CQ interviews: William Banks-Blaney of WilliamVintage
Adored by A-list celebrities, luxury designers, and vintage lovers alike, and referred to simply as "The Vintage King" by Vogue, William Banks-Blaney of WilliamVintage certainly has a lot to smile about as he embarks on his latest adventure - www.williamvintage.com!
With an encyclopaedic knowledge of fashion moments been and gone to rival even the deftest historian, William is as inspirational as he is dedicated, traveling the world on his quest for museum-quality haute couture pieces (jealous? us?) and transporting them to his beloved store in London. Thanks to his exceptional eye and an enviable client list including Dawn Porter, Victoria Beckham, Lana Del Ray, and Rachel Zoe, is it any wonder why women the world over are obsessed with WilliamVintage?
Catwalk Queen caught up with William to discuss his debut online store, his favourite vintage finds and more...
Hi William - I hear you have some exciting news for us...
"Yes, I'm very excited about the launch of WilliamVintage online! The new site has been designed to echo the WilliamVintage store and ethos as the next natural step for the company."
What can vintage fans expect to find on your new site?
"The WilliamVintage site will reflect the store and the foundation on which we are built; an ever-changing selection of highly-edited vintage clothing and vintage haute couture in wonderful condition. The launch selection spans over 100 years of design but they are all pieces that I think show the magic of vintage....pieces that are still relevant but also manage to be iconic of their era."
When you're hunting for pieces, do you find yourself thinking "this wouldn't work online, but it would be loved at the shop"?
"No, quite the opposite. There is no difference between the WilliamVintage store and WilliamVintage online as they are a part of the same message and the same approach to vintage fashion. I think shopping for vintage online has previously sent fear into the hearts of even the most fashion-savvy women as it can be so hit or miss, but my intention has been to resolve that. WilliamVintage online is inspired by our store; modern and simple and designed to let the clothes and their quality do all the talking."
You've also been the Fashion Patron for Oxfam this year. How has that been?
"It's such an honour to work with Oxfam, the extraordinary team behind it and to be the 2013 Fashion Patron. Oxfam has the most incredible stock of thousands of pieces of vintage clothing and every penny goes toward the work of Oxfam around the World so helping promote that and helping shift people's perception of vintage, second-hand clothing and what 'Oxfam clothing' is, has been really exciting. I was also Creative Director of the Oxfam fashion campaign this year and the visual and tangible results are one of the things I am proudest of in my life."
A little bird tells us you've got something up your sleeve with your pal Dawn Porter too.
"Yes! Vintage clothing will soon have its first prime-time tv show! Dawn is every bit as passionate about vintage clothing as I am and its one of the many ways in which I am in lust and love with her, so when she asked me to be a part of it, it took me about 3 seconds to decide - being a part of a TV show about one of your greatest passions and working with one of your best friends - hardly a quandary. 'This Old Thing' on Channel 4 will cover all aspects of vintage, from shopping on a budget to shopping with no budget, and I've been filmed on my hunts for the finest in London, Palm Beach, Miami, Paris...."
You've had an extremely successful year and even found time to host a four week pop up at Selfridges - are there plans to open a second store any time soon?
"It's been a real year of growth for WilliamVintage and it's a very exciting time...and yes, there are conversations taking place about a second store for 2014 but it's early days and my lips have to remain sealed. I would rather walk the walk than talk the talk."
Ok, it's grilling time. Do you have a favourite decade?
"My favourite designer of all time has to be Cristobal Balenciaga, but I could never choose a decade; Chanel in the 20s, Vionnet in the 30s, Dior in the 50s, Courreges in the 60s...there are far too many moments I adore."
Favourite piece you've ever discovered?
"I'm lucky to have discovered some really exceptional things; I'm torn between a 1954 Dior haute couture dress embroidered by Maison Lesage in silk petals and blossoms, and a 1931 Charles Frederick Worth dress made of over 300,000 glass beads."
You're a big fan of mixing contemporary fashion with vintage. If you were styling us for an event, which designers would be your go-to's?
"It depends so much on the event, the location, the message and above all else what makes the woman inside the dress look her best, which is usually about feeling fantastic. We have had some great WilliamVintage moments that I am proud of - I loved Emilia Fox wearing 50s Hartnell at the TV BAFTAs, Helen McCrory wearing vibrant blue 60s Givenchy at the film BAFTAs, Jo Elvin wearing 60s Chanel when hosting the Glamour party, Alex Schulman wearing 60s Hardy Amies when hosting the Vogue/Valentino exhibition..."
If you could dress any celebrity (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
"I would want to dress Marchesa Luisa Casati, I'm obsessed by her currently. She has been a style icon for over 80 years but I keep running into her name everywhere at the minute; seeing her dresses in Paris, her photograph in a client's house in Palm Beach and last week discovering that a great friend of mine is her great-grandchild."
Are there any designers that you'd recommend investing in now for the future?
"Yes, and I have become terribly patriotic about it too. There is no point disavowing contemporary fashion in favour of vintage; one cannot exist without the other. I adore Simone Rocha, Osman, Jonathan Saunders, Roksanda Illincic, Mary Katrantzou...in the last 8 years London has become the most exciting location for fashion and change in the World and it's hasn't been this strong a crop of real talent since the 1960s. Support them, Invest in them, wear them and respect them!"