The origins of a fiber, the name of the weaver and the face of the artisan each become intrinsic to understanding an object’s identity and soul. Like knowing the source of our food, materials are explored by designers interested in the unique aspects of the animal or plant species. A new generation of designers retrace their roots and research their history, sometimes going back to the beginning of time.
Like foragers looking for food, ecologically-conscious designers hunt and gather organic ingredients, creating a colourful language tinted for today’s greener times. They show us how manufacturing can avoid excessive pollution. Several investigate the properties of individual plants, like contemporary botanists cataloguing their qualities, reconnecting society to nature. Environmentalism is interwoven with sustenance, particularly when it comes to the oceans.
Material is the message in today’s design world, with designers looking at both low and high tech ways to reinvent the elements with which they work, all the while staying connected to the Earth. Recomposed from scraps of matter or reinvented with both natural and synthetic ingredients. Recycled and reincarnated, cultured and cultivated, to give new life to texture, fiber and colour.
Designers aim for a more sustainable production process and make us aware of the polluting ways we make textiles today. They seek to use little to no chemicals and water, work as energy-efficient as possible and manufacture locally, often experimenting with recycled or upcycled materials. They also revive and return to old looms to establish innovative studios practice.
“Today, we are witnessing a shift towards a combination of this functionality and natural beauty. Artists and designers are looking for refined aesthetics.
Competing with corporate giants maybe though, but ERA Vintage Wear is waving the indie flag.
Fashion is like the music world: Each as its major labels, independent artists and all sort of different styles. Using this metaphor, ERA Vintage Wear can be called an indie artist that is pushing the boundaries, maintaining creative control and possessing a certain insider appeal. It is an identity that ERA takes on proudly.-despite all the difficulties incumbent upon being a fashion David in an age of Goliaths!
ERA Vintage Wear is striving to be the vintage fashion equivalent of early Nirvana: There’s a degree of charm & coolness that you can’t buy. As the artist-designer-curator behind ERA, I, Elaine, am cheering the rise of independent voices in fashion, convinced that the orgy of megabrands, accessories & logos in recent years will finally ease and give some elbow room in a crowded market.
As Rei Kawakubo once said:’’ Ultimately people like to be free and independent, given half the chance’’. This is a major component of the brand philosophy behind ERA Vintage Wear and myself. There is more and more demands for independent points of view, because not everyone wants to be the same as everyone else! I sure know I don't! Like NEVER !
Doing sustainable design through vintage clothes does not have to be done in such a politically charged manner but I don’t think people buy a garment so much anymore because there is a certain label. I think people are really looking for something that speaks to them, something they REALLY like. I am not suggesting that people are about to turn their backs on such fashion pillars as Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, or Dior. But the ever widening appeal of mega luxury was bound to trigger a reaction. It creates a void and an opportunity for the customer who wants to have a more unique and less identifiable branded look. This is the sphere that ERA Vintage Wear inhabit! There is a willingness of customers to try something less well known for the sake of personal style, higher quality for values, and ethics.
As the designer-curator-artist behind the ERA Vintage Wear ideology, I strongly believe the new luxury is individuality in an era where the word luxury is commonplace. Designers and fast-fashion labels might be all the rage now, but consumers get tired of the short expiration dates, and the shoddy quality.There is a growing hunger for unique shops, under-the-radar collections, personalized service and exceptional quality and these are all what ERA Vintage Wear stands for! We want to show a real point of difference!
Vintage style labels are, more then ever, desirable.Even more so now, when fashion is so formulized. A focus on big brands inevitably creates an opening for small players. You always need the alternatives, the indie to keep it fresh!
It is not my aim to ever be corporate. I have a lot of freedom when it is my own business, my own customers, and for me that has always work for the last 14 years since I created ERA Vintage Wear. Freethinking is what generates the ideas and trends that keep the fashion industry percolating.
