Vintage inspiration, 400 lavish illustrations, and rare, must-see designs- this new book has it all. WGSN Denim Editor Samuel Trotman reports
As a long admirer of London’s esteemed vintage emporium, The Vintage Showroom, I was pretty stoked to hear about the release of the store’s second vintage menswear book. Last month at Kingpins trade show in Amsterdam founders, Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett were presenting a curated collection of their inspirational denim as well as previewing the first print of the new hardback, An Archive of Menswear.
Many vintage enthusiasts will be excited to hear about the follow up, especially after the success of the award-winning debut book, A Collection From The Vintage Showroom. This latest release, An Archive of Menswear, arrives with even more vintage inspiration, 400 lavish illustrations of rare, must-see designs. Taking a similar format to the first book, An Archive of Menswear is divided into 4 sections (+1 on the previous) aviation & motorsports, formal tailoring & military uniform, utility & workwear and sporting & weatherwear featuring a well edited selection of the most influential examples of 20th-century and earlier European, American and Asian utilitarian tailoring and design.
Stunning full-page bleeds and close-up detailed shots cover everything from leather biker jackets to the amazing selection of unseen denim pieces from the showroom’s vast archive. Special denim and indigo pieces to look out for in the 304 page book include a pair of 1890s Japanese Boro trousers, a super rare pair of 1955 deadstock British military trousers (made from green British-woven sanforized selvedge) and a beautifully faded German military coverall made from a slubby indigo herringbone. As usual each of the garments comes with great snippets of the history, construction, and function behind the pieces.
WGSN: This is the follow up from the debut “Vintage Menswear: a collection from the vintage showroom”. How does “An Archive of Menswear” differ in regards to content and direction?
Doug – When we went back to Laurence King regarding a second book, I guess initially we had something quite different in mind. During the course of a number of meetings this kind of involved into what we have now, where we wanted to show more of our collection and the stories behind the pieces that fascinate us. I would say the content has moved on from the first book, showing the diverse nature of our collection. As far as vintage collectors go, I would say Roy and myself are fairly unique in the fact that our collection spans across the whole of menswear. One day we could be buying DustBowl era barn found vintage denim, the next shopping day for Savile Row suits. The new book hopefully reflects this. Without in anyway criticising our first book, we wanted to try and elevate the look and feel of book two, both in terms of the photography which I think Nic Shonfeld has again done an amazing job on, and in terms of the styling our customers are used to seeing in our shop and showroom.
Roy – We knew we wanted more focus on aviation and motoring clothing as this is a keen interest for us, and a very inspiring part of our collection, while also adding more tailored feel than in book one.
The first book was awarded a lifestyle award at the British Book Design and Production Awards. What was it about the book that made it so well received and how did you carry this forward for the second release?
Doug – Vintage Menswear was everything we could have hoped, and the award was really the icing on the cake, and meant a lot to us. We really feel that it helped take the perception of vintage clothing to another level in regards to how it is seen and the respect it gets. There was just no other book out there at the time of a similar vein. There are great vintage books, Rin Tinaka’s for instance, that we love, but they offer a very American biased leaning in the offering, and usually aimed at the Japanese vintage connoisseur market. Roy and myself both got into the business through a love of Americana however our collection has developed and is influenced by clothing and textiles from around the world.
With such an expansive archive, how do you and Roy go about the process of selection, curation and production. And was this easier the second time around?
To be honest it is probably five or six years since we choose the pieces for Vintage Menswear, at the time the company was only a few years old and the collection was still developing. The archive has progressed significantly in that time, making the selection this time around much harder than for the first book, we simple had too many options.
As connoisseurs of the trade, how have you noticed the business of vintage change over the 30 years you’ve been working in it in regards to buying, selling and that way designers seek out for inspiration? Has things like the internet, social media, affected the way you trade?
Doug – Fair to say we are pretty old school in our dealings. I like to hold the piece I’m buying, it is a lot harder to trick both the eye and the hand at the same time. Likewise where possible most of our customers prefer coming to us in person rather than working remotely through video or photographs. I think that vintage has become more and more an important part of the design process . As designers are under ever growing pressure to produce collection after collection, then anything that aids the design process is going to be invaluable.
Roy – I first started importing vintage denim from the US in the 1980’s, you could by a bail of 50 – 100 grade 1 vintage Levi’s unseen and know that you would be getting some big E’s, some red lines and mainly single stitched denim. Those days are sadly long gone!
What kind of styles/eras/fabrics are denim designers looking for at the moment when they visit the studio?
Doug – We always do really well with coated fabrics. The 70’s is definitely the key decade generally as well as for denim shapes both bottoms and tops. Jeans are getting wider as jackets get more fitted. There also seems to be an endless fascination with nylon which seems to be led through US military flying clothing especially the jackets.
What’s the most rare/standout denim item you’ve come across in your years in the business?
Doug – Tough question, we have found over the years crazy buckle backs, ridiculously rare Wabash work jackets, amazingly patched old bibs – but the one pieces that stands out for me was a patched 70’s Big E jacket that had belonged to the late great Kenny Everett (British comedian). Growing up I loved his show, and when we found the jacket I was over the moon, and I loved it that it ended up going to Levi’s for their archive. I just hope when they open the drawer the white gloves go on and it is handled with all due reverence.
The Vintage Showroom An Archive of Menswear will be out December 2015 for £35. Check Laurence King for details.
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