James Veloria, a vintage clothing treasure trove in Chinatown, New York, is a shop that feeds my soul. The emphasis swings from either black, parred-down Japanese and Belgian avant garde to wildly colorful, print-heavy European designs (think 90s Moschino and Gaultier). But everything on the racks gives me that transformative feeling that I seek in good vintage.
I stumbled on the pop-up version of JV at the vintage show A Current Affair (their kimono print Versace Jeans Couture trousers were the only thing I brought home from the show). But when I began chatting up owners Collin James Weber and Brandon Veloria, I saw that my connection went beyond the clothes. There is something special that they are doing here. I think the vintage market has become so corrupted-the days of happening upon 80 dollar vintage Versace jeans in a New York City shop feels over. The good stuff has become so marked up/exclusive and the cheap crap so prevalent among the vintage racks. But the offerings of James Veloria are intentional, artful and affordable. You have that long-ago feeling of having found something.
I spoke with Brandon and Collin about what they are doing here with JV and why it’s important. I love these guys and you will love them too when you read their words on the power of dress.
We’re here because we talk so much about the spiritual and emotional connection we have to clothes. What is it about clothing that elevates you?
Brandon: Well, take these ’70s 6-7 inch platform heels I’m wearing today – they literally elevate me! I can really feel like absolute shit and it can be 11 pm and I don’t want to get out of bed and friends want me to go out…but I put these on and I just feel super fierce and no longer give a shit and it’s totally empowering. I can be wearing my bedtime clothes like a big t-shirt and track shorts and go out in those and feel amazing and ready to dance all night.
Collin: He got me a pair of heels for Christmas last year. He can fit into the biggest size of women’s heels so he has options but my size-11.5 – is a little harder to find. He found some company that makes men’s heels and I was very excited about those. I finally got to be a little bit taller and it changed the proportion of everything and I could wear all these different things. But I think I kind of learned that from you (to Brandon). Like when you’re kind of feeling down, you’ll put some heels on and do the dishes. That’s your go-to: “I don’t feel good today, I think I’ll put some heels on.”
Brandon: That’s so funny – I never thought about that! I have a weird thing with shoes. I have a pair of Biba heels that are velvet with patent leather that spirals around the heel..they’re so beautiful…they’re like my “thinking heels.” Like if I want to re-do the shop or pick out clothes to bring to a show or if I’m styling something, I put those on and feel like a boss, immediately.
Collin: They’re like your house slippers.
Do you guys find you influence each other a lot?
Collin (to Brandon): I feel like when I met you…I always wore vintage but I didn’t feel like I had an identity that made sense with it. Just seeing you dress and the way you put things together…I learned to buy nice things, not just polyster stuff that I thought was funny. You had some Issey Miyake or Comme des Garçons that was nothing I’d ever seen before and changed my whole idea of how you could dress and how it can make you feel.
Brandon: Aw, that’s really cool.
Collin: You taught me a lot.
Brandon: Well that’s sweet! Fashion…bringing couples together (laughs).
Julia: Tell me more about what you’re wearing today and why you gravitated to it for this project.
Collin: Something that always catches my eye is prints and color. These Gaultier pants have that two-fold appeal for me. There’s the bright colors plus they have a great print that is kind of an illusion effect – you have to look twice to even figure out what’s going on. The eyeball sweatshirt and the bright-colored shoes and pants…I think I always have a strange attraction to clownish things. Even things with prints of clowns on it…and I have big feet so most shoes look clownish on me, especially if they’re re bright purple and have a giant round toe. I’m not sure where that comes from but it’s where I always go.
Julia: It’s like you are conjuring the jokester from within. And the eye is very Psychic Life!
Brandon: Anything with faces or eyes or body parts I feel like…
Collin: Yeah I just have to have.
Brandon: Yeah I think that’s a very you-thing.
Brandon: For me, I feel like it’s all about characters. Like I’m becoming someone different. Every single day it’s someone new. I don’t know what that says about me but it’s empowering. Being in a silver space suit that is sort of disco cowboy …it just feels like I’ve put on armor.
Julia: I don’t know what that says about us either but I just think that’s part of the appeal of fashion. That you can decide who you want to be today or how you want to feel.
Collin: Yeah, you think about what you’re going to do and who you’re going to be and what the best version of yourself you’re going to present that day is.
Julia: That’s such a good way of putting it – “The best version of yourself.” Because we are all so multi-faceted. There are so many different personalities and characters within all of us and maybe it’s about who you choose to bring forward that day. Who comes forth. Who has the loudest voice.
Brandon: Who you are channeling.
Julia: I think what you’re doing really resonates with people. I wonder if you had any thoughts as to what it is about your collection that is hitting home with people?
Brandon: I think people love seeing other people living their lives exactly how they want to and having so much fun while doing it. Fashion is a great way to visualize that or show that.
Collin: People get so caught up in the serious side of it and all the rules on what you are supposed to do and what you can and can’t do and that’s something that we try to get away from.
Brandon: Yeah, what is trending or what Hadid is wearing.
Collin: Yeah, instead of like, “How do I feel today?” What draws my attention, even if I don’t know why? And giving it a try and having a safe space to come in and experiment with something you would never normally pick up…maybe you’ll like it.
Brandon: Hopefully we’re helping people find that powerful person that doesn’t give a fuck and is ready to take on New York. People come here for the fantasy of being freaks and weirdos. You don’t come here to blend in. But I feel like there has been a lot of that crazy homogenization. A lot of those really cool downtown stores have closed so we’re just really trying to push that feeling again of…
Collin: Self-expression. Fearlessness in the way you dress. And it is scary. Sometimes you put something on and you know you’re going to stick out, you’re going to get looks. But when it’s right and you feel right you don’t care. And you’re like, “they’re looking because it looks so good, not because they think i’m a freak.”
Brandon: Exactly. They’re curious. They want to know where you got it.
Everybody: JAMES VELORIA!
James Veloria will be having a special Margiela Archive sale on October 1st.
All photos by Primo Bolo III