David Ornstein is the Event Producer for one of fashion’s most exciting event’s of the year: The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. Ornstein and his team gather the world’s greatest vintage dealers to participate in the semi-annual show. The Show features the most extensive collection of vintage clothing and textiles from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. It has also become the place for major street style and people watching. It is not uncommon to come across designers and buyers wandering the stalls collecting research on particular era’s or searching for inspiration. The Show also showcases a special designer exhibit, this year will honor Bonnie Cashin. The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show is this Friday and Saturday in New York.
What does your role as Producer of the Manhattan Vintage Show entail?
It starts with gathering the vendors. Many of them have been with us for a very long time. Every dealer has a different point of view, which is reflected in what they offer. We are constantly looking for new vendors who will fit in and excite our buyers. We also do a special exhibit at each show featuring a particular designer or an aspect relevant to today’s trends. This show we will be showcasing New York fashion designer Bonnie Cashin and will be featuring never before seen items from the Cashin Foundation.
How has the attendance changed over the past 5 years? Has the show moved from an insider event to something that attracts the general consumer?
As the general public became more aware of designers’ interest in vintage, and the number of movie stars and models wearing vintage, our attendance grew. Today 80% of our buyers are retail and the other 20% are fashion designers, costume designers and vintage store owners from around the world. At our Gentlemen’s Vintage Show last month we also had several designers from current production TV and movies.
Over the past few years, the Manhattan Vintage Show has become a great place for street style sightings. How do you think this came to happen?
First and foremost New York is the fashion epicenter of the world. We have fashion devotees of every age, income level and ethnic background. Our vendors scour the U.S., Asia and Europe to handpick and offer the best of the past 100 years of style and fashion. That’s why those who want to buy the best know what they can expect to find.
What do you think gives Manhattan Vintage its edge over other vintage shows?
The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show has been at the Metropolitan Pavilion since 1992. We have developed the greatest range of vintage buyers who know that our professional collection of vendors will offer the best of what is current and trending for the future. Our vendors have the most amazing and beautiful things.
Do you have a lot of designers coming to shop the show?
The buyers from Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan have been buying from us since the beginning of the show. Early on Vivienne Tam, Anna Sui and Mary McFadden also were also shopping for inspiration. In the last ten years, the lure of quality and quantity of our offerings has brought the fullest range of design houses looking for inspiration. Gianfranco Ferre, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jill Stuart, Tory Burch, Isaac Mizrahi, Betsey Johnson – they’ve all been to the show in recent years. Also big brands like Anthropologie, J.Crew, Banana Republic…the list goes on and on.
How many typically participate in the Manhattan Vintage Show?
We have space for about 90 vendors from the US and around the world. After being in this business for almost 40 years I’m still amazed at the great things our dealers bring.
What percentage of the show is men’s and what percentage is women’s?
Typically it’s 80% women’s clothing and 20% men’s.
How do you think the loss of the 26th Street Flea Market and more recently, The Garage, affected New York’s vintage landscape?
It’s just a temporary setback. They are the best at meeting the weekly need, the buyers and sellers and will find a great solution.
Do you go to other vintage shows and flea markets?
Yes, we go to meet new dealers and also to buy for our own vintage rental business.
Who are some of your favorite men’s and women’s vintage designers?
I can be awed by almost any designer. When they have their moments it’s exciting. I love Paco Rabanne. I can’t believe the aesthetic of Comme des Garçons. And most of all, I’m thrilled by Alexander McQueen’s ability to turn an idea into art. Oh, did I mention Etro!
Do you ever find people trying things on in the aisles? If so, do they tend to disrobe?
Oh, yes! Some come ready wearing body stockings but some just go for it!
What do you think accounts for fashion’s ongoing fascination with vintage?
I guess it’s first cousin to why people are interest in art. It’s a great marriage of a designer, personal style and the cultural influences of the time. Good vintage clothing was built to last, from fabrics that make you feel good. When someone shops from the today’s stores or from today’s designers they must choose from a narrow selection of certain trends and styles. When they shop at the show they can choose from a 100 years of offerings. You can find your own style.