When he left

Mr. Alexandre used to work here, from 1962 until he died in 2016.

From the street, looking through the window, it doesn’t look like this place is abandoned. He might come back. Someone might come back for their bespoke suit.

If you read Portuguese, please head to Blog dos Alfaiates, Mr. Alexandre’s story is there along with other stories about other masters of elegance.

Photo: Alexandre Alfaiate, Praça Coronel Pacheco, Porto

So this was Christmas

Last year Christmas was at my parents’ and I showed up extremely overdressed in a 70s brocade hostess dress. That was the movie in my head.

Since my grandmother and my great-aunt died, Christmas was put on suspension until it somewhat became unimportant and almost meaningless.

This year, my parents decided to go on holiday so for me there was no family dinner, no dressing up. It was grand.

On the morning of the 24th I followed the Butcher’s Brass Band through downtown Porto.

Butcher’s Brass band from Stella on Vimeo.

In the afternoon I visited a friend who ended up spending her Christmas in hospital. I don’t think she actually wanted to see people.

I only managed to meet by best friend for coffee after 5 p.m. We had to go to the train station, everything else was already closed. There’s a nice franchise place pretending to be real where you can have all sorts of complicated caffeinated beverages. There’s a lady with a little blonde girl sitting at the table next to ours. The little girl smiles at me and I smile back. She gives me a raisin. I thank her in French and her grandmother is happy she can ask for help with the tickets. Our French is not good but seems to work. I give the little girl a tissue printed with cats. She looks happy and tells us she has kittens at home. They’re from Belgium and are traveling to Aveiro to spend Christmas with the little girl’s uncle and his family. They leave.

loios

We go out to  check the fancy Alumia project “created to bring a new light into the Historic Centre of Porto and celebrate its 20th anniversary as World Heritage.” It looks much better on the website. At least the installations we managed to see. You can never believe what you see in photos.

statement
This is the one I was looking forward to see because I do spend a considerable amount of time looking for walls that make a statement. By artist Tiago Casanova the tiled wall stands where the ” Fernandina Wall” used to stand, by creating a visual barrier, it “evokes reflection over freedom and timeless building of social and economic walls.” I spent most of the year looking for walls with statements.

make-porto-podre-again

 

Still, it’s nice to walk on empty streets.

xmas

We had dinner at home. Not the traditional Christmas dinner, just nice and only for two. I watch old Hitchcock Presents episodes. Only one is about Christmas. I’m waiting for midnight to open my presents but I remember that when I was a kid at my grandparents we used to wait until Christmas morning. I decide to do that instead.

The coffee shop by us was opened, we have coffee and go for a drive. The day is sunny and bright and the sea has a beautiful silver reflection. We drive the long way to get to my brother’s for lunch. Everyone is paying attention to their phones and Whatsapp family group to have news of the baby waiting to be born. Poor kid, having a birthday at Christmas. It will never be about him.Conversations jump from being in labor to newborns to faith and DNA and genetic manipulation.

casablanca
Back at home, the marathon of classic movies is still on, Gilda, The King and I, Casablanca, 8 1/2.

The Washington Post news alert tells me, at 11.31 p.m., that George Michael has died. I look at the screen in disbelief. Yes, I’m sure that 1914 and 1939 were much worse than 2016 but this year just seems to be wiping out history as I knew it, taking talent away, leaving a selfish sense that yes, no matter how much you pray for time, you just see your youth disappearing.

I remember the first brand new car I ever got, a dark blue Wolkswagen Polo with a CD player that eventually got stolen. The guy at the car dealer gave me “Listen withouth prejudice” so I could drive away with music.

listen

The new baby held on until 5.30 this morning. I guess he just wanted his own day.

