PAST MASTER
RICHARD WAINWRIGHT
Fashion Buying and Merchandising ’98

RichardWainwright“Los Angeles is the best place to shop for vintage in the world,” Richard Wainwright proclaims. His L.A. showroom, New/Found, sells vintage pieces—mostly accessories and jewelry—to American and European designers and stylists hunting for inspiration. Among recent finds: a raft of avant-garde Alain Mikli eyeglasses frames and an oversized bangle resembling an industrial gear from a Gianfranco Ferré runway show—all from the ’80s.

L.A. has a disposable fashion culture, so there’s a lot of stuff out there,” the lifelong collector explains. “It’s not like New York where people are dressed in black all year. Here, people wear trendy things for events, parties, and shoots. And because L.A. doesn’t really have a fashion scene, it had to develop its own identity, and that’s heavily influenced by vintage.”

Ironically, because it’s such a vintage mecca, competition for unique items is fierce, and Wainwright surfs vintage shops in San Francisco, the Carolinas, and Texas to find fresh objects to inspire his high-profile clients, who prefer to remain anonymous. “I look for things I’ve never seen before, things with interesting details, important designer pieces, or things that ring a bell for me, things I’ve loved over the years. But there’s also something I can’t put into words, something I feel in my gut. The second I see it, I know ifI want it. And it’s not just me—everyone responds to those pieces.”

Most everyone, at any rate. Recently, he stumbled on a strapless, beaded dress in hunter green and chartreuse that reminded him of a Versace ad campaign featuring model Karen Elson. He bought it, raced home, and confirmed that it came from Gianni Versace’s final couture collection. “It almost looks like a towel wrapped around her body. It’s amazing.”

He put the dress on display at A Current Affair, a vintage trade show he co-produces in Los Angeles (and is bringing to Brooklyn May 30 and 31). It was promptly snatched up, but not before Elson herself wandered into his booth. Astonished, he showed her the dress and reminded her of the ad campaign.
She wasn’t impressed. “Oh, there have been so many dresses,” she sighed, and walked away.