The eight-year-old 1stdibs.com is adding vintage couture and designer clothes to its existing selection of some of the best antiques from major dealers in the U.S. and abroad.
This story first appeared in the July 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The site expanded its repertory last year when it added estate and fine jewelry, and today broadens further with the introduction of vintage clothes. “Our roots were antiques and 20th century furniture because that is something I have a real passion for personally,” said Michael Bruno, founder and president of 1stdibs.com. “As the business began to develop, I realized that I really liked working with individual, entrepreneurial customers…usually the type of person that has a higher level of sensitivity towards things and appreciates design and can benefit from a business like ours.”
Bruno recruited Clair Watson, the antique and vintage clothing expert and former couture director at auction house Doyle New York, to oversee the new section.
For the launch, the site is working with established vintage clothing dealers like Resurrection, The Way We Wore, Paper Bag Princess, Torso, Katy Kane, Lynn Ban, Marlene Wetherell, Vintage Luxury, Postscript, Rare Vintage and Createurs de Luxe, the go-to source for vintage Hermès handbags.
“We decided to bring in the best in the business and start from there,” Watson said. “It was the high end, on the basis that if this works for this and expands, others will follow.”
The displayed selection ranges from the Twenties through the Eighties, and some of the top pieces posted today include Mariano Fortuny shell pink, pleated silk “Delphos” gown from the Thirties, priced at $8,900, from Vintage Luxury in New York; a circa 1972 gold sequinned Norman Norell “Mermaid” dress for $5,500 from The Way We Wore in Los Angeles; an Yves Saint Laurent couture dinner jacket, which once belonged to Queen Noor of Jordan, for $1,650 from Katy Kane in New Hope, Pa., and a Sixties Jean Patou navy and ivory dress for $525, from Marlene Wetherell in New York.
“No one had done an aggregated site where you can go in and look at the best clothes that are really of auction and museum quality,” Watson noted.
The site finds its dealers through a network of experts and others working in the field to ensure top quality partners who then join by invitation. Each member dealer has been vetted and pays a monthly fee. The site typically dispatches photographers to the galleries and vintage stores to shoot the pieces on offer, and the photos are supported with background information on the pieces and their designers.
Bruno does not anticipate much resistance to the vintage trade online.
“When we started antiques, people thought, ‘Who would buy a $20,000, 18th-century wood commode from New Orleans and ship it across the world without ever seeing it?’” he said. “We didn’t know if people would or wouldn’t do that. We designed the business in such a way that you could use the site to find the things that you are interested in, and go see them in person if you choose.”