Secondhand Staples: 6 Creatives Share Their Favorite Vintage Pieces—And Where They Found Them

Vintage Is En Vogue

As any 90s-born, New England-raised boy might do, I often rewatch Desperately Seeking Susan. The dinginess of the thrift store that first connects Madonna and Patricia Arquette’s characters always strikes me. Was secondhand really that low-grade? If so, vintage shops have received a magnificent facelift over the past 30 years. In fact, the secondhand market is expected to reach $51 billion by 2023. That’s because old is new and vintage is voguish. Spending money on a brand new mink seems passé (and is arguably immoral). But, finding one that’s inscribed with “Saks Fifth Avenue Fur Salon” after hours of sifting through racks in downtown shops is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and too good to pass on—like striking gold.

We connected with six creatives who shared their favorite places to find “new-to-me” treasures across the globe, and the best pieces from centuries past that sit in their wardrobes. Find inspiration in their choices, and riches at their haunts. It only took Arquette’s character Roberta minutes to snatch up the bedazzled jacket left by Madonna’s character. Learn from her mistake—let the Susans desperately seek you.


1. Kate DeAngelis

Graphic Designer, DKNY, NYC

On bequeathing hugs: “I was attending art school at Parsons School of Design. On 13th street, across from the campus painting studio, there’s a vintage store: Beacon’s Closet. I remember days during my six-hour painting class where I would take a breather and wander across the street to piece through vintage clothing. I had never owned a fur coat before, and I saw this when I was about to graduate. It was so beautiful that I bought it in May, when the weather definitely did not permit its wear. I had to buy it for myself. It felt like the right time. The sewing detail is so strong and firm. Hopefully, it will last me forever. A coat hugs you. It gives you warmth. I’d like to pass it along to my son or daughter some day. Hopefully its hug will be a reminder that I once wore and snuggled with [it], and inspire them someday.”


2. Justin Fernandez

Justin.jpg

Men’s Editor, Vogue, NYC

On coveting past collections: “There are many collections from the past that I fell in love with. But, [I] was unable to buy anything since I was a working student. So, whenever I see something that I desire from an old collection, I leap at the chance to finally own it. This sweater, from when Jonathan Anderson was experimenting with gender, sort of encapsulates the zeitgeist of the time.”

On shopping secondhand: “I really enjoy online secondhand stores like The RealReal and Grailed. When you are looking for specific pieces from specific collections, a search bar beats having to sift through packed rails. But, Didier Ludot is always a must when I am in Paris.”


3. Angela Shore

Angela of Jiva.jpg

Founder of Jiva-Apoha, NYC

On trading Chanel for self love: “My Navajo vintage turquoise cuffs are my medicine for protection, and attraction for good energy. And, they help keep my ass grounded! I did a trade with a local dealer in Miami who owned a vintage store back in the 80s. I handed in my Chanel jewelry collection, and traded it all for my turquoise and coral cuff from the 60s, and a pair of orange-tag Levis. My other turquoise cuff with silver beads is from the 40s. I bought [it] from a Navajo dealer at the original Sunday NYC flea market. These pieces have been consistent in my everyday wear. I rarely leave home without them. [They are] the best self love gifts.”

On vintage stores and finding good medicine: “I have dealer connections throughout the US, but what used to be is slowly fading out of New York City! I bought one of my staple 70s silver, turquoise and black concho belts from What Goes Around Comes Around. East Village on East 9th Street has a couple little gems. Front General Store in Dumbo has amazing vintage collectibles, and Stella Dallas in Williamsburg is always fun. My few years living in California were awesome too! My other favorite 60s silver and brown concho belt came from a store called Good Fortune in Long Beach, CA. But, these days I save it up more for when I hit the road, especially through the desert, and when spending time on the Indian Reservations. I love buying from the local tribes or dealers themselves. That’s good medicine.”


4. Cindy DiPrima Morisse

Narnia Vintage in Brooklyn

Narnia Vintage in Brooklyn

Co-founder of CAP Beauty, NYC

On vintage she’s created: “When I was younger and a stylist with no kids, Phoebe Philo was the creative director at Chloé. She made the most beautiful clothes, especially pants. I would save to invest in one pair each season. My sales girl at the Chloé boutique on Madison Ave. was a woman named Nadia, and she used to invite me to the pre-sales. I’m sure I wasn’t a big enough spender, but we really liked each other. I still have a pair of wide-leg men’s style trousers that are navy brown and black seersucker. They’re so rad. Low-waisted, and cool. This past year my tailor made a few updates and they are still going strong!”

On finding vintage now: “RIP The Chelsea Flea Market in NYC. They had the best vendors in the world. Now, I love a shop in Portland, OR, called Palace. I also love Narnia.”


5. James Vela

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Founder of Vela NYC, NYC

On jewelry: “Jewelry is the most personal thing you can wear. There seems to be no staple in my wardrobe I wear near as often as my charm necklace. It’s a collection of antique bits and bobs I’ve gathered from time to time. [It] is comprised of a few of my favorite pieces. It includes charms, rings, and one of my favorite lockets strung on a chain. None were gifts, [but] it is the most sentimental item in my wardrobe. There’s a mix of eras and materials that, while different, seem to look perfect together. It took several months to acquire every piece on this necklace. Most were discovered in New York, and a couple [are from] London. I wouldn’t say it’s complete. I’m constantly searching for pieces to add, which is what always makes the necklace feel refreshing, even if some of its elements are over 100 years old. Each charm is pre-owned, one-of-a-kind, and has so much history. For instance, the oldest component of this charm necklace is a white enamel mourning band from the 18th century. It was made to commemorate a loved one who was unmarried and passed away on January 11th, 1757.  The remaining charms were made during the Victorian era, and date to the 1800s. The ‘home sweet home’ locket and ‘baby’ ring are absolutely heartwarming. The combination of design elements [are what] makes this necklace so intriguing.”


6. Amy Friel

Editorial Stylist at Rue Gilt Groupe, Boston

On secondhand shock value: “The best vintage piece I own is a crocodile bag from the 50s—a Christmas gift from my boyfriend’s sister. Opening the gift was quite a surprise because the first thing I saw was the head with teeth and eyes staring back at me. Not only does it have a head where the clasp is, but a tail in the back too. I love that the bag has a backstory, a shock factor, and [that it] was popular in a different era. As someone who works with clothing daily, it’s exciting to have a piece that’s from before my time. I would hope to pass it on to my sister to see how she styles it. Caitlin and I have a similar aesthetic, but she pushes outfits in an edgier direction, and it inspires me to dress outside of the box.”


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James Francis Kelley is a writer and stylist based in Los Angeles. While he has many interests, he’s most passionate about creating an eco-conscience culture and preparing for a globalized future. If he’s not working, he can be found on Duolingo, biking to electronica music, or browsing Mr. Porter. Find his work on his website, and his musings on Instagram.