Calendar +

Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.
Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.
Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.

Week 33 — October 29, 2018

In Conversation

Liz Goldwyn Filmmaker, artist, and writer10 minute read

Dress by Erdem

Filmmaker, artist, writer and collector Liz Goldwyn recently put over 300 of her vintage clothing items up for sale on Vestiaire Collective. Bay Garnett talked to Liz about their shared love of vintage fashion, and what Liz is willing to part with from her collection, all in the name of a very good cause.

Bay  Garnett

Interview Bay Garnett

Photography Bay Garnett

BSo, this is really exciting for me! You’re such a prolific collector, such a passion for vintage. I’d just love to know — where do you think that came from?

L

Well, vintage and clothes were two different things, and I earnt my allowance [as a kid] from recycling soda cans, newspapers.

From your family?

From my parents. We had to go to the dump every Saturday. We weren’t actually allowed to drink soda, so we’d go to other people's houses and go through their garbage and get the soda cans and newspapers. The idea of recycling was first, really early on. Just thinking about waste, what we consume, thinking about using things over again.

Then also, when I was 12 or 13, I started collecting vintage. All my friends and I were wearing vintage 40s and 50s dresses. Nobody knew designer labels, it just wasn’t like today. It would have been totally uncool. Also, how would you afford it? No one’s parents would have bought them expensive things. So, we would use our money that we got from
allowance and go to the thrift store. You could buy, back then in LA, which is a vintage mecca, 40s crepe dress for you know, 15 dollars.

Incredible.

You could buy a 1920s gown for really cheap, so that’s what we wore.

Wow, that’s so cool. Golden age of thrift in a way. For that kind of stuff, I imagine, in LA.

But then, when I read stuff about the punk scene in New York in the 70s, and think about how you could probably get a fortune back then, and all the people in the 80s were buying stuff. Those days are over.

But I didn’t know about fashion back then. I wasn’t aware. I would read old fashion magazines, look at interesting photographers, interesting art, but not so much interested in the clothes.

It just didn’t really exist in the same way as it does now, did it? I mean, the young people knowing all about Céline, Givenchy. Then, it just wasn’t about that. I don’t know what those designers would have been when we were young. I agree with you.

When I moved to New York, before I was at Sotheby’s (where I helped start the fashion firm), I worked for Fabien Baron, Baron & Baron. I was a paid intern there. I realised fashion was such a big business because of him. He did all Calvin Klein and I realised, oh my gosh, look how much money people spend on the packaging of socks. It’s when I first
discovered what Women’s Wear Daily was, and that whole world of people who bought couture and all this stuff. It was definitely eye opening.

God, it must have been fascinating. From the way you were buying clothes, quite an innocent, creative way to then going into where it’s very driven by money.

I wore Baron & Baron. They had that Philippe Starck designed office and I would wear my 40s dresses with red lipstick and those Japanese wooden platform shoes. I would be like ‘clomp clomp clomp clomp’. Everyone wore all black and they would send me to Calvin Klein to do pickups and they would get calls, complaints basically! [Laughter]

They complained about the shoes?

Just about what I wore, that I wasn’t ‘fitting in’. At Sotheby’s I would wear fishnet stockings  — I was really into deconstructionist clothing, a lot of which is in the Vestiaire sale. A lot of Susan Santilo. The security guard would chase me, thinking I’d got my dress caught in the escalator. They got some complaints because it was very ‘twin sets’, you know? Hermès scarves...

I find that extraordinary that people complained. I mean, that is out there! When are we talking?

’97. My boss’s dad, Alfred Balben, he owned Sotheby’s. He really liked me. He told them I added colour. So you know, it was okay. It was interesting, because I was of a different mindset. These women, I don’t want to say across the board, but there was definitely a mentality of trying to ‘land a husband’. I had been raised very opposite.

That’s so interesting.
So, how did you choose the items for Vestiaire? How did you edit the ones you’re keeping from the ones you’re selling?

I have been wanting to do a sale for a while.

Why is that?

