Retro Revisited

Rack up sales with retro fashions.

{Cameron Silver isn't into the latest trend. As the owner of Decades, a Los Angeles boutique specializing in vintage clothing from the '60s and '70s, Silver is the champion of fashions past. It just so happens that, in being so, he's an arbiter of things to come.

About 60 percent of Decades' sales come from contemporary designers looking for inspiration. They mine Silver's shop because everything old is new again. Because fashions come and fashions go, and what goes around comes around. And because no one knows the chic from the cheese better than Silver. "They say I have the eye, whatever that means," Silver laughs.

For one thing, it means Silver has become a style setter in a city where style counts. His clients include a long list of twentysomething celebrities and, though he declines to give sales figures, he acknowledges that Decades brings in about as much as a comparable contemporary boutique. Make that a successful contemporary boutique on Melrose Avenue, L.A.'s trendiest street. (You get the picture.)

What's remarkable isn't that a trendy retailer is making money in the big city. It's that a 29-year-old former cabaret singer with no business or fashion background can become a style icon simply by having a knack with old clothes.

Not that Silver isn't legit. His sense of style is uncanny. His ability to appreciate a silhouette, to find genius in tiny details, to exercise taste and to predict the next big trend is real and true.

And still. This is the vintage clothing business, the same industry that a decade ago thrived on smelly Hawaiian shirts and skirts that could only suggest a bad Cyndi Lauper fetish. This is the same industry that gave us thrift stores and seedy dark consignment shops crammed with polyester this and that. Gaze from one incarnation to the other--from the bedraggled thrift outlet to Silver's cooler-than-cool style haven--and you can conclude but one thing: Resale has been reborn.


Gayle Sato Stodder (gsato@pacificnet.net), a self-professed fan of retro fashions, spices up her own wardrobe with vintage pieces.

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This article was originally published in the August 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Retro Revisited.

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