What the press has said about Menage Modern Vintage
The Best-Kept Fashion Secret of 'The Crown'
New York Times, December 1st 2020
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BRITISH PEOPLE BEING BRITISH
Chiara Menage runs London’s Menage Modern Vintage, an online boutique that sells vintage and contemporary secondhand clothing. Many of her pieces ended up on the stars of season 4 of The Crown, but Chiara’s knowledge of Britain’s role in fashion history spans well beyond the prints and collars of the 1980s. Chiara kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions about her work as well as timelessness and trends in U.K. style.
Q: What makes you British?
A: Aside from being born here, that’s a difficult question at this precise point in history without getting bogged down in politics. A sense of the absurd is helpful.
Q: How would you describe British fashion?
A: It is defined by the tension between tradition and originality, with a national tendency towards eccentricity that has been around for centuries. We are lucky to have a great heritage in tailoring and textiles, such as Scottish tweeds, and still value quality and craftsmanship in today’s mass-produced market. We also have leading art and fashion schools which celebrate technique, innovation, and cultural diversity, all of which produce amazing talent and opportunity.
Q: Who is your favorite British designer of all time?
A: It’s not original but it would have to be Vivienne Westwood, for all the reasons above. Her endless inventiveness and wit combined with beautiful tailoring, her celebration of sexiness and subversiveness, her always being ahead of the curve from early punk to championing sustainability in recent years.
Q: Are their pieces in your collection you’ll never sell?
A: I try not to think like that any more. I originally set up the website in order to pass on my beloved hoard of clothes, which I didn’t wear any more but hadn't been able to part with, I clung on to them as an important part of my past. The hardest part was when I sold my most treasured piece, a rainbow sequin catsuit by Rifat Ozbek, in order to set up a small home studio and business. Actually I found it liberating to pass things on, and I get a lot of pleasure from the fact that they are going to good homes. Which is not to say I don’t still love them like old friends – I just think they deserve to be enjoyed and worn rather than sit in a wardrobe.
Q: You helped supply The Crown season 4 with many memorable pieces. Do you think any styles from the show will make a comeback?
A: That was such fun, and a real treat to work with the wonderful designer Amy Roberts. I can’t really see many of Lady Diana’s early looks catching on, but I thought both Princess Anne and Princess Margaret had some really stylish clothes, the English gentlewoman at her best. And I’m already looking forward to Diana’s revenge looks in Season 5.
Q: So many popular styles and trends have come from Britain (Laura Ashley, Liberty prints, Barbour, many more) — what are a couple of your favorites?
A: I’ve always loved textiles and fabrics, so the top of my list is Margaret Howell, whose clothes are enduringly stylish and luxurious, while being wearable every day. Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark, of course, and I am obsessed with the dazzling vision of Richard Quinn.
Q: Who are your top British style icons?
A: My background is in film and I was lucky to work with Tilda Swinton on a couple of films. She is superbly elegant, wears her clothes with great sensuality, and is not afraid to take risks. Kate Moss has always looked incredible in everything and I love that she was an early champion of vintage.
Q: What role, in your view, does the royal family play in the world of British fashion design?
A: I think the royals have always played a valuable role in promoting fashion and communicating messages. I like the new generation’s less formal approach. Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle are relatable in what they wear and often favour brands which are accessible to the general public. Princess Beatrice gets a special round of applause for borrowing her granny’s vintage dress for her wedding.
Q: Who do you have your eye on as up and coming fashion design or style talent out of Britain?
A: Even though my work is necessarily backwards-looking, I adore Molly Goddard, if she counts as up and coming. Her exuberant colours and shapes just make me feel happy!
A tweed suit to lift your spirits
Saturday Telegraph, October 17th 2020
Take a stand against fast fashion
Saturday Telegraph, September 19th 2020
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That’s Not My Age Podcast: Award-Winning Costume Designer Sandy Powell
September 21st 2020 - by Alyson Walsh
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You shall go to the ball... in preloved fashion
MilliOnAir, Oct Nov 2020
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Expert tips on how to buy and wear vintage
Curator Teresa Colonett photograph by Claire Pepper
Now we’re all thinking about sustainability and saving the planet, wearing vintage is cool again. ‘There used to be a misconception that vintage clothing was quirky, niche and nostalgic – the fashion equivalent of retro bunting and coronation chicken,’ says Chiara Menage of Menage Modern Vintage, ‘But that’s changing. There are so many benefits and pleasures to buying vintage.’
