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Vintage Angel: A.N.G.E.L.O.

The Italian “king of vintage” speaks to Dazed Digital about his passion for fashion, his Vintage Palace and collaborations and fairs with Pitti.

One of the important innovations of Florence’s “Pitti W_Woman Precollection”, the Pitti Immagine fair-event dedicated to womenswear taking place in June, is a project dedicated to the world of vintage. Hosted at the Dogana, the event will include a concept store with a selection of the world’s top vintage operators.

The Pitti organisers always showed great attention for the world of vintage fashion launching during “Pitti Filati” special events and a fair at the Stazione Leopolda with the help of Angelo Caroli, owner of the A.N.G.E.L.O. Vintage Palace.
Based in Lugo, near Ravenna, the Palace has turned, thanks to Caroli’s passion and intuitions, not only into a vintage fashion temple well known all over Italy, but into a respected and loved fashion brand. Here customers and fashion experts meet, the former looking for a few exclusive items to add to their wardrobes, the latter to get inspirations or borrow pieces for editorials and catwalks from the “Archive” section of the shop.

Dazed Digital: When did you first develop your interest for vintage clothes?  
Angelo Caroli: At the end of the 70s, I was 17 and used to do a fashion show on a free radio in Italy during which I would give style tips and suggestions to the listeners. Around the same time I met a guy who became my business partner until 2006. He had a stall at the Piazzola, a Bologna-based historical market and I used to select among the clothes he sold the most interesting items for me - as I was already very passionate about fashion - and for my friends. It was then that I got an idea: until then you could only find cheap yet dirty second-hand clothes, but I thought it would have been great to pick up the best items and wash and iron them, so that customers could immediately wear them.
Dazed Digital: Was it then that you understood there was a market for vintage?
Angelo Caroli: I didn’t understand how rewardable it could have been on a financial level, but I understood it was an interesting business because it allowed me to save items of clothing that would have been otherwise destroyed or turned into rags. At the time one of my priorities was saving the history behind each piece and that’s how the idea for the archive was born. I thought it was important to establish a sort of “clothing library”, an archive that fashion professionals and experts could have used to be inspired. When I started putting together the archive I realised that designers and fashion media people approved my selections and were keen on using the clothes as inspirations for their collections or in their editorials, so I understood I was on the right path.

Dazed Digital: Do you think that the vintage market changed in the last few years in Italy?
Angelo Caroli: When I first started there was a vintage market in the States and in the UK, but in Italy it developed later on and also radically changed in a few years’ time. When I started selling vintage clothes many mothers would throw away or literally burn what their kids would buy at my shop. After 5-7 years those same mothers visited my shop to buy items for themselves. Their choices were obviously different: the kids would maybe buy American denims while the mothers would be into beaded or cashmere blazers and designer clothes, but the most important thing was that the two generations both embraced the vintage philosophy. I think the biggest change was in the mentality: at the very beginning, people were reluctant about wearing a second-hand item of clothing as they didn’t know who had worn it before them, while this has now become a sort of “added value”. Nowadays those who visit the Vintage Palace come to look for an affordable item of clothing or an accessory that can help them achieving a unique style and look strikingly different from other people.      
Dazed Digital: What’s the most incredible item you found since you started collecting vintage clothes?
Angelo Caroli: I found many amazing pieces, but if I have to think about one in particular it has got to be a pair of Levi’s from 1937 that I bought in the States 20 years ago. I remember paying for them $3,000, at that time this was really a lot of money for a pair of jeans. This item became an important piece for me, because, before then, I used to buy second-hand clothes and resell them or keep the ones I liked. But this specific collectors’ item made me understand how crucial it was to go and look for more exclusive pieces that were historically important. From then on a new world opened up for me and I started collaborating with people who were writing books about topics such as denim and vintage and organising exhibitions of rare clothes.        

Dazed Digital: Are you collecting anything special nowadays?
Angelo Caroli: I started collecting denims, then passed onto designer clothes, and developed an interest for bags and hats. At the moment I’m into glasses and sunglasses as this is a field I don’t know much about and I’m usually stimulated and excited by things I’m not familiar with.  

Dazed Digital: What does the Vintage Palace look like?
Angelo Caroli: I like to present vintage clothes and accessory in a slightly different way compared to other vintage shops. Since the early beginnings I washed and ironed all the items I sold to present everything in the nicest possible way, dividing items according to their colours, shapes and silhouettes and trying to give order to the chaos produced by fashion. The Vintage Palace is divided into floors, so that clients can easily find what they are looking for. For example, womenswear is divided into sections, with items from the 60s, 70s and 80s dedicated to our younger customers, and designer and rare clothes made in sophisticated materials for all those women looking for something more exclusive and maybe mature. There’s just one part of the shop that is slightly more chaotic and that’s the cheap area where we sell stuff from 1 to 18 Euros and that’s dedicated to all our customers who like searching for a bargain, it’s a sort of little market inside the shop.

Dazed Digital: You often organise vintage fairs all over Italy and at Florence’s Stazione Leopolda, what’s the atmosphere like at these fairs?
Angelo Caroli: Visitors change from fair to fair and from town to town, but there is always a great enthusiasm for vintage, more than there was in the past. We do have a lot of experts who come and visit us, fashion professionals who come to look for ideas and inspirations, then we have ordinary customers who are into vintage and visit the fairs searching for something special to add to their wardrobes and collections, and a lot of foreigners who usually come to the Stazione Leopolda to see one of the most important vintage fairs in Italy. This is a very popular event as it takes place around the same time of “Pitti Filati” and with vintage events organised for a specialist audience together with Pitti Immagine.  

A new A.N.G.E.L.O. vintage boutique will open in Florence’s Via Dei Cimatori 25 on 15th June 2009. The “Small Museum” at the new vintage boutique will be launched with an Emilio Pucci exhibition that - from 17th June 2009 - will celebrate the Italian designer and Pitti Woman. The next Vintage Fair is at the Stazione Leopolda from 7th to 11th July 2009.