Meet Pnina Fenster, one of South Africa’s most glamorous and stylish magazine editors – and a longtime vintage fashion fan. Vintage with Love asked Pnina to share some of her style and vintage secrets.
Vintage with Love: How would you describe your style?
Pnina Fenster: Expressive, sensual, romantic and a little bit retro.
VWL: Where do you shop?
PF: I love vintage stores, concessions stores and designer sales. My favourite brands include Prada, Vivienne Westwood, Etro and Marni — but strictly on sale!
VWL: What is your current favourite item in your wardrobe?
PF: Surely this is like asking someone which is his or her favourite child? I love everything in my wardrobe, even the wide-leg yellow pants that I simply can’t style up!
VWL: Thank you for donating some gently worn fashion to Vintage with Love. What are the items in your wardrobe that you would NEVER get rid of?
PF: A black satin Vivienne Westwood evening dress that my partner bought me to wear when I won an SA Style Award, a gold cat suit that belonged to my mother, my father’s colourful golf shirts and my grandmother’s lace tea dress. And my Albertus Swanepoel hats, every one of which is a treasure.
VWL: Why would you not part with certain treasures?
PF: Clothes, like perfume, are about memories, expression and associations and all of these are linked to love.
VWL: Can you remember buying or receiving your first piece of Vintage clothing?
PF: I started wearing vintage seriously as an art student — it was the only way I could afford well-made unusual clothes, and this was before vintage became as fashionable and pricey as it is today. But my very first piece was an heirloom Bedouin caftan that was a gift from an aunt and uncle.
VWL: Why did that piece in particular speak to you?
PF: It’s hard to beat a vintage Bedouin caftan for exotic! And it talked to the gypsy and dreamer in me.
VWL: Why do you love vintage?
PF: I love the idea that clothes have life beyond the original wearer, that they can be saved, repurposed and loved for many decades. And I also love the serendipity of a great vintage find.
VWL: Where do you shop for vintage?
PF: Cape Town’s Long Street is great, especially Afraid of Mice and Second Time Around, which has been an institution for decades. In Johannesburg, Rags and Lace is fantastic. And I’m very happy at a market or Church bazaar!
VWL: Have you ever bought vintage overseas?
PF: I’ve certainly looked, but South Africa is actually a better source — and the prices are better too! Overseas is about designer sales for me.
VWL: Please tell us about some of your favourite pieces.
PF: My most recent find was a huge, leather-tasseled Hermes cashmere shawl. It’s a true designer buy and a beloved find in a concession store. Last year my partner gave me a navy and red polka-dot Prada dress, which is so exuberant that I call it my Happy Dress. I’m still loving and wearing Marianne Fassler pieces that I bought years and years and years ago. My dear friend Albertus Swanepoel is the most generous soul, with incredible style — some of my most adored vintage necklaces, cuffs and brooches and many a pair of Manolos in my wardrobe have his wonderful name on them! And I could never overlook my totally ugly green pyjamas, which are now 20 years old and still the most comforting thing to wear, especially when I don’t feel well.
VWL: What do many people not understand about the joy of buying vintage?
PF: Perhaps people think of vintage as ’second hand’, so they miss out on the romance, the economy and the ecology-consciousness of vintage. New can be a wonderful thing, but so can old!
VWL: Are there any personalities that you admire for their vintage style?
PF: Kate Moss is the queen, and she’s done a lot to make vintage fashionable.
VWL: Who inspires you with their style?
PF: In addition to Ms Moss, there’s Corinne Roitfeld, who is as chic, sensual and stunning as they come. We were at a conference together a few years ago and I simply couldn’t take my eyes off her. Kerry Washington and Victoria Beckham don’t put a perfectly shod foot wrong. Cate Blanchett balances edgy with elegant. And Lupita Nyong’o is magnificent in whatever she’s wearing. But my favourites are the old-Hollywood set: Marilyn, both Audreys, Cyd Charisse, Liz Taylor in her Cat on a Hot Tin Roof incarnation, Sophia Loren… that’s my gang! I was raised on musicals, which probably has a lot to do with my love of vintage now.
VWL: Do you have any rules about wearing black or white shoes?
PF: I don’t really have many fashion rules, which is probably why I’ve made plenty of mistakes, including some that involved black and white shoes. But rather an experimental and expressive mistake than the safety of dullness!
VWL: Do you have any other fashion rules?
PF: Come to think of it, perhaps I do have a few rules. Like, please don’t wear one of those corset dresses that laces up the back and makes you look like a sausage stuffed into a Christmas cracker. Are you quite, quite sure that your skirt should be so very short? And could someone, anyone, put an end to the gigantic platform heels that make women look like they’ve been shod rather than dressed?
VWL: Where and what is your favourite shop in the world?
PF: Alas, I can’t nominate just one. But if there’s a shop that sells replicas of my beloved, I’ll buy the lot!
VWL: Would you ever stop anyone in the street and ask her where she got their clothes?
PF: Absolutely! The last time I did it was in London, when it was freezing and I was craving a padded coat. I asked a woman on the tube where hers was from and of course, it was Issey Miyake.
VWL: Who is your favourite street style star?
PF: Every girl who’s rocking it on the streets, rich or poor, white shoes or black shoes, mistakes or perfection. Fashion should be democratic, enjoyable and empowering, and it’s wonderful to see the extent to which this is happening.
VWL: What is the best fashion advice you’ve ever been given?
PF: Marianne Fassler once told me something that I’ve carried with great appreciation: That a true investment buy isn’t the tailored jacket you think you should have, although it just makes you feel constricted and not like yourself. The true investment buy is the piece that makes your heart sing the minute you see it.
VWL: Vintage with Love raises money for literacy – so that everyone can enjoy the freedom and joy of being able to read. What are you reading at the moment?
PF: After the clarity, brilliance and heartbreak of The Fault is in Our Stars, I’ve been looking for a new immersive love, and I’m bouncing between a biography of Leonard Cohen, Meir Shalev’s Blue Mountain and Night Train to Lisbon. And please can I add that literacy is a wonderful, wonderful charitable cause — reading is one of life’s greatest joys and not a soul should be denied its benefits, power and delight.