Missoni knit metallic slip dress from the 1970s, made specifically by the Missoni sisters for VMR’s client who gave it to them. The back room had many, many more such stupendous gems hanging on the rods.
However, going forward, the owners plan to increase the ‘Modern’ part of their concept to about 80 per cent. With a line-up of brands ready to showcase at their store, I don’t think VMR is going to find it very difficult to implement this strategy. And Fendi was just the first step.
Coordinates: 34 E Oak Street, 7th Floor, Chicago, IL

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