Today I am sharing an article I wrote for Mattlumine a Cultural Trends magazine in Milan. It was beautifully translated into Italian but I want share my original English version for all of you who don’t speak this beautiful language!
What is vintage? This once rare, foreign terminology has been mostly reserved for the lips of a few enthusiasts over the years, and has become a colloquial term for people I never thought would be wearing it, let alone talking about it.
So, why am I, Gina Pagnella, the one defining vintage for you? My business name and alter ego is Modern Thrifter in the Old World, and my job and general life goal is to save every hand-stitched, heavily loved relic of the past, and redistribute them to the modern market. This keeps the garments’ stories alive and sets quality standards for fashion today while encouraging sustainable consumption. Reuse is the ultimate form of sustainable–and just downright meaningful–living. Then, of course, there is my uncontrollable passion for discovering fashion’s past, piece-by-piece, a thrill further fueled by the addiction to the hunt.
By definition, vintage is something that is 30 years older or more; 50 years qualifies as antique. Yes, I do realize that these American standards seem ridiculous in Italy as an object of that age is just considered old here! That was not how I grew up thinking about things in the U.S in the 80s-2000s, when I watched the quality of people’s garments go down as mass market fashion production took over. Born with the heart of an 80-year-old and extreme attention to detail (some call it OCD), I loved going through my family’s older things and visiting the thrift shop with my mother, who was always donating clothes that we grew out of and searching for pieces to add to her few collections as well as just trying to keep a family clothed and happy on a budget.
I started noting the stitching, tags, colors, and prints, and I just couldn’t resist buying them. Once in my possession, I would study the pieces, learn how they were made, alter them to fit and love, love, love them for years and years. My friends at the time… not so much. Vintage wasn’t cool then, and to them I just looked like Pippi Longstocking. When I moved to Italy in the early 2000s, my friends had the same reaction. Many were quite intolerant of my mix of fabric, prints and color schemes, and were generally grossed-out that I was essentially wearing someone else’s clothes.
Not anymore! In Italy the nose-wrinkling term ‘usato’ (used) was rendered nearly obsolete during the last couple years in favor of the term Vintage. Vintage has become a symbol of style, and having a very rare vintage piece has become just as much of a status symbol as sporting a luxury brand. Furthermore, as I mentioned, vintage has been associated with sustainable consumption and independently owned vintage stores started popping up all over the world as part of the ‘Shop Small’ movement. And I must say that although it upped the prices in my favorite California thrifting spots, I could not be happier.
I have found new places to vintage hunt in Italy, and have created the job for myself as a Europe-based vintage buyer for U.S. vintage distributers. My purpose is to keep highly curated vintage shops full of proper style and era clothing to keep up with the demand. I now get to style and photograph my finds for lookbooks all over the world and the coming to life is an amazing end-product of what I do. So as hawking treasures in chaotic thrift shops and street markets has gone from a hobby to my office hours, I am still pinching myself to be sure that this is real!
Photo cred in original article :
To download the complete Inverno edition in Italian including this article click here!