Prague Vintage Fair strikes provocative note with Dress for Love theme

The Prague Vintage Fair is an annual fashion event which presents authentic vintage clothing in the context of contemporary fashion trends. Now in its third year the fair will revolve around a “Dress for Love” theme inspired by the film The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover by Peter Greenaway. So if you thought vintage rules out sexy – pay a visit to the Prague Vintage Fair on 26th and 27th of September 2015 at the New Town Hall. I spoke to model and project manager Nora Barnhart about what’s in store for visitors this year and how the idea to hold a vintage fair in Prague emerged.

Nora Barnhart, photo: Jiří NěmecNora Barnhart, photo: Jiří Němec “There was something missing here, there are a lot of vintage stores in Prague but what was missing was something that would bring it all together, highlight the beauty of vintage items that can be found in the Czech Republic and abroad –so that inspired us to create an event of this kind.”

So what does the vintage fair involve?

“It is a sales gallery of vintage items, but it is also a festival of vintage and sustainable fashion and what we are trying to show is not just that vintage fashion is beautiful and we should invest in it but that it is easy to combine with today’s fashion and people should care about it more than they do. Because all the things that you buy now in the fashion stores –the quality is low, the price is low and everybody has the same thing, but when you invest in something beautiful from the 1950s it makes you happy because it is something with a story. That’s what we try to show – the story of the item and how to wear it today, how to combine it with present-day fashion.”

So where do you get the clothes and brooches and shoes and things that I saw?

“We asked most of the Czech vintage stores that are here in Prague and around the country for cooperation and we also have people calling to tell us that they have a huge collection of vintage clothes and they want to get rid of it, or for instance, there is this lady who contacted us and said she had stuff from her mother and grandmother that she cannot wear because the sizes are very small but she would like to see it exhibited somewhere because the clothes are beautiful masterpieces. So people contact us, we find the stuff somewhere or collect it….and the vintage fair is not just about vintage fashion, it is about contemporary designers who also have stands there so you can find vintage and contemporary fashion as well.”

“When you invest in something beautiful from the 1950s it makes you happy because it is something with a story”

So you cooperate with today’s leading fashion designers?

“Yes, exactly and there is going to be a fashion show on Saturday, the 26th for which we asked nine designers to make between one and three outfits and there will be an auction afterwards. The theme of the fashion show is Dress for Love …”

Yes, I noticed that this year’s theme is quite provocative for a vintage dress fair – I sort of expected high necklines and lots of buttons, but this is quite different…. so what inspired you to select this theme?

“It was Tereza Schmoranz ’s idea –she is an amazing woman who always comes up with a poetic idea or interesting theme and my task is to bring it to life. So what inspired her is the movie The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover by Peter Greenaway. It is a very artistic movie, it is visually very interesting and what we loved about it is that Jean Paul Gaultier designed the costumes for it. So the inspiration is from that movie where the main character, the thief, is abusing his wife and she finds shelter in the arms of her lover. And she has to think about what to wear so she can undress easily and get dressed again fast so that her husband doesn’t notice anything. So that is the main theme of the festival and also what we told the designers to do – to make a dress for love, also a dress where the abused woman can find love for herself again and feel confident and find love somewhere else.”

So – clothes that are sexy and …easy to take off…

Photo: Jan Paravan / Prague Vintage FairPhoto: Jan Paravan / Prague Vintage Fair “Yes, exactly, the main idea was for them to be easy to take off, but they also had to have something vintage – the material used or the cut…..or a brooch or something. What we are trying to do is not just show vintage with make-up and hair and so on, but we are trying to put it in the present-day and show that even nowadays you can wear vintage and look good and that it is not uncomfortable like some people think. ”

You probably need to have a very self-confident woman who is able to carry it off…

“It is interesting that you mention this because this year for the first time we are using not just professional models but normal women on the runway, women of different ages and different sizes. I am doing the choreography of the show and we will have –among others – a ninety-year-old lady. We chose these women because they inspired us with their personality. Each designer did a completely different dress –obviously – and we want to put them on very different types of women to show that anybody can be beautiful and I want them to be themselves, I do not want them to be like the models you see on runways nowadays with their zombie walk and look. It will be like a classical fashion show with some theatre, some drama and I think they are all going to be beautiful and it will be a nice experience.”

So the dresses are romantic as well as being sexy…

“We are trying to show that even nowadays you can wear vintage and look good and that it is not uncomfortable like some people think. ”

“Yes, it is not vulgar. There are two lingerie sets by designer Tereza Vu and they are sexy but in a really nice way. ”

I think we should also say what the proceeds are used for because this goes to help abused women –does it not?

“Exactly, after the fashion show there will be an auction at which all the outfits will be auctioned off and the money raised will go to Rosa, an organization that helps abused women – so again an inspiration from the movie I was talking about and we tried to find another way of helping.”

What kind of things can people buy at this fair?

“They can buy mainly vintage items from the 1920s up to the 1980s, but there will also be some contemporary artists or brands, like PunkTura, that’s a young lady using second-hand clothes and vintage stuff and re-doing them by adding some details, or we will have the Nora Lee brand, that specializes in hand-embroidered sweaters inspired by the 1950s and many more, like jewelry, handbags, there is so much you can see there and also buy.”

This is the third vintage fair and I was going to ask what kind of people come, because last year I noticed that the people who came to buy were already dressed in vintage….

“Oh, yes, that’s what I really love about it, because the people really dress up and it is like an event, to show off and to show that they love vintage and they like to dress this way. So mainly I would say it is for women but there will also be some stalls selling men’s clothes and I am trying to get my brother to come over from Vienna and get some nice stuff. But it is for any age, for anybody, because vintage is trendy now, a lot of people like it and a lot of people look for it, so it is pretty much for everybody.”

Photo: Jan Paravan / Prague Vintage FairPhoto: Jan Paravan / Prague Vintage Fair We should say that you yourself are beautifully dressed in vintage style, there is a flower in your hair –I am sure that you get many admiring looks in the street – how does it make you feel to dress this way?

“Thank you for the compliment. I like to dress like a female. I love slender waists and so on. I don’t know about admiring glances in the street because I don’t wear my glasses so I can’t see much (laughs) but this style makes me feel self-confident and I like it. But, as I said we are not encouraging people to dress all-vintage, we are trying to show them how to combine it, that they can wear jeans and a vintage blouse, that they can get a unique piece that they could have forever.”