Cameron Silver, the man responsible for bringing vintage back, has come to Seattle to share his story and promote his new book, Decades: A Century of Fashion, at Tiffany & Co. in Bellevue Square. Before this event we had the privilege to interview him on his new book and Bravo docu-series as well as get his styling expertise.
Seattleite: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your book Decades: A Century of Fashion?
CS: When I was encouraged to write the book I didn’t want to make a book full of pretty pictures. I wanted to do something that had enough beauty to be on a coffee table, and enough depth to be in a fashion student’s locker.
Seattleite: What was your reason for writing this book?
CS: The way it happened was funny. I was in an SUV on the way to the Ronald Reagan library with a woman named Jean Stein (famous for her many works including the Edie Sedgwick bio, Edie: An American Beauty), and she said ‘You need to write a book.’ So she called her lit agent and within 24 hours we had a gimmick, in two weeks a bidding war and then the book was born!
Seattleite: Your book covers the whole 20th century how did you choose the specific elements highlighted in each decade?
CS: The concept of the book is to look at every decade in a modern way. Once I saw dualities in each decade, like Grace Kelly and Bettie Page or Pillbox Hats and Pills, it started to roll off my tongue. It’s not meant to be a definitive picture of fashion; it’s my vision.
Seattleite: Fashion books and style guides have become much more popular nowadays, how is your book unique from all the others?
CS: The one thing that is unusual about this book is that I was allowed to write it in first person. Everything I say is about my journey… a bit egotistical. I wanted it to be like story telling, like you came to the store and are hanging out with me.
Seattleite: Through your book, Decades: A Century of Fashion, what is the main message you would like to express?
CS: There is a quote in the back of my book by Rudi Gernreich, he says, “ Fashion must be new.” And I say “ If it’s in fashion, its already old.” My goal is to liberate people from trends, and inspire them dress up because its fun to dress up!
Seattleite: Do you have plans to write a sequel?
CS: I’m actually working on 4 more books! There will be a follow up to this book; I couldn’t fit everything I wanted into one. I should also make a little kids book, little kids love clothes.
Seattleite: You started out in 1997 and in 2002 became one of TIMES “most influential names and faces in fashion.” Tell us about your inspiration for starting Decades as well as your growth and journey.
CS: I was 27 when I opened the store and I had never done business. But I had a notion and was always interested in history and the past. Really the trip to Seattle where I shipped so much stuff home played a pivotal role in the building of Decades. I was on tour singing German Cabaret in Seattle when I bought vintage Dior, 3 Gernreich kabuki dresses, a Pauline Trigere coat and a YSL suit.
Seattleite: Since Bravo announced you and your business partner Christos Garkinos will have a docu-series on the network, fans have been going crazy! Can you tell us more about the series and what it will be about?
CS: The show centers on the business of Decades as well as the social and philanthropic aspects of it. I want it to be entertaining as well as a fashion history lesson. You’ll get to see the Auctions in Paris, shopping at flee markets and red carpet dressing; basically, the dynamics and challenges of running a small business.
Seattleite: I know this isn’t your first time on television, but what are your feelings about shooting this series?
CS: This is the most realistic show I have ever done. There is so much going on; I am the most over programmed person on the planet. You will see me styling a nominated actress for the Oscars, curating an exhibition and dealing with deadlines for the book. It was extremely exhausting because everything that’s happening on the screen has really happened. I just hope we have broken the formula for realty TV in that you really do learn.
Seattleite: You are the epitome of a fashion mogul – having opened Decades, working with Azzaro and Samsonite, and now your book and docu-series. What has been the most rewarding experience to you so far?
CS: What I find most rewarding is interacting with real people. I love a fashionista with unexpecting style. I love meeting people. I love story telling. But my favorite aspect is interacting with woman of a certain age who aren’t dead yet.
Seattleite: Since your store is named ‘Decades’ it seems only natural to ask what decade you are most inspired by?
CS: I’m mostly drawn to the 70’s because I became aware of fashion then. It’s a great moment for American fashion; it represents everything that happened before the world fell apart in the 80’s.
Seattleite: You have styled many fashionistas and celebrities, is their one person or outfit that you are particularly proud of?
CS: Chloe Sevigny and Kristin Davis. Chloe and I have worked together for 15 years and everything she wears is very progressive. I still love that moment when she wore a print to the Emmy’s when no one wore prints to the Emmy’s. I also worked with Kristin Davis for her Sex and the City 2 run where she wore all vintage all the way through – its a very special moment when an actress does vintage for a whole run.
Seattleite: What is your biggest tip for buying vintage and wearing it?
CS: It’s all about the concept of modernity. When you’re buying vintage ask yourself ‘Does this look modern?’ No matter the year, you want it to look relevant today. ‘Is it sexy?’ You don’t want to look Amish unless you’re actually Amish.
Seattleite: What is your favorite fashion trend right now and what do you see becoming popular in the future?
CS: Anti-seasonal dressing, spring in the winter and winter in the spring. It’s a very liberating way to dress, bright colors in the fall and sad colors in the spring – it’s the silver lining to global warming!
Seattleite: What is your definition of vintage?
CS: Vintage is constantly being redefined. Modern clothing has become so collectible. Is a McQueen piece vintage? It’s certainly valuable. I’d say 15 years old or older is vintage; however, it is a very fluid and ever changing definition.
Seattleite: Any final thoughts on your book or fashion that you would like to share with your fans?
CS: I don’t sell clothes I just tell stories and this is my first story!