One, because I have a huge collection. I mean, I have a lot of stuff — they took five garment racks but there’s still a lot. I had a bunch of stuff put aside, and I had wanted to do something, with a charity sale element for a while, since the 2016 elections. So I had some things already put aside. It’s actually hard, now that I look what’s going, there are certain things that I really...

Like what?

The Mr. Blackwell pieces that are in the campaign images — black velvet opera coat, lining in hot pink satin. There’s also a blue wool shift dress with a bull’s eye target embroidery, there’s a brocade floor length dress. It was Mr. Blackwell who invented the ‘best and worst dressed list’ and I think, oh god, why am I not keeping those pieces together? Because I’m
never going to find Mr. Blackwell again, what if they get split up... I wish that one person would just get them. You know, there’s so much good stuff in the sale! I’m kind of hoping a lot of my friends and people whose style I admire will get things.

So you see them again? That would be so nice.

Or that I just know they’re in a good home.

I bet that whoever they go to, they will be in a good home. Because I think it’s passion that makes people buy clothes like that. Maybe that’s naive, but that’s what I hope!
So, what do you think, if you had to choose your very, very favourite thing? It’s a very hard question! People have asked me that, and it’s a very hard question because I like thrifting. Is there one thing that particularly stands out?

I mean, there’s so much that I keep on referencing — there’s an Angelo Tarlazzi dress that has a heart-shaped pillow on the ass. In magenta. It’s so cute, little lace ruffles around it.

Amazing.

From the front it just looks like a fitted cocktail dress with a low, deep back in a ‘V’, and then you turn around and you have this padded heart on the ass!

So sexy!

I’ve only worn it for Spanish Vogue! I haven’t even worn it in real life. It’s just so cool. That, to me, is very 'my style’, very eccentric.

And very saucy.

And sort of surrealist.

Yeah. And kinda hot in that surrealist kind of way! God that does sound really great. Is that in the Vestiaire sale?

Yeah!

So, do you think you’ll go on collecting?

Yes. I’ve bought like, three things since I’ve been in London! It’s like a disease.

I was at Portobello this morning. You’re right. I spend very little as I’m at the market, as long are you’re not over-spending, causing damage.

I don’t spend a lot of money on vintage.

Don’t you?

No, because that’s part of the thrill.

How do you find it? Vintage stores in LA?

All over the world. I used to shop a lot in London, Paris, Japan, LA, NY sometimes, but it’s quite expensive. Smaller cities in America.

How did you and Vestiaire get in touch?

Through Chloë Sevigny.

Oh yeah, I know Chloë.

I know you do! From back in the day.

Oh my god! Cheap Date days. I went out with her brother for years.

I remember!

Long time ago. Oh, sweet Paul!

I’ve known her since high school.

So you know Tara Subkoff [Imitation of Christ designer with Matt Damhave] as well?

Yes. Actually, there’s an early Imitation of Christ piece in the sale.

Oh my god. That’s when I was with Paul. When Matt and Tara set that up.

Do you not remember they did a collection or a dress and it said, ‘Bring me the head of Tom Ford’?

So we’re talking ’96 or ’97? Gosh, that’s crazy. So it was Chloë who got you involved?

Yes. I have a few friends who are collectors on my scale. Chloë  is definitely one of them! Dita Von Teese is another one of them. We do a lot of vintage shopping together. But she’s someone who’s like, ‘yes, you totally need that hat with sequins dripping down over the face… it’s so practical!’

I actually interviewed Dita for a book I did called Cheap Date Guide to Style. It was great. Really interesting chatting to her about how transformative her style was, how different she looked underneath. How much she had harnessed this look. Is she still doing that whole dressing up all the time?

Well, yeah, in public, that’s the mystique that she’s selling but what I like about her is that she breaks it down and says ‘this is accessible’. You know? I’m a girl from Michigan, who dyes my hair.

Liz's Top Five

Current Reading List

She’s blonde, right?

Yeah, and she controls the lighting on stage. She’s very upfront about that. How she uses makeup and glamour and clothing to achieve this sort of vision of ‘divine feminine’, and how everyone else can achieve that too.

That’s what I liked about her — how she was very open about how it was a real transformation. So, was it just feeling like you needed a cull of your wardrobe — is that what galvanised you to sell?

