“THERE ARE no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”
Writer Audre Lorde probably wasn’t talking about fashion when she dropped this bit of knowledge, but it certainly does apply — after all, it’s no secret that every decade comes back around and that fashion recycles trends. After all, that’s why you can walk down a school hallway wearing your mom’s plaid skirt from the ’80s and have Regina George exclaim that it’s “vintage” and that she loves it. But not everyone wants to take a grotsky biotch’s word for it. There are some people who dedicate their careers, even their entire lives, to scouring the world for the fashion of bygone eras, making sure that they stay around to inspire both contemporary designers and consumers alike. Bridgette Morphew, founder of NYC-based vintage design firm Paradox NYC, is one of those people.
Paradox NYC isn’t the typical vintage store you’d find littering the sidewalks of Sunset Boulevard or SoHo — less Crossroads, more Crossroads’ older sister who went to college, traveled for a bit and then came home and decided to be a businesswoman. While the company does cater to the clients who walk through its Garment District brick-and-mortar doors, the majority of Paradox’s clientele consists of the kinds of names we see spread out in fashion magazine and plastered on billboards — brands like TOPSHOP and Anthropologie and designers like Alexander McQueen — because Paradox is in the business of vintage inspiration.
Morphew, who started Paradox over 10 years ago while she was studying in fashion school, says that the idea for the business arose from a demand she saw that was in need of fulfillment: “People already working in the industry were too busy to find inspiration for themselves, so I would pull together pieces I found shopping and collecting and would take them out to NYC.” The pieces she culled for these designers, which might range from an entire dress to something as detailed and particular as a single piece of lace from a Victorian skirt, would oftentimes go on to inspire their own lines of clothing and designs. And as demand for her services grew, so did the collection of pieces she amassed to showcase to her clients: rack after rack of exquisite and unique vintage, perfectly preserving details of fashion design from a number of decades, aesthetics, and cultures, culminating in the studio that houses Paradox NYC today.
It seems only logical, then, that Paradox would expand its services and expertise to the average consumer. After years of selling to designers, stylists and others in the industry, Paradox NYC launched Morphew this month, an online platform that allows consumers to buy the same pieces that celebrities buy, to not only wear something similar to what is worn on the red carpet, but to wear what inspires it. “Everyone wants to look unique or have something that other people don’t have,” says Morphew when we ask her what prompted Paradox Designs to delve into the realm of e-commerce. “With hundreds of years of design, there is no doubt some time period that each person loves and wants to dress like, which gives everyone a different way to express themselves.”
Expression is key. For Morphew — and for her team, too — “vintage is a lifestyle,” one she fell in love with “because it is the best way to remember the world: through the beauty of fashion, and the people who lived in it.” The website centers heavily around the concept of fashion-as-lifestyle, and features sections dedicated not only to decade and era, but to the distinct styles that the Paradox team have come to pinpoint over the years as well. The collections and pieces offered on the site are curated through a collective effort by Paradox’s team of buyers, each with their own style and specialty, allowing consumers to find that special piece that best represents them and their personal aesthetic. Tips on vintage shopping and how-to-wear vintage pieces without looking like you stepped into a time machine, delivered to the consumer through Morphew’s blog and editorials, makes incorporating vintage into the wardrobe an enriching experience, not an intimidating or overly time-consuming one.
One such tip that shoppers can come across on Morphew? “Mix your decades — incorporate a vintage bag, sunglasses, or statement jacket into an outfit you already wear. Different pieces add layers and stories, not just fabrics — so a ’70s jacket with new Levis adds interest… without going overboard.”
And the great thing about incorporating vintage looks into your wardrobe, Morphew explains, is that we are living in a moment in which those classic looks can be “updated and refreshed by the new fabrics and materials available to us now” — as technology evolves and the production of clothing becomes more efficient, the looks that inspire us are less and less bound by the technological constraints of the eras they originate from.
So that “’20s silhouette in a plasticized leather-faced neoprene” you’ve been dreaming of, she adds, doesn’t necessarily have to be just an idea or a fantasy anymore. It could very well be a reality.
One that might even be found on Morphew.