HISTORY BOY: Vintage clothing expert William Banks-Blaney has put the history of couture under the spotlight with his first book that focuses on 25 statement-making dresses created over the past 100 years. Called “25 Dresses” in the U.K. and “Iconic Dresses” in the U.S., the 192-page book features looks from Chanel, Givenchy, Lanvin and Saint Laurent. Highlights include a 1907 Mariano Fortuny “Delphos” black silk sheath dress, a 1961 Balenciaga black silk and velvet suit, a 1954 Balmain ballgown, a 1924 Chanel Ribbon dress, a 1952 Charles James black dress, a 1954 Dior cocktail dress, a 1924 Lanvin lilac Robe de Style silk gown and a 1934 Vionnet black silk dress. It is published by Quadrille and distributed by Chronicle Books.
“We had to narrow it down to 25 dresses that we thought would have the most resonance from a fashion perspective,” Banks-Blaney said. “Those dresses made a real statement over the last 100 years. Vintage is an enormous legacy, and it has been an inspiration to designers in the 21st century who refer to it constantly. Increasingly, it has evolved from something which is only been worn by stars who have access to the archives of the fashion houses, to different levels of celebrities. Women have become more sophisticated and they realize that actually vintage is already relevant to their wardrobes.”
The foreword to the book, which is priced at 30 pounds or $35, and is available for purchase on Amazon and on williamvintage.com, is written by the stylist and vintage enthusiast Rachel Zoe. “We first bonded when she came to the store. She was recommended to visit me by a friend, and we bonded over a 1959 Yves Saint Laurent vintage dress. Rachel walked into the store and that’s the first thing her eyes went to, and we became kindred spirits,” he said.
Banks-Blaney dresses celebrities including Rihanna, Lana Del Rey, Tilda Swinton and Helena Bonham Carter for red carpet events. “They come and buy the dresses and enjoy vintage. It’s not like we woo them for red carpet. Our relationships usually happen quite organically.”
Banks-Blaney, an interior designer who has always had a penchant for vintage clothing, opened his first William Vintage pop-up in 2009 and a by-appointment-only store in London’s Marylebone, the following year. “My training was in history of art, with a focus on buildings. I worked as an interior designer after that. I have always loved fashion,” he said, adding that his transition into vintage came about by chance. “I was in a vintage store with a great girlfriend of mine who was having problems with her marriage. I took her to a vintage store in Paris, and people in the shop were so nasty, they made her cry. And I thought it shouldn’t be that way. So I started a little pop-up sale. By the time I had my fourth pop-up, I had 200 women coming.”
Banks-Blaney plans to open another retail store and revamp his e-commerce site. “We are currently hunting for a new store in London,” Banks-Blaney said. “It will be a new bigger store in London and we’ll be building our new Web site,” Banks-Blaney’s new retail outpost won’t be by appointment, and he aims to open pop-up locations outside of the U.K. “It will be open to all,” he said. “The existing store is by appointment only not because we’re snooty but we want it to be sort of like a jewel box for women. The next store we move to will be an open door store.”