Decades Founder Cameron Silver On How To Invest in Vintage, Catherine Deneuve’s Closet, and More

Lorein Abenhaim

 Decades Founder Cameron Silver On How To Invest in Vintage, Catherine Deneuves Closet, and MoreCameron Silver is very much a fashion historian. His claim to fame is Los Angeles vintage couture mecca Decades, which sells the likes of rare Hermès, Jean-Louis Scherrer Haute Couture and iconic Chanel pieces to discerning clientele ranging from Saudi Arabian princesses to celebrities. Silver’s career began as a hobby when he started collecting vintage clothing and over time he ended up with a reservoir of vintage couture, which soon filled the racks of Decades, which he founded in 1997. From pastime to full-time job, Silver’s vintage eye landed him on Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Names and Faces in Fashion” in 2002, while he also became a go-to for Hollywood stars dressing for the Grammys to the Oscars.
Next up for this fashion star is, naturally, a Bravo show, Dukes of Melrose, debuting as part of the network’s “Fashion Night” programming on Wednesday night. Sliver chatted with us about the one designer vintage item every woman should own, his favorite vintage era, and how to best invest in vintage.
The Vivant: What is that must-have vintage piece every woman should own?
Cameron Silver: You need a Chanel suit—in case someone dies or you have to meet the Pope.
Is vintage worth the investment?
It’s kind of that intrinsic, timeless design quality where you know you’re going to be able to wear this for the rest of your life. That’s why it’s worth it to put the money into it. Then there’s that museum quality, over the top, that you think you can only wear once. But I always say a chic woman knows how to wear something, like a red carpet gown, more than once. And all of the great fashion women of the past, like Nan Kempner and Lynn Wyatt, all repeat. You just need to accessorize differently.
What is your favorite piece of all time from your store?
I always say my favorite piece is the last one that sold. I love the dress that Jessica Chastain wore yesterday to the YSL show—a vintage Yves Saint Laurent sort of flame orange cocktail dress, because in the sea of grunge, she was so chic.
What is your favorite piece in Decades right now?
There are a couple of deco dresses, like these amazing flapper dresses that we didn’t take to New York because they’re fragile. They’re so incredible and you look at them and you realize—God these are 100 years old and just look at the side boob. Side boob is not a 21st century phenomenon.
Which women’s closets and vintage collections do you admire the most?
I love Chloë Sevigny’s collection, because she’s been a vintage champion for such a long time, and has such a curator’s eye. As far as closets I’d like to get into, they’re all dead. [Greta] Garbo, [Marlene] Dietrich, the greatest closets are all closets of dead people. I’ve been in the closets of most of the great living people. Listen, I have all of Catherine Deneuve’s clothes [who both buys and sells clothes to Decades]. Those are some of my most treasured moments. Getting a call from her in Paris, having the code to her apartment, looking at clothes, smoking those little skinny cigarettes, having almond coffee and buying stuff. That’s pretty cool.
What is your favorite era for great vintage finds?
The 70s was a great moment for American fashion designers. Anne Klein, Donald Brooks—this is when designers got international fame.
Any suggestions on investing in vintage, being that it can get quite expensive?
For basics go to H&M, go to Zara. Put your money into the conversation pieces. That’s what I would do. I don’t buy anything basic. I think a chic woman knows how to make black not look black, so she accessorizes well. That’s how a mannered woman does it.