Vintage shopping can be trying, but when you find a store that houses every major designer and trend you could ever imagine, the task seems a lot less daunting. The infamous store I speak of in this instance is What Goes Around Comes Around. I had the opportunity to interview one of the founders, Seth Weisser, to pick his brain on all things vintage, how he got his start, and much more. Here, you'll get a peek inside my visit via the photographs I snapped and the incredible conversation I had. Get ready to enter the land of Chanel, Dior, and Hermès. It's dangerous at best.
So first I just want to talk a little bit about your overall brand story. How did you get started with What Goes Around Comes Around?
I think the story begins in 1991. Gerard Maione and I graduated from Syracuse and moved to Manhattan. At that time, he went back to start working for Ralph Lauren at the mansion, and I was in graduate school. We were going out a lot, and we saw how a lot of what we saw happening in high fashion was coming from vintage. Because we couldn’t afford to buy high fashion straight out of college, we started shopping thrift and started buying things that we actually saw being reflected of what we saw on the runway.
That's when we started seeing how there was an opportunity to translate vintage in a different way than people expected, and that was kind of the original idea of the business. We knew that in starting a business in New York City, we would have the ability to create more of a brand identity. So we were never about making just the store the concept even though we had a great store. We always saw it as this opportunity to build What Goes Around as a brand name.
What’s your method for finding all of these pieces and what do you look for? Has your method of sourcing all of these products shifted over the years from when you first started to now?
We deal with so many different types of products, and each product has its own sourcing methodology. In the early days of the business, we would basically go to dealers and people around the country who sold and carried vintage. We would road-trip and go around the country and piece-by-piece cherry-pick—this was before eBay. Pre-eBay, you could go to places and potentially get lucky because people wouldn’t know what it was, but as technology and the internet emerged, the “get lucky” reality was less-so.
One of the things that we’ve done is develop key relationships with the top specialists in all the different things we do. We have the best T-shirt guys, we have the best denim people, we have the best Chanel people and Hermès people, and we’ve kind of forged our business as this place where people around the country and around the world are picking for us in a way.
Next time you're in New York city, we highly suggest you take a peek inside this marvelous store. Even if purchasing a Birkin bag isn't in the budget right now, breathing the same air as one isn't the worst past-time in the world.
Opening Image: Collage Vintage
How do you balance staying ahead of the curve with trends and what your consumer really wants while valuing the beauty of pieces that are great just because they’re vintage?
I think that right now trends are so short-lived, and one of the aspects of our business in vintage is something that’s classic is timeless. I think that a timeless piece could always be valid, although trends come and go. Inevitably, what we find is that so many trends are being derived from vintage, and it’s often coming through our business. So fanny packs are back in, and that was because of us—because there are celebrity clients who bought them and therefore brought that trend back.
Now, we didn’t necessarily do it because we wanted to create a trend; we are just always trying to find things that are unique and different because we feel that our customers are trying to be more individual with their style. The whole trend for the past three years with the silk bomber, the embroidery, the Gucci and Saint Laurent, that all those people did, those are inspired by 1940s and ’50s souvenir jackets that we’ve been selling for 20 years. Some of the designers actually shop with us, celebrities shop with us—sometimes the industry looks at us to help find trends because the depth of our collections inevitably will have something that could be trend-driven.
Can you tell me one of your favorite stories about an experience with a designer and a collection that came about from that meeting?
I think that a lot of them are teams working for designers. We’ve had a lot of lead designers who come in too, and it’s something that even with our celebrities who come in, we try to protect their privacy. Someone who is always shopping with us almost for the entire history of the company has been Jean Paul Gaultier, but he'll do more personal shopping. Jean Paul is one of the true innovators in fashion and wants to have something different from everybody else. He knows that if he buys a great vintage piece for his personal collection that he’ll have something that’s one-of-a-kind and unique for him. Has he also found inspiration from us? Certainly, but I think that people really appreciate great quality and the history of fashion. We have the biggest public vintage archive. There’s obviously collections at the museums and in places like that, but I don’t know if there’s a collection in the world that goes from A to Z like we do.
Do you have any trends that you’re predicting we’ll see in this coming season? Since you’re around so many different eras of clothing, do you think that there’s something—like the fanny pack—that you can kind of see hasn’t had a moment in a while?
I think that right now we’re definitely in this logo-mania moment. It’s about broadcasting your brand. If you are lighter on the budget, you can get more pre-owned monogrammed Gucci bags vs. buying a new one. Fendi right now—we’re seeing a big rise in the Zucca print, which is coming back, and I would say that if I was calling out one trend, I would say that I think Fendi is coming back in a different way because we’re seeing a lot of our influencers and people buying a lot of the Zucca print ’80s/’90s style. That’s something that eight months ago I started seeing. The classic bag with the Zucca print is great because they’re price-pointed at around under $750 retail for one in really good condition from us. This is a good entry point for some people who can’t step up into the next price tier above that.
Gucci has been on fire, and you can’t stop the machine right now. I think that it’s clearly helped elevate the logo-mania trend. Alessandro has done a brilliant job of repurposing the classic, and it’s speaking to what I said before, which is that even the best brands are looking back to what they did before—like what’s going on with Dior right now. [Maria Grazia Chiuri] has gone back to the monogram that was there in the ’70s and ’80s and brought it back to life.
Obviously you have quite the collection of designer handbags here. Tell me more about that.
We can start with Chanel, who of all of them is kind of the “fashion lifestyle brand.” When we look at what we buy from Chanel, we’re looking to play to both the most timeless pieces like the Classic bag to the runway pieces that everyone was lusting over, and we love the ’90s Chanel era, which was one of its greatest moments ever, with the supermodels and the overstated logos, etc. I think we probably have about 2500 Chanel pieces in our collection on average between jewelry and handbags and apparel because we have different stores and different clients that we sell to. We can basically then always be in a position where we either have it or we can source it. I think we work really similarly to personal shoppers for our clients, to help them find pieces that they’re coveting or looking for and build up their experience that way.
With the Hermès bags, we allow people to special order certain colors or sizes or hardware, and we usually have over 150 pieces in our Birkin and Kelly collections, ranging from the exotics, crocodile, and ostrich to the classic. We always have the classic black and gold, which every girl needs as their starter, but then we have incredible pieces of jewelry and accessories. Our scarf collection is phenomenal, just all the best of the lifestyle. We even buy these pieces back from our customers. As opposed to the disposable fashion and fast-fashion reality, which once you’re in you know whatever you paid for it you’re not getting out. But if you bought a new Birkin 10 years ago and just put it in your closet, you’ve made money.