SameSide's Lifestyle Editor, Ariel Kochbarski hosted a live discussion with Hannah Canham, Founder of This is Era Vintage Archive. Hannah is a prominent vintage collector, researcher, design consultant and former fashion designer. Hannah is the founder of This Era Archive, a carefully curated collection of vintage clothing spanning the early 1900s - 1990s, available for rent. She has been building her collection since 2018. The archive is an inspiration library for designers.
In 2019 This Era Archive published a vintage shopping book (which we loved and included in our Sustainable Stylish Life Gift Guide) with contributions from 23 creatives around the world, including 25 cities: Treasures, The Vintage & Secondhand Shopping Guide to the World.
We wanted to publish a written version of our conversation for those that missed the event. Please read on to learn more about Hannah and her important work.
Our Flier from Our Discussion featuring Ariel & Hannah
Hannah's Treasures book, a guide to vintage shopping around the world
Ariel Kochbarski (AK): Hannah, can you tell us what an Archive is?
Hannah Canham (HC): An archive is a collection of something that is being stored and recorded. The intention being to preserve and protect the items. In my case This Era Archive is somewhere between an archive and a lending library, as first and foremost it is a design resource. But I consider it my responsibility to document, keep organized and take care of the clothing in the archive, so that it will still exist in 100 years.
AK: what designers do you have pieces from and work with?
HC: The archive is a bit of an A-Z of great designers such as Bonnie Cashin, Christian Dior, Comme Des Garcons, Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio Armani, Kenzo, Prada, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Yohji Yamamoto, The list goes on, but I also collect pieces that I admire for their design integrity but are not by well known designers. As for the designers I work with, I can’t divulge their names but I can say I work with designers in Paris, New York, L.A, Spain and Australia, from Independent labels to luxury brands.
AK: Do you have any favorite items?
HC: I try not to because everything I collect for the archive I truly love. But some of the pieces I collected early on are very special to me, I also have a 1970s Yves Saint Laurent safari suit in pristine condition that is a favorite.
AK: How did you get into this line of work?
HC: I studied fashion design and after graduating from RMIT in Melbourne I moved to New York and worked as a fashion designer there. As part of my job I was often sourcing vintage for inspiration and visiting vintage archives, until I realized that was the part of the job that I loved the most and decided to do it full time, launching my own archive. So I curate This Era Archive from a different perspective to other archives, I am not a fashion historian, I am collecting from a designers point of view for designers.
AK: What is important to you about present day designers working with vintage?
HC: Really just to be inspired, there is kind of a ‘dirtiness’ around the idea of copying, but really I think it is so important to acknowledge and be aware of what design has come before our time, and to constantly re-invent this is a perpetual cycle of inspiration.
AK: What inspired you to write the Treasures book?
HC: I was surprised it didn’t already exist. People often ask me for vintage shopping recommendations and at the time, I was also traveling a lot, and whenever I would be going to a city the first thing I would do was research the vintage shops in the area, and then when I got there traipse around visiting every one of them. So it made sense for me to consolidate this information into a book. I only wanted to make recommendations for the cities that I had lived in or knew really well and it seemed like it would be a lot more fun to make the book collaboratively, so I connected with fellow vintage lovers, some of whom I knew from working in the fashion industry and some of whom I just got in touch with. It was also about timing, vintage was and still is really having a moment so I wanted to harness that to highlight vintage stores and help support these small businesses.
AK: Can you highlight some of your favorite shopping destinations in New York and Los Angeles, since we are mainly based there?
HC: Of course! New York for me could have been it’s own book, and maybe one day it will be! In New York I love James Veloria, Marlene Wetherell, New York Vintage, Quality Mending Co, Ritual, Amarcord, Front General Store, Stella Dellas 10 ft. Single, Mirth, Resurrection, Ellen 123, Screaming Mimis there are so many! It was so hard to narrow down to 5 for the book but you can find my absolute favorites in Treasures. I was lucky enough to have stylist, Sissy Sainte-Marie share her vintage shopping recommendations for L.A in Treasures but I haven’t had the chance to visit all of the stores she included yet. Some of my favorites in L.A are Scout, Ragg Mopp, Decades, Passenger and Mixed Business which has sadly just closed it’s bricks and mortar location but is still online!
AK: You live in Madrid now, what part of the city there is best for finding vintage treasures?
HC: Madrid is a very small city, you can cross the entire center in about 30 minute on foot so the vintage stores I love are spotted around the whole city, but my favorite ritual is going to El Rastro, the flea market, every Sunday very early at 10am (for Spain this is early!) My favorite vintage shops inside the flea market are also included in Treasures.
AK: As sustainability takes on this sort of buzz word status in fashion, what do you feel is still needed for us to get to a point of conscious consumerism?
HC: I wish I knew the answer to this! I think it is really nice to see how concerns for sustainability in the fashion industry are becoming more mainstream, but I also think it’s not just about what we buy it’s about how we buy, so that we buy less and only buy things we really need or will love , look after and keep for a long time.
