On March 15, the super cool vintage boutique Decades, Los Angeles hosted a Jean-Paul Gaultier pop-up shop at the legendary Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. As a long-time fan who obsessed, although did not purchase, his first Gaultier piece at 14 years old I was very excited to see what what lay in store. That sleeveless and backless men’s motorcycle leather vest that I first fell in love with at the closed-for-many-years-now Ralph Davies Boutique back in 1987 is a piece which at the time represented a spirit of freedom for me that I didn’t think existed in high fashion and certainly not in most menswear of the time. Prior to my encounter with Gaultier pieces, I used to save my money from my after school job as a busboy for Girbaud jeans, pointy-toed boots with skull buckles from NaNa’s on Polk St. and maybe the odd Perry Ellis piece that I found at Neiman’s Last Call sales but I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that a Paris-based designer was already putting men in skirts, inspiring lead singers of pop bands such Cameo’s Larry Blackmon to wear a red cod piece (it became his signature), and basically becoming the first internationally renowned high fashion bad boy. Gaultier has most famously put Madonna in cone-shaped bras and did the costumes for her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour and of course, dressed almost every celebrity of consequence during the late ’80s and through the ’90s. Unfortunately, in recent years Gaultier pieces for both women and men have become exceedingly difficult to come by and sadly that includes new collections at full prices. Several years ago, a Gaultier Boutique opened at The Wynn in Las Vegas but it has subsequently shuttered, a fate also met by the New York City Boutique.
These are just a few key reasons why Cameron Silver and his store Decades are so important to stylists and serious vintage shoppers. Looking for a one-of-a-kind Gaultier to wear to the de Young’s Opening Gala on Friday? Decades hast it. A sought after piece from the estate of the late Lyn Revson? Ditto. At a time when a great designer such as Gaultier has become difficult to find in stores across the USA, it is a huge relief to know that one can peruse the Decades website and find just the right piece. Alternatively, join their mailing list for trunk shows and pop-up shops to shop in you own city and in person. The sale at The Mark Hopkins turned out to be really fun since they were filming for a Decades Reality TV show which will debut on Bravo and we even spent time talking with The de Young Museum’s Jill D’Alessandro, the curator for the upcoming Gaultier exhibit which opens this Friday, March 23rd. The same curator responsible for bringing Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent and most recently Balenciaga to The de Young Museum. As luck would have it, the Decades sale did not have a men’s selection and a close male friend of mine whose an even bigger Gaultier fan than myself attended the event with me and was duly disappointed. We walked around for about forty-five minutes looking at everything when finally I told him he should try on a women’s mid ’90s black wrap-around jacket with a shawl collar in silk. He refused so I tried it on, he stared at it as did Cameron and both decided they also wanted the jacket on the spot which was only $450 and in perfect condition. The jacket was free of any bust darts and we all remembered that an almost identical men’s version had been made so we all exchanged nervous glances at the prospect of a bidding war, after all this is a vintage Gaultier piece and apparently highly sought-after. I saw the look in my friend’s eye and couldn’t get myself to keep the jacket for myself since he spent the entire 1990s in Gaultier while I became an infidel when the Versace bug hit me in the early 1990s. At that moment, I decided to part with my Gaultier find but kept a good friend – who owes me one! -Victor Vargas