Nothing moves in the world unless a few risks are taken. It may seem that endless numbers of high-powered financial types are eager to get into fashion, in reality, it’s no easy task to convince the money folks of the viability of sustainable design and vintage upcycling. So the entire upstart of ERA was done without any financial backing, and no cash injection except for my humble own money. Not even the bank gave us any help or line of credit or any help! It was just sheer willingness and consistency in believing in my own brand philosophy and applying it day in and day out that lifted ERA Vintage Wear into a concrete life style in November 2004.
There was no one that understood : No luxury conglomerate because they need to stay focus on their big brands, private equity funds wants established businesses, and most hedge funds wants sizable deal. So I did it my way, alone like a big girl.
After the upstart, ERA Vintage Wear never seeked a backer. I prefer to focus on my design work and reinvest whatever I made back into my business. I never want to find myself in a trap of needing money and dealing with backers that are always trying for a quick return: for me this signifies death of my freedom as an artist. The moment you have a backer, you loose control over everything you do. Backers always want to steer you into a certain direction. FREEDOM, all indie artists agree, is the ultimate reward. It’s what allows ERA Vintage Wear to open the 1st shop in the pre-gentrification of Griffintown for 9 years: an off-the-beaten-path move that no backers would have ever agreed upon...and pushing it further by leaving the street address once the neighbourhood got over-gentrification issues such as rent cost and quality of customers. When it got too trendy, ERA moved into a very industrial New York worthy 4300 sqft loft that was my painting studio since 1994. Staying on the off-beaten-path once again for the sack of keeping the philosophy of the shop to play by its own rules! And yes, sometimes misunderstood with at-my-own pace approach to style and fashion by the local fashion industry but always felt supported by the larger global community. Which in itself led to the website creation.
The core quality of being an artist is to realise that you love the craft you decide to express yourself with. For me it is upcycling vintage clothes more then anything else. It is not about the profit s or the business side. All that comes later.
ERA Vintage Wear came about while I was writing trend forecasting capsule for a project.
As I was reviewing the how’s and why's, I realized that I couldn’t detach myself from the old, although I was referring and interpreting the new. My life has a women is marked, at least in part, by the clothes. I wore new and used for minor and major moments of my life.
I actually enjoyed shopping as much in a Chanel boutique as I do in rummage sales. But more specifically, I have always done so all my life. There was always a pleasure to mix the old and the new. I remember checking church bazaar listing faithfully every saturday morning, rain or shine, and my best friend and I would be hopping on buses and subway and do as many as we could. We were barely 13 years old and that is how we spent how babysitting money. I remember my mother’s face when I would come back with better stuff then she did, because she too would hunt down forgotten treasures. Because my mom refurbished antiques this habit for vintage hunting was passed on from her to me. She dragged me with her my whole entire childhood until I was able to do it by myself.
We also had lots of fashion magazine in my house, the classics: Vogue, Harper’s, ELLE, and later on Flare was encourage too.
I went through life through always with the same attitude towards style and clothes. There are always beautiful things and that they are cyclical. So you must hang on to those things that are well made or/and unique or special and always keep the classics. I have done my homework in this department. I have mixed the old the new and the borrowed continiously. I say borrowed because after working with many designers I got to experiment with a lot of interesting looks.
What also guided my decision to open ERA Vintage Wear, was that every time someone asked me where did I get this or that, my reply led to a long conversation. I would tell them how I had achieved a look, and they’d replied that it was amazing but that they would love to be more stylish but could not conceive or picture themselves doing that much hunting, curating and research. They did not want to dig and look, did not like the smells, couldn’t bother with the repairs, the dry cleaning, etc… But the idea of doing what I love doing in a slightly larger scale to provide ready-to-wear vintage lure me in. I wanted to bring this to all the girls that kept on asking!
Well, that is the part I am naturally good at since spending most of it under boxes and racks while my mother scavenge for antiques to refurbish. I call it early childhood research and development LOL....no wonder architecture,art, were obvious school choice... all of it led to how I view what I do.
This is the mission for ERA Vintage Wear: to provide women with vintage clothes of all era that have been cleaned, repaired, rethought, died, deconstructed,etc... but specifically so they may fit the garment to their needs in a contemporary way. I believe each garment can find it rightful owner. And retro is never my goal