This was Christmas. It’s over. We don’t do Boxing Day in Portugal

 

 

 

Festive

At home with Fátima

I first started buying vintage and second-hand clothes while I was studying in England, when I moved back to Porto, after spending a couple of months in Mozambique, I met Orion (António Júlio). I remember him driving some sort of purple American convertible when I was still in high school and being mesmerized at this dark glamorous kind of Gothic urban cowboy and his entourage. Entering Amsterdam Underground, at the time on the first floor of the (now) iconic Centro Comercial Stop , I felt like an intruder arriving home. I was not Gothic, or underground but the empathy and the sense of belonging was immediate. I have spent many hours there, preparing for possibilities, sharing outrageous eccentric dreams and plans to transform a dormant city into a rainbow, checking architectural plans for his castle up North, admiring the stained glass that would decorate the windows, lusting after the Afghan rug coat that survived the 70s pilgrimage to Kathmandu and, again, missing a life that had not been mine.

In 2012 António Júlio died. Orion didn’t because constellation stars never burn out.


Being unique and unrepeatable, António Júlio had this ability to jump generations, to go against the norm, to insist, to create diversity by making our urban routes  amazing, and surprising . It is the sum of lives like this, in different areas, which make the wealth of cities

David Pontes


Fátima I met when her store, Rosa Chock Vintage,  looked like a psychedelic cloud at Rua Oliveira Monteiro, close to my former high school. I bought an amazing green 80s batwing leather jacket that still lives in my closet and gets a lot of compliments every time I wear it. “It looks so vintage” said the girl behind the counter at the coffee shop. Well, it actually is.


Fátima’s store then moved to Rua do Almada at the center of Porto’s new life but it kept it’s difference. It was never about following the retromania hype of curated new stores made up to look old and selling imaginary “retro vintage” items.


Fatima’ s store, now at Rua Formosa, is curated to the T. Curated for each individual that crosses her door and shares her love for detail and her passion for clothes with history ready to be used in new life stories. Curated for treasure hunters who enjoy the apparent chaos of the hundreds of scarves and necklaces and dresses and sequined tops and ruffles and leopard prints and stuffed animals and the old movie advertising posters bought from Orion.


Curated for all of us that still believe that a wardrobe door can be opened to enter a different dimension.


Fátima is a true vintage dealer who has worked with clothes all her life. She knows what she is selling, she knows the history, the context and she knows that clothes are never just clothes.  Like Gaultier, she knows that they are about “what you look like, which translates to what you would like to be like.”


A common friendship and a common sense of loss make me feel at home with Fátima at her larger than life albeit tiny shop but it is her expert eye, her understanding of how to match the right piece to what I have dreamed for myself that keeps me coming back. And this always feels like the truth.


Photos:

Featured image from: http://rgp-journal.ru/users/Amsterdam_Underground/page/1

Photos 3 and 7  courtesy of Fátima Leite

All others, my own

Expert

A day at the market 

Little adventures and missteps in the real world

Last week I had my first experience as a seller at a “Vintage Market” in Porto. Although it felt as something completely out of my comfort zone, I thought it would be interesting and even kind of fun to meet potential local customers since most of my modest business is done online and to other continents.

Vintage and craft markets are plentiful in the new retro-cool life of Porto even if “vintage” (at least for clothing) seems to be a somewhat loosely used catch phrase for any item that has been used before and that, in the mind of most market visitors, should have a price range anywhere between €0.50 and €5.00.  Maybe vintage just has a nicer, more appealing ring to the vast majority who is actually interested in secondhand bargain hunting.

Originally used  to denote a year’s wine harvest, the term vintage has been adopted by the fashion world to define “a rare and authentic piece that represents the style of a particular couturier or era” (Gerval, 2008). The most common definition today is perhaps that advanced by J.E. Cornett, “most clothing considered vintage dates from the 1920s-early 1980s. Pre-1920s clothing is considered antique, while clothing newer than the mid-1980s has not reached vintage status – yet.” Even so, both Etsy and eBay classify as vintage items that are at least 20 years old thus making way to “90s vintage”. Of course, nowadays we are almost forced to agree with Pauline Weston Thomas of Fashion-Era , “there’s no doubt that whether or not an item is Vintage is in the eye of the beholder.”

