Richard Wainwright of A Current Affair on His Lifelong Love of Vintage Fashion
Everything old can be made new again thanks to industry innovators like Richard Wainwright. Over time, Richard has infused his lifelong passion for vintage clothing into his profession by building multiple retail endeavors that create opportunities for vintage enthusiasts from all walks of life to discover, sell, and shop some of the most dynamic clothing in the world.
Most notably, Richard has risen to acclaim due to the success of his retail trade show A Current Affair which boasts an extensive selection of vintage clothing at each of its shows in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Richard also operates two subsequent retail outposts on each coast — ARCADE, a concept shop inspired by A Current Affair in the heart of Brooklyn's Industry City, and NEW/FOUND which is an appointment-only vintage showroom in Downtown Los Angeles. But no matter where Richard is in the world, his distinct eye, expert curation, and commitment to the fashion community remain the constants in his flourishing vintage empire.
Closer to home in Los Angeles, Richard recently popped up during our trade show to provide buyers and show attendees style inspiration and an opportunity to shop a small selection from A Current Affair’s assortment. Enjoy highlights from the pop-up and learn more about Richard's story along with his thoughts on sustainable fashion and his tips for aspiring vintage fashion professionals.
HI RICHARD! PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF.
I’m Richard Wainwright, and I am the co-founder and producer of A Current Affair, a retail trade show focused on vintage fashion, and founder of ARCADE, a retail shop that presents a rotating mix of vintage from various sellers in our community. I also have a by-appointment vintage showroom in the Cooper Building in Downtown LA called NEW/FOUND.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH VINTAGE CLOTHING. DO YOU HAVE AN EARLY MEMORY THAT INFORMED HOW YOU THINK ABOUT VINTAGE AND ITS ROLE IN YOUR STYLE?
As a teenager, I dressed in vintage to set myself apart — it was the 90’s, and everyone was dressing crazy. I also couldn’t afford to shop retail, so I would go to the Salvation Army and fill a bag for $18 and have a new wardrobe. Now I don’t wear as much vintage except for vintage denim which is always better.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE A CURRENT AFFAIR IN ONE SENTENCE? WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE SINCE THE FIRST SHOW?
A Current Affair is the best vintage on the planet, brought together under one roof. The biggest change from our start nearly nine years ago has been our growth. What started as a gathering of 19 friends has grown into an event that attracts a community of over 200 sellers from across the world, gathering seasonally in three cities. We are the beginning and the end of the fashion food chain since we provide inspiration for designers working several seasons ahead of the collections and sell to retain customers looking for something totally unique and one of a kind.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME RECURRING OBSERVATIONS YOU'VE SEEN ACROSS THE NYC, LA, AND SF COMMUNITIES? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS ONE UNIQUE QUALITY THAT IS DISTINCTIVE TO EACH CITY AND ITS SHOPPERS?
In LA and NY we see a large contingent from the design communities. SF is more retail-driven — that said, I’m always amazed at how similar our guests are from city to city. There is this myth about a Bay Area client not being as fashion forward or maybe not wanting to spend as much on fashion but this is totally untrue. If anything the Bay Area customer comes to the event all dressed up where in NY so many people come in yoga clothes so that they can try things on the spot. New York is definitely the most competitive shopping experience — those New Yorkers are tough!
THE SHOW'S REACH NOT ONLY EXTENDS TO DIFFERENT CITIES BUT ALSO TO ITS BROAD EXHIBITOR COMMUNITY. TELL US MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU LOOK FOR IN YOUR PARTNERS.
We try to bring together exhibitors who have a distinct point of view. Anyone can find a few great pieces, but it is much more difficult to tell a story with a collection and to stay on brand consistently. This allows us to diversify and create a multidimensional shopping experience.
DO YOU CONSIDER SUSTAINABILITY WHEN THINKING ABOUT A CURRENT AFFAIR'S LARGER IMPACT ON MODERN CONSUMERS?
Vintage is the most sustainable form of retail there is. You are completely cutting out the entire development and manufacturing process. All the dollars that are spent at our show go to support small businesses — many of which are owned by women, which is something that is not lost on me.
WE'RE HERE AT YOUR POP-UP AT OUR LA SHOW! TELL US MORE ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST CONNECTED WITH BRAND ASSEMBLY AND HOW BEING PART OF THE COMMUNITY HAS HELPED FURTHER A CURRENT AFFAIR'S MISSION.
Hillary reached out to us about doing something targeting the industry, and it made sense for so many reasons. For years I was a buyer of vintage jewelry for a boutique in Manhattan Beach, and from that experience, I know that shops are always looking for ways to bring something unique into their space. Having a selection of vintage in a contemporary store means that you will have something that no one else has — it also creates an urgency because there is only ever one of something. We also wanted to be here so that buyers could take a break and do some personal shopping in addition to any cash and carry they might be doing for their stores.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO FASHION PROFESSIONALS IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO VINTAGE BUYING OR SELLING?
To be aware of trends but not bound to them. To trust your instinct and eye — that’s the only thing you have that no one else does. To listen to your customers, they are usually able to identify what you are doing right better than even you are.
PHOTOS BY MIKAELA HAMILTON FOR BRAND ASSEMBLY