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Carmen Haid & Alice Kodell

The owners of vintage fashion etailer Atelier-Mayer tell Lauretta Roberts how they were inspired by Haid's Austrian grandmother

Tell us about your backgrounds and how you met?
Carmen Haid: I started as a PR assistant at Yves Saint Laurent. After five years and a stint at Vogue, I was headhunted to become head of communications at Celine. I then set up the UK in-house press office for Tommy Hilfiger.
Alice Kodell: I worked on The Sunday Times, Harper's Bazaar Australia, various Condé Nast titles, and was then editor of Wedding Day.
I was trying to produce a magazine that was more conceptual than anything else. It was hard convincing luxury PRs to lend us clothes but Carmen got it and we became friends.

What prompted you to set up the business?
CH: I was inspired to go into fashion by my late grandmother, Klaudia Mayer, who was a haute couture tailor in Austria in 1930.
I grew up spending summers in her atelier and three years ago had the idea to take her atelier into the 21st century in the form of a luxury vintage online boutique.
AK: We knew that by combining our passions and skills we'd have a vast knowledge of fashion and we'd make a great team.

What are your thoughts on investment dressing?
CH: Collecting investment pieces is like collecting art. Fashion comes and goes, good clothes stay. Good vintage will always work despite what the trends are.

Where do you source the clothing and do you have particular pieces or designers that you target?
CH: We source our clothes worldwide from private clients, vintage dealers, fairs, markets and auctions. We also take things into consignment for clients. Popular brands at the moment are Azzedine Alaia and YSL.
AK: Only Madam Mayer knows the sources and she, of course, would never tell.

Do you both wear vintage and what has been your most valuable find?
AK: Yes. We recently got an incredible Claude Montana jacket that zips up from your left hip to your right shoulder, creating a cinched silhouette that is breathtaking. I am having
a hard time letting it go on the site.
CH: Yes. My most valuable vintage find is my grandmother's private closet.
Which designers and eras should vintage shoppers look out for?
CH: It depends on what you are collecting or on the shape of your body. The 1920s, 1930s and 1960s are popular eras. Rare pieces from Elsa Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Paco Rabanne, Ossie Clark and YSL tend to go quickly.

Which contemporary designers and brands do you think will become collectors' items of the future?
CH and AK: Erdem, Christopher Kane, Givenchy, Viktor & Rolf, Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garçons, Burberry, Giles Deacon, Azzedine Alaia, Balenciaga, Michael Kors, Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney and YSL.

Apart from in vintage stores, where do you most enjoy shopping and why?
CH: The thought of going to a huge shopping centre fills me with horror. What Natalie Massenet has done with Net-a-Porter is fabulous - she is the Coco Chanel of the internet. Concept stores like Dover Street Market, Colette in Paris and Milan's 10 Corso Como are also the way forward.
AK: I cannot cope with über stores with one jacket on the rail for a million pounds and 16 staff eyeing you up from top to toe.

Who is your fashion icon and why?
CH: For me it is Coco Chanel, who once said: "You can never be elegant enough," and my grandmother, Madame Mayer.
AK: Babe Paley for her impeccable style and Grace Jones for her flair and for being so fabulously 'out there'.

My icon

Babe Paley
Born in 1915, Barbara "Babe" Cushing Mortimer Paley (pictured) was an American socialite and style icon. She was a fashion editor for US Vogue when she married her first husband, oil heir Stanley Grafton Mortimer Jr, in 1940. Babe, as she became known, featured regularly on US best-dressed lists. In 1947, Babe married second husband William S Paley, founder of US TV network CBS. She regularly bought entire haute couture collections from major fashion houses. Her personal, unconventional style was enormously influential: when she tied a scarf to her handbag, millions of women copied her. Babe often mixed extravagant jewellery with cheaper, costume pieces, and embraced her greying hair rather than dyeing it.

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