The growing popularity of secondhand shopping mainly connected with consumers eco-consciousness and  sustainability concerns as well as with the rise of “slow” and/or ethical fashion movements, has led to the erosion of  the negative social stigma for buying secondhand while vintage has developed into a “mega trend in clothing since the last decade all over the world, leading to major fashion brands launching collections inspired by vintage pieces or luxury haute couture houses digging into their archives to revive past designs. A number of second hand stores surfing on the trends also rename their stores as vintage” ( Cervellon, 2012).

Although the labels secondhand and vintage are close to become synonymous in consumers’ minds (Cervellon, Carey, and Harms 2012), I still think it’s important to make a clear distinction between them specially if you intend to keep some kind of integrity as a seller. 

The term second-hand refers to a piece of clothing which has been used before, despite the age of the clothes. Whether a second-hand cloth is vintage is determined by its age, and not the fact that it has been used (Mortara & Ironico, 2011).A  second-hand good is  also defined by the physical deterioration of the product, meaning that with every usage the product’s quality is reduced (Ohlwein 1990) even if it keeps it’s wearability. By comparison, vintage goods are not necessarily deteriorated or used (Cervellon, Carey, and Harms 2012).

With all this in mind I read all kinds of guides and blog posts on “making the most(and surviving) of your first market experience” and prepared all my stock identifying second-hand clothes and accessories and organized all vintage pieces by decade. I sold a grand total of four items. All of them second-hand.

All these considerations might not explain my experience at selling in the real world but have helped me to try to understand people’s motivations for visiting and shopping at vintage markets. As an avid shopper at vintage and flea markets of all sorts, I understand the thrill of the treasure hunt and the hope of finding that unique piece for a bargain. What I have failed to understand is that the majority of people visiting these markets are essentially bargain hunting and are neither interested in vintage nor can they distinguish between second-hand and vintage pieces.

Stepping out into the real world has not, overall, been a negative experience, I just misjudged my “target market” and will give it another go since, with the proper preparation, this kind of vintage market can, probably,  be the perfect outlet for the second-hand pieces that I haven’t been able to sell online.

 

References

Gerval, O. (2008). Fashion: Concept to Catwalk. London, UK: Bloomsbury

Cervellon, Marie-Cécile (2012). Back from the Past: specific antecedents to consumers’ purchase of vintage fashion vs. second-hand or recycled fashion.

Cervellon, M-C, Carey, L & Harms, T 2012, ‘Something old, something used: determinants of women’s purchase of vintage fashion vs second-hand fashionInternational Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol 40, no. 12, pp. 956-974., http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09590551211274946

Brake, Daria (2014) Online Second-Hand Shopping. Threat or Opportunity for Branded Products?

Ms. Berta’s beaded jersey 

Ms. Berta used to own an antique / vintage store at Galerias Lumière in Porto. Now reborn into a beautifully retro gourmet, design space quoted on most
tourist and “what to do in Porto” guides, these galleries opened in 1978 as one of the first shopping centers in Porto. Most of us growing up in the 80s remember the space as a movie theater with two cinema rooms (A and L). The cinemas closed down in 1997 and are now a parking lot, others businesses, like the store that sold all sorts of collectibles from coins to stamps to postcards and pocket calendars slowly died.

I started going to Ms. Berta’s store when I was in high school, which means I was mostly a window shopper kind of client until I built up the courage to get in and graduate into the browser / snooper kind. I was fascinated by the antique jewelry and lace gloves but the first thing a managed to buy from her was a 1960s handbag that I still own. This coral beaded jersey was bought on the last month or so before Ms. Berta closed her shop for good. I remember the day, I remember fragments of the conversation and that she had a friend and her grandson with her. Sadly I don’t remember the exact date. This was the first time I understood buying vintage clothes as creating bonds. It was her jersey. She had had it made for her and was letting it go. A piece of someone’s story that, unfortunately, faits a little too big on me. I’m also ready to let it go.