Today marks the official launch of The American Vernacular, an incredible new vintage shopping site brimming with Chanel, Valentino, Givenchy and pretty much any amazing designer brand you can think of. Offering shoppers a glimpse into the history of fashion via aged photographs and designer biographies, the site aims to place vintage in context, making it an educational and inspirational place to browse for past-era pieces. The site’s owner and founder, Bryn Lander, hand-picks TAV’s selections during lengthy cross-country antiquing trips. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chat with her about her fashion-packed life and exciting new venture.
Bryn, when did your own interest in the world of vintage fashion begin?
I started buying vintage as soon as I was old enough to shop unsupervised and buy clothes with my own allowance! I have great memories of wandering through warehouse-sized thrift shops and flea markets around Los Angeles, and was always drawn to the bizarre assortment of pieces from different countries and eras.
Tell me a bit about your educational background—did you study fashion in school?
I actually studied American History at Columbia University, but took courses in fashion design and construction at Parsons. I also worked in various aspects of the fashion industry after graduation [in both public relations and at high-end vintage stores in NYC]. I just never really felt like I’d found something I was truly passionate about, though.
Until you decided to launch The American Vernacular, that is! How did the idea come about?
A little over a year ago, I decided to pursue an idea I’d had in the back of my mind—to open an online vintage store of my own. I went on a weeklong road trip to search for inventory and found some amazing pieces. On the long drive home, I was thinking about how great it’d be if I could find a way to help people feel a stronger connection to the pieces they’d be buying on my site.
And you did that with the historical aspect of the site, right?
Yes—shoppers have the opportunity to read brand histories for many of the designers and manufacturers featured in the shop, explore travel diaries and look through vintage photo archives showcasing American history and style throughout the 20th century and more. Hence our motto "Vintage in Context."
How did you choose the site’s name?
I knew I wanted something that would relate to the site conceptually without being too literal. I chose The American Vernacular because it represents the language I’ve created to express myself through my love of vintage fashion, American history, and travel.
How have you gone about sourcing TAV’s inventory?
I find the majority of pieces from vintage shops, garage sales, flea markets, estate sales, antique malls and auction houses while on the road. Once I settle on a route for each trip, I get in touch with anyone I know from that region to get the local perspective on where I should go and what I have to see. The rest is gathered from online searches.
What happens when you leave an antiquing visit empty-handed?
I’ve gone days without finding a single thing worth buying, sure. But the times I’ve stumbled across a Pierre Cardin dress, genuine alligator handbag (in perfect condition!), handmade, hundred-year-old lace capelet or authentic Morabito of Paris beaded evening purse from the ’20s make all that digging worthwhile.
Back to the idea of the cross-country trip—how does being out on the road inspire you?
I was born in Kentucky, grew up in Los Angeles and moved to New York almost 10 years ago, so I’ve always had strong ties to the midwest, west and east coasts and appreciated their distinct characters and histories. It’s so exciting to venture into the unknowm with a set of loose expectations about the regions I’m visiting—always knowing I’ll come out of it with a new understanding of the people, history and cities that make up every part of our country.
Who are your own personal favorite designers?
When I think of iconic American style, designers like Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Ralph Lauren and Bill Blass come to mind. I’ve always been a fan of 1970s aesthetic: classic designers that are elegant yet wearable. I’m also drawn to European designers like Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Cardin, Dior and Laroche—the ones who came of age at the end of World War II and helped establish Paris as the fashion center of the world.
How do you think the face of the fashion industry has evolved over the past few years?
In the past, a small group of established designers, women’s magazines and high-end department stores seemed to decide what was "in fashion" and consumers were directed accordingly. The process now is far less centralized. I’d say it’s the online magazines, blogs, e-commerce sites and consumers in general who have an opinion (and make an effort to share it) that have made the biggest impact in fashion over the last few years.
Be sure to check out the awesome selection at The American Vernacular—and see below for a sneak preview of some of the special pieces for sale!
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