Camel Girl Vintage‘s Marion Hart draws her inspiration from her namesake, her Great Aunt Marion, a fashion model and one of the original Camel Cigarette Girls. But this generation’s Marion has some fashion swag of her own. A former editor for Glamour with enough thrift store shopping miles logged in the U.S. and abroad to earn her some sort of golden ticket (vintage, of course), Marion can spot a treasure.
Which part of being in vintage clothing is more fun, finding the treasures or watching someone at the Flea go home with one?
I LOVE to shop so the act of looking for the “treasures,” especially unique items you find in an unlikely place, is pure pleasure. Honestly, it’s probably an obsession. I’m well aware that it’s a fine line between being a “collector” and a “high-end hoarder”, so I’m probably more gratified by customers buying what I find than I am by finding it. When people buy, I get the thrill of discovery, the reward of seeing someone else’s appreciation for what I’ve found, and I have one less thing to lug home and store in my crowded house!
Have you ever had seller’s remorse? Like you loved an item so much you wanted to chase the buyer down and take it back from her?
Sometimes it’s better not to ask customers what they are going to do with an item. I collect bags by Whiting and Davis, which has been designing bags made of fine chain mail or mesh since the 1880s. They are very collectible (i.e. not inexpensive) and I had one in silver from the ’40s that was absolutely gorgeous, shiny, in beautiful condition with a lovely silver frame. When a woman decided she’d take it, we got to talking about how exceptional it was. Then I asked if she was buying it to use for a special occasion and I nearly asked for my money back after I found out: She was buying for a client who was collecting silver purse frames for use in her own bag constructions. The frame would survive but the rest of the bag was headed for the trash. That one really hurt. But looking back I guess it was another exercise in letting go, which is the only way you can keep collecting!
Do you find it challenging, as a vintage buyer, to find clothes from specific eras that are in good condition? How much “up-cycling” and repair do you do to an item before you put in on the floor?
Definitely challenging. I sometimes have a tailor mend things that are truly special; I found a black silk dress from the ’20s in the Clignancourt Flea market this past July that I had reconditioned. And I’ve learned how to felt enough to repair woolens that are worth the time. I’m not a seamstress so I think twice before buying something too damaged. I have some beautiful lace I’m sure someday I’ll learn how to dye but, honestly, probably not. There are some pieces worth having just because they were/are beautiful. It’s too sad to think of them ending up in the landfill. Those I’ll sometimes work on myself and if they can’t be resurrected I’ll keep them and wear them not minding the imperfections.
If you could dress any character on television/modern female icon (celebrity, politician, or otherwise) in Camel Girl Vintage who would it be and what would you put her in?
I’m loving the second season of Girls! I can’t tell who I admire more, Lena Dunham for her fearless talent or Hannah for her unabashed unselfconscious expressions of who she is and her personal style. For the past couple of years, you basically couldn’t sell vintage at the Flea and not have a pair of overall cutoffs or a romper or two on your racks. But only Hannah, as far as I know, was clever enough to put her own ironic spin on that must-have-staple and rebrand it as “the shorterall,” a kind of overall-cum-romper she’d dug up, no doubt, at some Williamsburg thrift store. Lena is one of of young Hollywood’s smarter dressers, in my opinion, and I’d love to have her shop the Camel Girl racks for herself and for Hannah. I’m also taken with Hannah’s friend, Jessa (Jemima Kurke); I love her knowingness and think her character always looks fantastic. In fact, I have a pair of high waisted silky blue and white polka dot trousers from the ’80s that I think she’d look great in. So, Jemima, if you’re reading this, I’m saving them for you!