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NEW YORK — Byronesque.com isn’t your typical e-commerce site. Devoted to rare, authentic vintage, the site’s high-end offerings are presented on black fiberglass mannequins against a black background, an effect that’s mysterious, sexy and, in the case of a Thierry Mugler leather skirt circa 1983-1987 ($1,660) displayed on a topless mannequin, slightly unnerving in an S&M sort of way. It’s all the sensibility of Gill Linton, chief executive officer and editor in chief of Byronesque. “We completely ignored best practices when the site was being built,” said C.J. Swanton, a managing editor. “The site looks at vintage through a very dark and modern eye.”
The fact that Byronesque is attempting to sell high-priced vintage with a provenance — everything on the site is at least 20 years old — in itself goes against the grosgrain. The site is clearly speaking to a specialized audience. On offer recently were Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s 1977-79 Seditionaries trousers, $4,355; Thierry Mugler’s knit-sleeve leather jacket, $4,395; Azzedine Alaïa’s wool wrap jersey dress, $4,900, and Issey Miyake’s stainless steel and polyester handbag, $2,635.
Now the company is getting ready to introduce a broader mix of vintage products at lower prices, Linton said.
While Byronesque is an e-commerce platform, 80 percent of the site consists of editorial content focused on vintage and its effect on contemporary culture. There’s a series on “Slow Fashion” that warns, “Fast Fashion Is for Losers,” and a piece about unseen Polaroids and contact sheets from influential photographers.
Linton is protective of the merchandise, lest it fall into careless hands. “The clothes and accessories we sell have inspired and outlived landfills of imitations, and we encourage you to take the moral and style high ground by bringing them to a cleaning specialist who knows how to preserve their current condition,” reads the site.
“There’s such a misunderstanding of what vintage really is,” Linton said. “The market is so flooded with Kelly bags and Chanel bags. We [on the other hand] have three or four Azzedine Alaïa pencil skirts. He never goes out of style. We are anti-fast fashion. Other vintage sites have a romantic, kitschy, nostalgic view. We just want to make it sexy and modern.”
Byronesque has attracted a group of high-profile investors including Andrew Rosen; King & Partners, founders of Createthe Group; the late Marvin Traub; Mortimer Singer, ceo of Marvin Traub Associates, and Gucci board member Keith Miller.
“The online experience was like shopping in a smelly vintage shop,” Linton said, explaining her reason for launching Byronesque. “EBay wasn’t cutting it any more.”