A.N.G.E.L.O. is on show in the newly opened refurbished Long Shop at the outlet centre until 17 May. Charli Roberts met the founder of the biggest and most famous archive of vintage fashion in Europe in advance of a weekend that will delight fashionistas in Swindon and far beyond.
Angelo Caroli has an aura which surrounds him, a passion so strong for vintage fashion that he has made it his life. Buying his first vintage item at just 17 years old in a shop on the outskirts of Bologna, Angelo developed a love for pre-owned clothing, which was unusual in his native Italy where looking stylish is a pre-requisite for life.
He was already passionate about fashion and his purchases had started as a practicality. He liked to wear something different and shopping vintage allowed him and his budget to do this. Angelo explained: “Vintage things were more affordable than new items.”
Before long Angelo’s enthusiasm led him to start working with a local radio station giving advice on how to use previously enjoyed garments. He delved deeper into the vintage scene in the 70’s and 80’s and it was around this time when vintage fashion started to take off; prior to this it wasn’t the norm to wear ‘old’ clothing, people always dressed to impress by buying brand new.
Angelo would find items which he liked personally for himself but soon developed an understanding that even if an item didn’t suit him, fit him or wasn’t to his taste, it didn’t mean it shouldn’t be regenerated for others to enjoy. “It was too sad to see things being thrown away and not used, and nobody else was doing it at that time” he said.
With this philosophy in mind, and with the aim of preserving the history of fashion and stop it being lost or thrown away, Angelo’s collection steadily started to grow. Fashion houses began to show an interest in his collection of vintage items and accessories because they could draw inspiration from them. The base for the collection is now Angelo’s shop called Vintage Palace near Bologna. It is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
Angelo has now split his vintage business into two elements: a collection, which can be viewed but not purchased and a separate offering of items which customers can buy. The collection consists of 100,000 items including the original, bespoke Hermes bag named the ‘Birkin’ after Jane Birkin which has now become an incredibly rare and sought after fashion accessory boasting unbelievably long waiting lists and an extortionate price tag to match. There is also the iconic quilted Chanel bag, a beautiful Yves Saint Laurent Safari jacket and many more designer pieces.
“Big fashion houses approach me and use my extensive collection as a library which they borrow items from to use in their design studios and they then return them to me,” Angelo enthused. “It’s an archive of fashion history.”
The collection is made up of 5,000 pieces from the 19th Century and the remaining are of 20th Century provenance. The collection is growing every day as are the premises in which he houses all of these wonderful items as he explained: “At the end of this year I am planning to move to much bigger premises, 3,000 square metres which is just for the archive collection.”
Angelo began travelling with his collection and sale pieces because he wanted to show a wider audience, and he “likes travelling and learning what people like in different places.”
This is what has brought him to the UK with key pieces which are displayed as part of an exhibition entitled ‘Timeless Style.’ Working with McArthur Glen Designer Outlets he brought his exhibition which can be viewed at pop up shops of vintage garments and accessories, first in Swindon until 17 May, then at the designer outlet in York.
I had the incredible opportunity to try on a beautiful emerald green vintage Chanel jacket at the Swindon opening exhibition, styled with a hat and sunglasses. Angelo himself helped to dress me and assisted with choosing which sunglasses to add to my outfit. The jacket had a £1,500 price tag!
But I wholeheartedly agree with Angelo when he says: “We don’t need clothes anymore to cover ourselves, we need clothes to give us emotions, it has to be something which gives you the right feeling.”
I can tell you for certain that the vintage Chanel jacket gave me exactly that!
Visit the A.N.G.E.L.O pop-up emporium of vintage fashion in the Long Shop at the McArthur Glen Swindon Designer Outlet over the VIP weekend of Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 May.
All images by Richard Wintle of Calyx. Top, Angelo and Charli admire one of the garments for sale. Below, finding the right pair of shades to make up Charli’s outfit and reflecting Swindon heritage in the Long Shop. Bottom, imagining what it’s like to model the £1,500 Chanel jacket in high society