AK: What do you wish everyday people knew about that could change their buying habits?
HC: How much waste there is! I’d really like to see companies and individuals thinking in a more circular way, I kind of joke when I purchase anything that ‘I’m responsible for this item for it’s entire life now’ but I really mean it! We all need to think this way and take responsibility for repairing our clothes when they get damaged, or reselling them if we no longer need them, and never throwing them away or buying things we won’t keep for a long time.
AK: I, personally, use The Real Real as well as Thred-Up for buying and consigning items. Are there any other prominent e-commerce focused companies that we should be aware of?
HC: Most of the stores in Treasures have online stores or sell on Instagram, all of which I’d recommend visiting, but I also use Etsy, Ebay, Resee, Vestiare, 1st Dibs, Garmentory, and Far Fetch that now also has some pre-owned items.
AK: Lastly, how do you see your role as a vintage collector and fashion archivist changing post 2020 and into the future?
HC: Usually I do pop-up showrooms in the U.S and Paris and bring a portion of my archive for design appointments, this year I’ve really missed those in-person interactions and it’s emphasized how important relationships with my clients are. For me this year highlighted less what I need to change and more the importance of sticking with it, to persist with what I’m doing. I think patience and perseverance are key in good times and bad.
Adrian costume design for 'The Women', 1939
L'Officiel Magazine Image from 1973
Q&A Questions from attendees:
Diane Chiang (DC): Out of curiosity, a lot of vintage shops have closed in my city. Have any shops in the book closed? (Diane is based in Seattle)
HC: Sadly yes, I am currently working on a google map version of the book so that it will be easier to check what stores are still open when visiting a city. When it launched anyone that has purchased the book in the past will receive access to the Treasures google maps for every city included in the book. The silver lining is that a lot of the vintage stores included in the book, some of which closed their bricks and mortar shops, have either launched e-commerce for the first time or are focusing more online, so I’m glad we can still shop with them!
From DC: What are some common things to look for when buying vintage?
HC: I think it a great place to start is fabric content, such as 100% wool, cashmere, silk, cotton or linen and where the item is made, these are good indicators for quality, a brand label can also give you some more information.
From Nicole aBeckett: What is an unexpected city with great vintage?
HC: Shanghai was a surprise for me, I was so happy to have vintage blogger Stella contribute her recommendations to Treasures, and from the photos and her descriptions the vintage shopping scene looks very interesting, I would love to visit! I also have some extra recommendations in the book in Tasmania, Puglia, Ibiza and Vienna which might also come as a surprise.
From DC: I’ve got another one, if that’s okay. How does one go about researching a piece? Example: How do you find out what era a certain piece is from?
HC: This is the fun bit for me, it can be quite investigative. The label often is filled with hints for figuring out when a garment is from, there is also a very handy website vintagefashionguild.org that has photographs of designer labels from different decades so you can try and match the label on the vintage item you have with one on the website and that could tell you when it’s from.
From Ondine Patout: Hi! I actually have a business question if that is ok. I am a vintage collector myself, renting but selling also. I started online in Feb 2020, through a website and Instagram, but as you know Instagram is full, therefore would you have any other recommendation for visibility? (I’m based in Paris :)
HC: I would recommend visiting vintage fairs and connecting with the community there, or exploring having your own stall at a market or fair. Some great vintage fairs I can recommend are A Current Affair, Manhattan Vintage, Frock Me or also selling through online vendors such as Vestiare Collective or Etsy that already have a lot of traffic on their websites.
From Jaya Prathusha: Shopping for vintage is such a unique and exciting shopping experience, do you think there will be a lot of innovation in the future for making vintage shopping more accessible and find creative ways to opt for shopping vintage?
HC: I hope so! On my last travels (when that was possible) I was excited to see vintage being sold in multi-brand stores, department stores and stores that sell primarily new brands such as Merci in Paris and Liberty in London, I think we will be seeing a lot more of this with nearly all new clothing stores wanting to incorporate an element of vintage for sale too.
From Lauren: Can you talk a bit to how you source….do you buy from vintage retail stores or do you have direct relationships with collectors? how does price/cost/margins factor into what you purchase? and can you also talk to how your sourcing process has evolved during the pandemic?
HC: My favorite way to source is to shop in person, especially when I travel, in vintage retail stores and flea markets, but I also buy directly from vintage collectors or individuals, on auction websites, and pretty much anywhere I can find vintage. I'm in a bit of a different position when it comes to cost and margins because I am buying for an archive or to rent, not to re-sell. I do sourcing for vintage e-commerce sometimes and then that changes where I can buy from and the budget.
Of course, this has changed this year with the pandemic and not being able to travel, I have only been able to buy on vintage e-commerce sites, and from auction websites. I have still found some amazing pieces but it almost means you have too much choice and I can’t possibly buy everything I find! It’s much easier for me to source in person, I love the element of discovery in shopping in stores and at markets.
Hannah Canham's This is Era Vintage website: Thiseraarchive.com
And on Instagram: @thiseraarchive