STEPHANIE CAVALLI’S VINTAGE QUEST WITH LA GARÇONNE
SEPTEMBER 22, 2020
by KRISTOPHER FRASER
COURTESY of BILL WESTMORELAND
She’s modeled for fashion brands all around the world, and she’s spent years of her life seeing some of the finest fashions, and now she’s dedicated to bringing those fashions to you via her intimate boutique La Garçonne. Model Stephanie Cavalli has had a love for vintage fashion since she was a young girl. Growing up, her father used to collect antiques. She would go to the flea markets in Rome, Italy with her father and walk through the antique markets curious about the vintage clothing.
In 2013 when she went to Paris, she began discovering beautiful antique clothing and accessories that she just fell in love with. Back then, she didn’t know that she would want a second career selling vintage goods. Once she realized it was something she could do with her life in a business manner she set out to make it happen, and thus La Garçonne was born.
Cavalli officially began La Garçonne five years ago doing market shows. In November of 2019, she was walking by a small empty space in Callicoon, New York. “The space was filled with sunlight, and I thought it was the most beautiful space I’ve ever seen,” Cavalli said. “I got really excited about it, so I contacted the person that owned the building and asked about possibly renting it and he said it was available. I pretty much rented on a whim. Since then, it’s become my baby. I take care of it, I feed it with clothes and with ideas that represent the way I am. It really reflects my personality.”
One of Cavalli’s favorite things about the La Garçonne boutique is how small and intimate it is. She guestimates the space is 12 by 16 at most. She works diligently to make sure it’s very curated since the space is so limited.
“I try to curate it, but at the same I also want to feel what I used to feel when I was younger or a teenager walking into the spaces that were filled with wonder,” Cavalli said. “I remember the feeling of walking into antique shops and feeling the wonder of all different things and the more I looked the more I found treasures. I want other people to have the same feeling when they come into my shop.”
Cavalli also describes La Garçonne as walking into someone’s living room where you can feel very much at home. In a world prior to coronavirus, she could have up to six people in the store at the same time and they would all talk, listen to music, and maybe even do a little dance number. In the interim, she still works to give people that feeling of walking into a more personal space through her curation of store.
Callicoon became her choice for the boutique because she lives just fifteen minutes away in Pennsylvania. She used to have a warehouse space in Hudson, New York that housed many of her vintage pieces, but it took over two hours to drive there. She saw a fifteen minute drive as an ideal distance, and Callicoon is also a small up-and-coming town that continues to attract new businesses, especially women owned ones. After the exodus of New York City residents during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Callicoon also saw an increase in population and a new set of clientele who are looking for small, special shops with unique finds.
Cavalli says the most fun part of her job is looking for vintage products. “I always say sourcing products cures my compulsivity to shop because I can really shop,” Cavalli said. “I usually travel a lot. I go to Italy and France and forage for some of my oldest pieces. Unfortunately, I can’t travel right now, but I have colleagues over in Europe who can go foraging for pieces for me and then ship them overseas to me here. Over here, I love going to estate sales and auctions. Those small country auctions can be a lot of fun. People also know I’m constantly looking for things, so they will contact me if they have something they want to sell or know somebody who is looking to sell really old garments, accessories, and objects. While I love antique furniture, clothes are the easiest thing to move around, transport, and store. I’ve been learning how to sew, which is something I didn’t know how to do before. I’ve also been learning how to dye pieces to give them a different look. If I get a piece and there’s a problem with a sleeve, I just get rid of the sleeve and create a short-sleeve dress. The process that goes on behind the scenes in the shop is a creative process that I’m absolutely in love with.”
The La Garçonne customer is a mix of both men and women between ages 30 and 50, but, recently, the store has begun attracting more young customers who have become interested in sustainability and vintage shopping. Cavalli has found that vintage menswear is actually more sought after than vintage womenswear because it’s harder to find. As sustainability also becomes one of the most dominant words in the fashion industry, it has also become part of Cavalli’s mission in the fashion industry.
“We’re living in a world right now where people have been consuming like crazy, and there’s this division between the worlds of fast-fashion and slow fashion,” Cavalli said. “Fast-fashion is about everything right away and it’s easy, cheap, and readily available. You can wear fast-fashion for two months, and then it’s out of fashion. Those aren’t pieces you really care about, so you just throw them away. With vintage, overproduction of things is completely avoided. You can find pieces that are reusable and unique. The good thing about vintage is that when you wear something you know you’re going to be one of the very few people wearing the same thing. It’s the uniqueness of it that makes it more appealing compared to another garment that everyone has. That makes a huge difference, and if we could all turn to that direction in the fashion industry rather than always trying to consume and produce it would be much better for everybody involved and it would give value back to things, rather than just using things and throwing them away, then they wind up in landfills. We have been producing too many products.”
Cavalli’s eye for quality vintage fashion is also helped by her 20 years of experience as a model. “Over the years, I’ve seen how people’s tastes change and how it’s a real cycle,” she said. “If you look at the twentieth century, everything really goes by decades. One decade is very relaxed and another decade is a little more uptight. Every decade is a reaction to the previous decade. You also see how some things never really change and working as a model helped me really fine tune what people are looking for. Having worked with stylists, I have also seen how certain garments can be suitable for certain bodies opposed to other kinds of bodies. Working in the fashion industry has helped my eye for curating my shop more than anything.”