Richard Wainwright: "LA can officially be crowned the vintage capital"
Richard Wainwright has become in a few years the king of vintage. A keen collector, he's behind the A Current Affair markets in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, the Pickwick Vintage Market in Los Angeles and the ARCADE shop in New York. In October, he will open his first physical shop in Los Angeles. We spoke to him about his strategy and his plans for the future.
FashionNetwork: How did start your passion for vintage?
Richard Wainwright: From a young age I always had an affinity for vintage. It felt like a world of mystery and way to escape to a more glamorous time and place. I collected things just to stare at them, like jewelry that I would find at estate sales. This was my access point into a world of high fashion I didn't have any other way into.
FNW: Then you organized your first show in Los Angeles, A Current Affair (on hold for now), with 19 other dealers. What was your direction with this first show and what was the point of difference?
RW: At some point I realized I had to sell some of the collection I had built up, so I started participating in various markets to make money. It didn't take long before I realized that these markets were not designed for a fashion clientele and this is how I wanted to set A Current Affair apart. We took a decidedly modern approach to the presentation of vintage, which seems like a familiar concept now but was revolutionary at the time. There was no trade show that did what we did back then.
FNW: A current affair trade show grew up very fast with locations in LA, New York and San Francisco. How do you explain its success ?
RW: I think we struck a chord because of our approach but also because of the community we built. It was extremely important to me with our show to lift up the individual sellers and promote their small businesses as they were promoting ours. We encouraged our vendors to also support and promote each other, so it really started to feel like family. We got on this schedule of doing shows so regularly that we were like a traveling circus in the best possible way. We'd come home only to pack up for the next show and then hit the road again. Just before the pandemic hit we did four pop-ups in Tokyo with our partner EVA as well.
FNW: When did you add the Pickwick vintage show and what is the story behind it ?
RW: Pickwick existed in another form for 30+ years but at some point it just died out. I saw an opportunity to vendors that we couldn't get into A Current Affair because of space constraints and a long waiting list, so I started a new show in its place and realized right away that people were hungry for more vintage. We had a decidedly different approach than A Current Affair when we started. It was less of an event and more of a marketplace. We were hosting the show quarterly until the pandemic hit and then we took the show monthly to support the vendors who had nowhere else to sell at the time.
FNW: Pickwick vintage show became a monthly rendez-vous at Row DTLA, the creative shopping center in Downtown LA. Why did you pick this location ?
RW: We were hosting the show in a garden in Burbank. It was a beautiful location and provided lots of space to spread out, which was necessary in the early days of Covid. We lost that venue when it was sold to a developer and I had been in talks with Row for quite a while about doing something there, so it all just came together. We see roughly 1,200 guests each month.
FNW: I feel Pickwick vintage is more than just a market, but a show for fashion community, for inspiration and creativity...
RW: Yes Pickwick has actually developed into a hybrid between the old Pickwick market and A Current Affair, since our ACA in-person shows have been on hold. The venue lends itself to dressing up more because it is located between the fashion and arts districts and has a very urban feel. ROW also has a lot of the infrastructure that the garden was lacking, such as easy parking and great restaurants. This encourages our guests to spend the day there and everyone really looks forward to it each month.
FNW: Who are the vendors, how many are they and how do you select them ?
RW: Because we can only accommodate about 50 vendors for each show, we rotate them from month to month to make sure our customers always find something new and that our vendors all get an equal chance to sell (and time in between to replenish). Most of our vendors are local to the Los Angeles area, although we have several who come down from the Bay Area and some who have come in from across the country to pop-up with us. We've made an effort to incorporate several booths that are creatively reworking vintage, such as 3woman and Hunt and Hammer, and we're expanding our menswear offerings as we've received feedback from customers that they'd like to see more options for those who wear items traditionally considered to be menswear.
FNW: Who are your customers?
RW: Our clients are mostly retail customers who love vintage, and customers who are just discovering and exploring the world of vintage. We definitely see more and more design teams coming to the market for inspiration, and stylists and costume designers who are shopping for specific projects.
FNW: You've been in the vintage industry for years. Is LA the vintage capital of the world ?
RW: Yes I'm actually vintage myself! I have shopped all over the world for vintage and I think LA can officially be crowned the vintage capital. There is nowhere like it and people come from all over the world to shop vintage in LA.
FNW: Also, can you see a new attention being paid to fashion from the customer's point of view? The new generation needs to find its individual fashion identity more than in the past, right?
RW: Every generation has tried to set itself apart through fashion and I think for generations they have turned to vintage. I remember an old boss of mine telling me about going to second hand stores in NYC in the 70's and 80's to buy 50's prom dresses for his friends and they would all get dolled up to go to Studio 54. I think the difference today is with so much information moving so fast and at our fingertips 24/7, the world of vintage has been opened up to so many more people who wouldn't have known where to begin otherwise. People are telling you where to find it, how to style it, what to pay for it, and the history of it all day long on social media
FNW: You started to open physical stores and online stores in addition to markets. What is your strategy?
RW: We currently have one physical store in Brooklyn, called ARCADE. The concept behind the store was a small version of our shows that would consign directly from our sellers, giving them a place to sell year round and a place for our customers to visit when the shows weren't happening. We are just in the process of opening our first LA store which is scheduled to open in October. Out of this concept came our ecommerce, arcadeshops.com. We launched this out of necessity when the pandemic shut down our in-person shows. We put together the first ever virtual vintage show and encouraged our sellers to sell with us on Instagram. It was a massive success and we built out a website around this concept, allowing us to reach customers all over the world 24/7.
FNW: How do you see the future of A Current Affair and Pickwick vintage markets?
RW: A Current Affair has been on hold since 2019 aside from smaller and virtual events. We hope to bring back the big in-person shows we are known for in Spring 2023 as well as heading back to Tokyo and adding a few other cities outside of the US. Pickwick will continue to be held monthly and we are looking to expand to another city to do a quarterly market since there has been such a positive reception to what we've done over the past year.
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