Not just rags and lace!
Vintage with Love sat down with ever-stylish Mathilda Montanari to discuss that long-time member of the vintage store scene, Rags & Lace in Craighall, Johannesburg. Mathilda manages the boutique, selecting the best vintage items from Woolworths to Lanvin, and has an enviable eye when it comes to finding just the thing for every woman who walks through the door.
VWL: How would you define ‘vintage’?
MM: It seems to be a common misconception that ‘vintage’ means items from the 50s and 60s. This is certainly not how we define vintage at Rags & Lace – we stock second hand clothing, from any decade.
VWL: What kind of items do you look for when buying for the store?
MM: I don’t only focus on designer labels, but look for previously worn clothing that is in excellent condition, clean and current. I look for clothing that will appeal to all kinds of people. There always has to be something special about the item though, something that differentiates it from everything else available out there in the malls.
VWL: Why do you think people should buy vintage?
MM: The worldwide trend of recycling has really impacted on people’s desire to wear vintage, and in fact to be willing to let go of clothes they no longer want. It’s no longer a dirty little secret that you shop at second hand stores; quite the contrary in fact. It’s cool and trendy to have found something that nobody else has, and in the process demonstrates a social or ecological awareness in your wish to reuse or recycle. In recessionary times it also just makes sense to buy vintage – you could walk into Rags & Lace and it’s like you went on an international shopping spree, finding labels from all over the world. Instead of buying a pair of pants made in China for R500, you could buy really special, high quality Armani white linen pants for the same price.
VWL: Why do you think people don’t buy vintage?
MM: I see buying vintage as a paradigm shift – nothing is really new! I think many people like the idea of buying new items that still have a tag on them, but what is perceived as “new” is not actually new. Garments in stores have been tried on countless times in one day perhaps. New clothing has a history – just less obvious than that of clothing in second hand stores!
VWL: Do you remember what your first vintage find was?
MM: I bought a gorgeous green, polka dot bowtie and a Tootal scarf at Reminiscene about 26 years ago, and I still adore both items.
VWL: What have been some of your favourite vintage finds over the years?
MM: I have a very beautiful, mottled, watermelon coloured Yohji Yamamoto jacket. The colours are exquisite and muted – very Japanese. I’ve also bought some gorgeous brogues over the years, cashmere jerseys, and many other timeless pieces.
VWL: How would you describe your personal style?
MM: Obviously I wear vintage every day. I like classical, but quirky, pieces. I feel that as one gets older (becoming a certain vintage!), you almost have to err on the side of eccentricity – you can’t be too safe and perhaps not too smart either. I often have one, quirky piece that is the outstanding piece, amidst an otherwise classic outfit. A bowtie, a quirky pair of shoes, or an outstanding jewelled pendant for instance.
VWL: Do you admire any celebrities or personalities for their style?
MM: I love The Sartorialist and the people that he documents – ordinary people and how they spend much time putting together outfits, curating personal looks. And then I really admire Linda Rodin, who is the same age as me. She hasn’t done anything to her face in terms of plastic surgery, and she’s quirky and eccentric. She manages to transcend time in a way, and there’s always cohesion to what she wears.
VWL: Do you have any fashion rules?
MM: I guess so, but nothing I can really articulate. Fashion for me is more of a gut feel. I have a very capsule wardrobe, and when I get dressed, I have an idea in my mind’s eye of what I want to look like that day. If an outfit feels right, I’ll wear it. In terms of other rules, like ‘the shoes must match the bag’ and ‘don’t wear clashing colours and patterns’, I try and break these whenever I can!
Rags & Lace
Shop 4, Craig Centre, 358 Jan Smuts Ave, Craighall, Johannesburg
011 787 2130