When I bought these classic Gucci loafers at Gabrielle’s slice of heaven, The Collective, I was touched by their story: the original and only owner was the the great Aunt of the consignor, and she had worn and cared for these beloved shoes for years. The chance to own a pair of authentic Gucci loafers, such a chic contemporary shoe, was beyond exciting, but the truth is that I bought them for their story. To own a pair of shoes that had been so well loved and cared for was the real gift. Gabrielle told me that the label was an older one that she had not seen; gold “Gucci made in Italy” stamp with gold metal “Gucci” plate and crest shield. My research of this label and stamp dates it back to the 1950s!
So what life had these shoes lived before me? Where did they go? Whom did they see? Were they city shoes? Did they go to the theater? Casual lunches? Did they follow the Jackie Kennedy-trends in the 1950s and 1960s? Were they part of the feminist movement of the 1970s? Where did they go in the 1980s? Were they worn with full shoulder pads and wild hair? They must have survived the grunge movement of the 1990s because they are still here! There was certainly much life lived in their 60+ years!
And now they are mine; they have a chance to live on in my life. I will love them, wear them as often as I can, and take them to as many places as possible. I will preserve them in their original state and tuck them in at night in their dust covers. And someday, when I have finished my turn owning them, I hope that someone will take them into her life and keep their story going. There is magic having something so special – loving it and making it a part of your life while it is in your possession – all the while knowing that you are only one part of the full story of a beloved piece of clothing.
Photos by Serena Chmelar; shot on location at The Mall at Short Hills
Rachel Zabar at home with her vintage collection in Los Angeles. Credit Amy Dickerson for The New York Times
Any New Yorker knows Zabar’s, the one-of-a-kind food emporium on the Upper West Side: New York is Zabar’s and Zabar’s is New York. Though Rachel Zabar spent her childhood and teenage years working at Zabar’s (her father, Saul, and her uncle, Stanley, took over the store from their immigrant parents who founded it in 1934.). She says her father insisted that his children work in the family business from a young age. Rachel, however, could never make Zabar’s her career like her older sister and younger brother. Says her father, Saul: “The store was never part of her. We knew that from a very young age. She was artistic. Even as a child, she had a natural talent for color and style.”
And, apparently, a sophisticated eye. Now, after years of trying her hand at photography, screenwriting, and documentary filmmaking, she is finding her niche as a dealer of high- end vintage clothing and accessories. And she is doing really well. After leaving New York to find her home in California, known for the vintage-obsessed, Rachel got serious about her own business five years ago. What I love is that she showed tremendous determination to make it work, as there was very little room for a newcomer in the industry. “It’s a sharp-elbowed little world, for sure, and I have learned some business lessons the hard way – who to trust, how to price, what to focus on,” says Rachel. It was at the California flea markets where Rachel started selling vintage clothing and accessories, where she learned so much. And at the heart of her present business success is her enthusiasm for her work and her passion for the clothes and accessories themselves.
Rachel Zabar fought hard to get to where she is. From ‘caviar girl’ to vintage couture dealer, she is finally seeing her vision come to life.