A vintage boutique for the stars resists new rivals

On a recent afternoon in SoHo, Seth Weisser and Gerard Maione were visiting their boutique, What Goes Around Comes Around, a luxury vintage boutique. shop on West Broadway, which has long been a downtown destination for stylists and celebrities.

They walked past Jean Paul Gaultier shirts from the late 1980s and Harley-Davidson biker jackets from the 1960s before entering the area containing their extensive Levi’s collection. Mr. Weisser, who was wearing a vintage Hermès jacket, gingerly grabbed a pair of jeans from the 1950s. The price was $3,000.

“They may look like regular Levi’s, but the denim connoisseur who sees someone wearing them will know exactly what they are,” he said. “It’s the beginning of quiet luxury.”

One of their regular customers, Steve Diggsa Buffalo Bills wide receiver, browsed near a model holding a quilted Chanel handbag made in the 1990s.

“You beat my Jets yesterday,” Mr. Maione shouted.

“Yeah, but you beat us last time,” Mr. Diggs replied.

Mr. Diggs ended up purchasing two Chanel handbags. Outside the store, a friend took a photo of him modeling his purchases in front of an SUV.

“I’ve been shopping at What Goes Around Comes Around for a long time,” Mr. Diggs said mid-pose. “I like vintage because it’s timeless, so I like to pile it up here.”

Mr. Weisser, 56, and Mr. Maione, 55, grew up in nearby towns on Long Island. Mr. Weisser’s mother was a gym teacher and his father was a lawyer; Mr. Maione’s family operated an Italian delicatessen.

The two became friends at Syracuse University in the late 1980s. They began thrifty at street fairs and flea markets in the 1990s, when they learned that their best chance of getting into Manhattan nightclubs like the Spy Bar was to look stylish.

Vintage hunting has become their obsession. At a rag house in the Bronx, they filled trash bags with rock concert T-shirts and a pair of Levi’s made during the Eisenhower administration; in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, they purchased rare jeans from the back of pickup trucks.

They opened What Goes Around Comes Around in 1993. At that time, second-hand was synonymous with second-rate for much of fashion, and the duo saw themselves as inner-city entrepreneurs whose mission was to preach gospel of vintage.

“The stigma was that people thought it was undignified to buy something second-hand,” Mr. Weisser said, “but we viewed wearing vintage as giving someone individuality.”

Among their first regulars were Jean Paul Gaultier and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. “Sex and the City” stylists found outfits there for the show’s star, Sarah Jessica Parker, who herself became a client.

“New York has a long history of vintage, but it’s the way they’ve created pieces with heritage that has always made them stand out,” Ms. Parker said. “There will only be one copy of something there, not multiples. And that’s where vintage becomes truly special.

“They are not the RealReal,” she added. “What they do seems a little more rarefied. Sometimes you have to be a bit of a fashion historian to understand what they have, but it’s worth it.

After three decades in business, What Goes Around Comes Around has an outpost in Beverly Hills and a second store recently opened in SoHo. Her clientele includes Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Lenny Kravitz and Kate Moss. Items currently on sale include an Hermès “clutch” handbag ($34,500), a Chrome Hearts alligator zipped clutch ($3,500) and a Christian Dior leather cap ($775).

In recent years, as high-end vintage clothing became a booming business, Mr. Weisser and Mr. Maione found each other in competition against venture-backed consignment platform RealReal, the online marketplace Locker RoomCollective and other similar companies.

To strengthen their e-commerce division, they recently launched an online store, at Partnership with Amazon and began producing a shopping live stream series hosted by handbag historian Mason Howell. Episodes include “Gossip Girl Style” and “Inspired by Priscilla Presley.”

“As far as all of our online competitors go, we were a little late in pursuing this idea, so we had to decide how to differentiate ourselves,” Mr. Weisser said.

Mr. Maione felt that their competitors are buying more indiscriminately. “A lot of it is fluff,” he said. “We curate to a very high standard, and the only closets we go into are the ones that we know have show-stopping pieces. »

“That’s why we recruit stylists and celebrities,” he continued. “Because they know they’ll be the only ones wearing something if they got it from us.”

They also considered a less obvious advantage they might have over the competition: their decades-long friendship.

“We’ve been through a lot together, from recessions to 9/11,” Mr. Maione said. “But we still have each other.”

Their bond, they said, helped them endure a painful downsizing during the pandemic that forced them to close locations in Miami, East Hampton and the Upper East Side. Since 2018, they have also been present dispute with Chanel, who sued What Goes Around Comes for trademark infringement, an allegation they refuse. (Chanel, which has difficult relations with the luxury goods resale sector, for follow-up the RealReal which even year.)

Asked how they search for vintage clothing these days, Mr. Weisser and Mr. Maione said the details of the acquisition were trade secrets, but allowed them to visit the closets of an eccentric stylish Central Park South and make regular trips. at the Paris flea market in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine.

“We’re always fighting for access to the best closets,” Mr. Weisser said. “Hunting is what keeps us going.”

As evening approached, the duo headed through the Holland Tunnel toward their 35,000-square-foot warehouse in Jersey City. They entered by freight elevator and toured cavernous warehouses filled with boxes of Rolex watches, packages of 1970s rock concert T-shirts and towering stacks of Louis Vuitton monogram bags.

They visited their e-commerce team and greeted a member of their authentication division, who was examining a Gucci bag with a magnifying glass for any signs of sophisticated counterfeiting. Then they entered a room filled with piles of Levi’s.

Mr. Maione ran his hand over a pair of jeans with a few tears in the fabric.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find the old Levi’s stuff,” he said. “There’s not much left now. The source of all this is drying up. But denim never deteriorates. It only gets better.