I wanted to be able to support Dress for Success [a non-profit organisation that provides wardrobes and career development tools and other support to low-income women looking to return to or enter the workforce], bring a lot of attention to the organisation. I’ve worked with them since the 90s. I’ve been donating to the organisation since I started at Sotheby's in ‘97. I think it’s amazing because it started as this idea that you could donate a gently worn suit to another woman, and they could go and get a job interview and get themselves out of homelessness or a situation of domestic violence and gain economic independence. And now it’s grown from that, they’re in 38 countries — I don’t want to get the numbers wrong — but they have 130-something offices, job training skills, resume building programs.
I have met so many incredible women through this organisation. One of the women I met through Dress for Success was a sex worker who was born into it, her grandmother and her mother were also sex workers. I have met so many women through this organisation and I really believe in empowering other women. I think that the idea of fashion —  I love clothes — but the industry of fashion, there’s a lot of things around it that make us feel bad about ourselves, make us judge each other. So I love the alignment of this charity of passing clothing down to someone else, to help them.

Very positive.

Yeah! So I wanted to do this with my wardrobe. I spoke to Vestiaire a lot about making the price points accessible. A lot of stuff is at under $200 US.

Wow, that’s really good value.

A lot under $1000. It goes up a lot higher than that, but I wanted younger people to be able to afford things, which is why I first got into vintage. I just think the way fashion exists right now, there’s too much being produced.

Yeah, for sure.

Chloë had a good experience with Vestiaire. A number of people had approached me over the years, but I didn’t want to do an auction. I just wanted to make it a little more democratic.

How many pieces are you selling on Vestiaire?

Over 300.

A lot! Wow.

There’s good stuff.

And you’ve still got a lot of stuff at home?

Uh huh.

You must have spent a lot of your life collecting this stuff.

I’m selling the first designer piece I ever bought! In Boston, at the dollar-a-pound. It’s a floor-length cream Courrèges skirt. I would go to the dollar-a-pound every weekend — Salvation Army, flea markets, vintage fairs. I haven’t worn it in so long.

So you need to get rid of it.

I need to get rid of it. There’s a Lillian coat that I’m selling, which I used to wear all the time. 1920s. Very nostalgic seeing it. If I haven’t worn it in 10 years, it’s time to go. But there are other things that I haven’t worn in that long that I’m not selling! So... [laughs]

I’m really, really excited to see it. Fascinating, what you’ve collected. I love the sound of the pieces as well. So personal. Because you’ve picked them all out, one person’s perspective on what they love.

You know, because I was at Sotheby's from a young age, I wanted to have the job of Diana Vreeland at the MET. I wanted to be curator at the MET institute. So I thought, I’m going to build a collection so I can donate it all one day! No, I understand it’s actually quite hard to do that. And I do donate all the time and loan to museums. But no museum wants to just take on all your shit. Because it’s expensive.

How?

Well, I pay for a climate-controlled storage every month.

Wow, do you?

Yeah! You have to clean things...

Wow, so professional!

Well, that was my training.

So that’s what you do with your collection?

It’s not as good as it should be.

It’s not just upstairs in your cupboards.

I have stuff at home, yeah.

I thought you meant you had climate control built in at home!

I wish!

That would be amazing.

It’s funny, because Alex Fury [Alexander Fury is a fashion journalist, author and critic] was saying he really collects. He has special tissue…

Oh, yeah. Archival acid-free boxes, muslin for the garment racks. Hamish Bowles, too.

I can’t wait to see everything! What’s your favourite style decade — the one you’ve drawn most from, stylistically?

30s and 40s, probably. I mean like, day wear, a lot of 50s dresses — that’s my jean. I don’t have any jeans. I have one pair — Versace deadstock, cheetah, high waisted.

Deadstock! Pristine.

I was in Canada with my boyfriend and he said, ‘oh, it’s outdoorsy so..!’ 90s too, actually.

So, you also have such a film heritage. What movies are you inspired by?

For wardrobe, Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks! I love saddle shoes.


Visit Liz's sale collection here.

Liz's Wish List