In her turban, tight-fitted waist and long fur coat, she looks like a decadent women of the post-war era. As a contemporary incarnation of a female type of bygone days, she emerges as very modern and chic. Her name is Catherine Baba. A Parisian stylist, known and imitated for her style and taste. She represents an idiom of style that strikes at the very heart of our time – the use of vintage.
Vintage can be defined as something characteristic of a particularly good year or quality. Along with ‘flea market treasures’ and ‘recycling’, ‘vintage’ has become an integral part of our vocabulary – within fashion, interior decorating, shop fitting, design and music, where the new is combined with something older of superior quality.
The popularity of vintage style is reflected in, among other things, the number of television shows about the value of and hunt for old design items. luxury flea markets pop up everywhere, and the haute couture and high end designs of the fashion industry are likewise vintage-inspired, just as new music and current motion pictures draw on sound bites, beats, ideas or styles from the past. For instance, The Artist, a 2011 silent movie, and the black and white, Danish-Polish Ida of 2015, are both Oscar winners that exploit references to earlier periods.
More than ever, vintage has become a valuable and sought-after commodity, possibly in response to our feeling of an increasingly accelerating society. It appeals to and attracts those who feel that durability, reuse and quality are important factors, and those for whom not least sophistication and the feeling of being distinguished from the common herd are attractive qualities.
Another important element lies in the retrospective. Vintage contains an element of nostalgia; it represents authenticity, and a sense of genuineness and originality that we crave in a world of copies, short-term consumer goods, mass production, and cheap off-the-peg clothing.
Transitory fashion can have an alienating effect. Ever-changing, it constantly pulls us in new directions, and we may not find the time to establish a real connection with any of it. Vintage culture forms a contrast to this.
There is hardly any doubt that a great future lies in store for vintage. It is unlikely that the market for authenticity, quality, and good style that others find hard to imitate, will decrease, because fleeting fashion will continue to be mainstream, and questionable and inferior designs will prevail. This trend is not only seen in the world of fashion, but within many other product categories. Mention but one mass-produced, medium-sized car that will achieve the same iconic status as, for instance, the VW Type 1 (the Volkswagen ‘Bug’ or ‘Beetle’).
Paradoxically, this may become the end of vintage. For if we chiefly favour the good quality of the past, and the creations of the present remain mediocre, how will future people find products of good quality from our age?
Do we produce anything at all which ordinary people can afford, and which has the potential to become vintage?
The present does not seem to produce any enduring classics of style; products that have the right combination of design and quality to stay the course.