January 2020 Issue: Defining Vintage

The word “vintage” is ascribed to items in the range of at least 20, but more appropriately 50 years old or older.  Unlike “antiques”—definitively defined at 100 years old or older—“vintage” falls more in the “I’ll know it when I see it” category of retail marketing, used to define and add value to a universally recognized and shared design aesthetic referencing a period, look, and style that is now regarded as timeless and classic.
In fashion, “vintage” is a colloquialism commonly used to refer to all old styles of clothing.  In furniture, the word has a broader application and can mean furniture from any period, but is most often used to refer to furniture made in the 20th century.  When it comes to vintage watches, one of the hottest fashion and investment trends for young, wealthy collectors, timing is everything, with the term vintage attached to timepieces from the 1940s to typically the last decade of the 20th century.
I prefer Merriam-Webster’s definition of vintage: “of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality.” 
Regardless of how it is defined, there is no doubt that vintage is the hot current buzz word, driving buyer and collector interest in everything from clothing to fashion accessories, furniture, home-ware products, wallpaper, and jewelry.
Items once sold as second-hand goods at thrift stores, consignment shops, and garage sales—mostly discarded for age and out-datedness or donated as charity—are now finding new homes and elevated status (and value) at vintage shops, bazaars, flea markets, antique malls, and even selectively at antiques shops that have long held the line at goods being at least 100 years of age. Vintage has even found a home on the internet.
The rise in popularity of vintage puts old and used items in a new light among a new generation of buyers and collectors who might never have found themselves at an antique shop, show or auction but now comb through booths at antique and collectibles flea markets and local thrift stores, as well as search the internet for items that inspire them, fit with their design ideal, or can be restored or “repurposed.”
A change in consumer attitudes towards wearing and utilizing second-hand goods is also turning vintage a cause, framing the choice as a commitment to eco-sustainability, “going green,” and recycling. Older items, period-defining pieces of the mid-century, and of-the-era fashions now have value under the vintage tent and are items perceived as worth collecting, preserving, and repurposing.
While we tend to view and value vintage items based on the appeal of and interest in their visual representation, and of course their quality and condition, the movement is also establishing a legacy for the many unknown artists, makers, and designers whose looks, products, use of materials, and artistic contributions helped define their eras. A dress from the 1960s may have vintage appeal but an Oleg Cassini dress from the 1960s will cost more and be more valuable. A watch from the 1940s or 50s may be stylish, desirable, and affordable, but a Rolex watch from that same time period will set you back a small mortgage. Vintage steamer trunks and hard-case luggage are great decorative accessories that can be affordably found at flea markets and online, but a 1950s Louis Vuitton hard shell leather suitcase can run in the thousands. Maker ID and the designer behind the item matters, and the more that name is shared the more it becomes a value driver in the marketplace.
But just like the word “antiques,” which over time has been appropriated to promote a wider range of older items still too young to be officially classified as such, the word vintage is also being over-extended, blurring the lines that define the difference between what is old and vintage that help establish value. The vintage furniture market, in particular, is also challenged by a rise in aesthetic-based new items designed by intent to look “vintage.” Often these items are found side-by-side with their authentic counterparts, requiring buyers to do their homework and not take what they see at face value.
In this issue we explore the many facets of vintage, with a look at iconic American fashion designer Oleg Cassini, a new exhibit on vintage Levi Strauss-wear at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, the resurgence of interest in vintage wallpaper, hot trends in decorating with vintage from rubylane.com, and the value of vintage watches at auction, among other editorial.
There is nothing more fun than indulging your passion for vintage and antiques at a show. Inside this issue, you will find our 2020 Annual Show Directory with listings for over 400 antique shows, vintage bazaars, conventions, and collectibles markets taking place across the country throughout the coming year. We hope you will use this valuable resource to plan day trips and travel adventures that will connect you to the stories and people that will bring items from our near and distant past back to life in your home and collection.