With the increasing concern about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment, shopping second-hand is an ideal way to find something new-to-you without adding to the problem. A thredUP report last year predicted that within a decade secondhand could overtake fast fashion, and, as the market grows, particularly online, choice and availability are better than ever. ‘There’s the thrill of finding something unexpected and unique,’ continues Chiara,’ the ability to buy top quality pieces – designer fashion becomes affordable just as high-end brands are being priced out of reach. There’s the quality of fabric, detail and workmanship in vintage clothes, which makes them feel better and hang better than anything you can buy new for a comparable price. They are on the whole more durable, and – most importantly – 100% sustainable. Have a look in your wardrobe to see what you can resurrect and what you can pass on. There’s a special pleasure in getting creative with your clothes.’
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Photos: Claire Pepper
This gorgeous, grey-haired woman is Chiara Menage, the founder of Menage Modern Vintage – an online clothing shop selling collectable vintage and contemporary pre-owned clothes, shoes and accessories. She has a classically cool sense of style and we bonded earlier this summer at Badgers Velvet Underground, when I was rummaging through her clothing rails for vintage Hermés and pre-owned Margaret Howell. (No purchases made, just yet).
Before launching her eponymous business, Chiara was a producer and editor in the film industry for many years, and I was most impressed when she told me that she worked on The Proposition (screenplay by Nick Cave). As a self-confessed sifter, collector and hoarder of clothes Chiara had reached the point where it was time to let some of her cherished pieces go, but wanted to find good homes for them. Embarking on the idea of a website, she subsequently encountered lots of other people whose treasured items had turned into clutter, and realised there was an opportunity to work on commission. After ransacking her wardrobe and raising £300 of seed money on eBay to buy photography equipment, Chiara set up a studio in her basement and launched Menage Modern Vintage, last year.
Here is Chiara Menage’s style profile:
Clothes are very important to me, a daily pleasure as simple as eating well. They are like old friends, I love them, look after them and keep them. I get enjoyment from finding the outfit that suits the mood or the occasion.
When I get dressed in the morning I’m thinking, Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now, or Angelica Houston/Faye Dunaway in absolutely anything. Classical, well-cut, coolly elegant. I tend to wear neutral colours and plain silhouettes, with maybe one special item or detail to make me feel cheerful. I love the Marni dress (in the above photo) because of it’s a great shape, but mainly because the fabric is so beautiful and the colours make me happy. I go for the feel of a fabric; texture is as important as pattern or colour. When scanning a clothes rail, I use my fingertips as much as my eyes. Comfort is important, high heels are a thing of the past and I wear trainers with everything unless I’m going somewhere special. I avoid anything with words, branding or logos, fast fashion, synthetic fabrics and overstated pieces.
When I worked in the film business I used to dress up more and buy quite expensive clothes, though I was never particularly interested in “fashion”. For some years now, with very few exceptions, I’ve only bought second-hand. I prefer finding, to shopping; you can afford much better in terms of design and quality, if you know how to look. I don’t think I’ve worn a new item of clothing for 14 years. Since I started the website, I’ve become increasingly aware of the compelling environmental argument and that clinches it, for me. I’m evangelical about slow fashion.
Menage Modern Vintage was a late career change. I’ve always collected clothes, and it was a friend’s daughter who suggested I start selling my unwanted pieces. I didn’t really think of it as a business initially, but I’ve learnt so much as a start-up. One thing I’m clear about is that I’m not putting any money in, I’m not doing anything – the business has to pay for itself. It’s so piecemeal!
People come to me to find one-of-a-kind items or whole collections. And I sell everything on commission. When I started talking about selling vintage clothing, I found lots of women had clothes they’d collected, or been given when friends or relatives had passed away. They felt quite emotionally attached to them and so wanted to give them to a good home.
The shirt in the first picture is vintage Hermés (exact vintage unknown but probably c.1970s) and it belonged to a very close friend, who died a few years ago. I used to love seeing her in it. It’s classy and fun and optimistic, very much like her. When I wear it I feel very connected to her. One of the things I love about wearing second-hand clothes is their associations with past owners, either imagined or real. I’m interested in the stories behind them, and so I’ve started a blog series called The Secret Life of Clothes on my website. The white trousers are by Loro Piana, they hold their shape and go with everything.. They’re from a charity shop – a real find as the quality is amazing and Loro Piana is usually unaffordable.
Menage Modern Vintage offers another way...
Planet Mindful, Winter 2018
You Magazine, 18th May 2018
Boho Weddings, 9th March 2018
"... We were sat next to the fabulous Chiara Menage (owner of Menage Modern Vintage), whose vintage wedding dresses had been modelled earlier while we listened to beautiful Operatic singing."