Formerly an art dealer, a furniture designer and an interior designer, William Banks-Blaney made the leap into fashion and launched his vintage emporium, William Vintage, in 2009. Ever since, he's carved out a reputation as being "the vintage king," with his store in the Marylebone neighborhood of London a veritable fancy-dress box of extremely collectible fashion—we're talking Balmain, Balenciaga, Dior, Poiret and more.
But you don't have to be confined to the capital to get your hands on it: Banks-Blaney's new website solves that problem. But before you do get shopping (and potentially get lost down something of a vintage fashion rabbit hole), meet the man himself, hear his vintage shopping tips, then see what his favorite buys are (warning: these are serious pieces, so they come with very serious price tags, too—hey, we can dream!)
William, what is the appeal of vintage fashion for you?
It is so layered in appeal: beautiful fabrics, rich colors, wonderful construction, and I suppose the fact that it's a treasure whether it's an inexpensive maxi or an important evening gown. These clothes have already lived lives we will never know about and are ready to live another with us now—and that's terribly exciting.
What was the first vintage thing you ever bought?
A fantastic and fun '60s mini dress that I found in New York, many years before I founded William Vintage. It became a very well-loved 30th birthday present for a university friend and it was the first time I really saw the magic in vintage clothing for a modern woman.
What is the best piece you've ever found?
I have so many things that spring to mind, as we have had some amazing discoveries. I suppose unearthing a perfect Pierre Balmain crystal-covered ball gown in a medieval cellar in Paris may be the best "moment," so far.
What are your vintage-sourcing tips—or are they a secret?
They are largely secret, but I will say: don't be a label snob, and look everywhere because clothes can travel and you can find wonders where you least expect them.
Do you ever find pieces you don't want to sell?
There are always the pieces that you fall in love with strongly but, no, I am strict with myself and more than anything I love seeing something I find start life with a new owner.
What fashion labels do you think people should invest in now?
There is very strong contemporary design out there and always go for something with a designer's inherent signature: such as the beadwork and printing of Mary Katrantzou or the color-blocking of Roksanda, or the romance of Simone Rocha.
Now that you've met the man, meet the pieces he would add to his cart right now, if he didn't own the joint!
"The perfect Summer maxi for those who want to stay in beloved black. Simple, one-size-fits-all and über-chic."
"A brilliant bolt of color and perfect with a T-shirt or a crisp white shirt for a sunny day."
"A fantastic LBD shaped to the body and with the added punch of rich black feathers and sequins—it's a great way of making the dress speak and not having to worry about accessories or finding a standout makeup trick."
"Ossie Clark was a legendary British designer who dressed Bianca Jagger, Twiggy, and nearly every '60s and '70s icon. His daywear and separates still have that rock-star chic to them."
"A superb and rare example of Yves Saint Laurent in his '20s when at Dior. It's not only the ultimate LBD and still so wearable but it's a wonderful investment piece: an identical dress was owned by Wallis Simpson and is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum."
"I love this two-piece. It's perfect for warmer weather, it's beautifully tailored and timeless but it also works with the current folk trend."
"In the '70s, Halston didn't only dress you for a nightclub, but for daywear, too. Ultrasuede is wonderful and was a very expensive fabric at the time—[it has] the look of nubuck suede but machine washable and still a great wardrobe staple."
"Courregès was a '60s genius and his whole career was about giving women wearable, resilient clothing and usually in an amazing, bright color. This coat is perfect with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt."
"This is the real Balmain army: strong color, opulent, embellished, and with some real attitude."
"An icon of '60s design, and a source of inspiration for designers today, this '60s Cardin is a classic. Strong graphics, clean lines, and as wearable today as it was 50 years ago."
For more, see williamvintage.com.