If you’re a fashionable person in Berlin, you need to meet him, the master of quilted bags, skyhigh heels and apefur coats – Roman Vardijan is the person everyone would love to be close with, since he has the magic hand to get every vintage delicacy you can dream of. Most of his energy goes into the elaboration of his ever upgrading stock of collector’s items Chanel, Alaia, Alexander McQueen, Céline and Japanese Avantgarde designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. The good thing is – he’s not about keeping those gems to himself, he deliberately shares them with the vintage hungry crowd in his innovative Nightboutique, offering themed selections of exquisite vintage clothing in sassy decorations after sunset.
After a way too long break, the concept store opens its doors for a night on November 14th at Invalidenstraße 115, and this is the perfect reason to re-publish an interview I did with him for the first (and only) print issue of this blog. We talked about what is needed to hunt down vintage treasures and how Roman’s passion was shaped by women in bulky garments and rude attitudes.
Update: Due to an accident, the nightboutique has to be postponed, I will keep you updated!
For the first Nightboutique in 2006 you solt umpteen court shoes and handbags from the 80ies in the suicide lounge of former Mitte nightclub Rio – in 2009 you exhibited few Alexander McQueen dresses and rare YSL boots in a not renovated salesroom at Weinbergsweg under the title „The Gallery Issue“ – what an evolution!
The first Nightboutique was an unforeseen success and it gained its own momentum. Some months later I chose the topic „Fire And Ice“ – I collected about 20 neon ski suits, that was long before New Rave, and the people thought that was balla balla*. I illuminated a giant papier maché iceberg with fluorescent lights. At the end the people ripped off the ski suits from the walls and raved in them.
At the Nightboutique I wanted to present my special pieces, showcase my little world, and exhibit my work. I wanted to offer, what you might wear on a gallery opening. That’s why I installed a huge Dolce&Gabbana tulle skirt under a whole in the ceiling that went all they up to the attic.
Before we address your hunt and research, let me ask how your enthusiasm for vintage clothing started in the first place?
Honestly, I do not really know, because I’ve been interested in fashion forever. When I was five or six years old, I used to watch the TV reports on fashion on ZDF and said “I am going to buy this dress for mommy” – I am sure that was some kind of wedding gown, that I thought was awesome. Then I started to spend a lot of time on flea markets and in secondhand stores. I realized, I had the right touch, I need to touch everything to know wether it’s a good or bad material. I love this kind of research, you get to know so many exciting people! Like Hosta Müller, she sells japanese avantgarde designers in Oggi boutique in Bleibtreustraße 24, Charlottenburg. The way she dresses – it’s insanity! She’s like not from this world. She wears her bright orange hair in a bun and a Issey Miyake plissé robe, that wraps around her like a sculpture. And there she stands in her store with tiny round sunglasses. I thought I’d crack and that she was about to kick me out of the store. But she patiently showed and explained everything to me.
I developed a pretty precise view, when I see a black rag hanging somewhere, like a huge fabric sack, I know, yeah, that can only be Avantgarde, I’ve got to go there.
So you’re a collector…
I wouldn’t identify myself as a collector, I am more like hunter. A collector hoards, he can’t part with his stuff. I have maybe 15 pieces, that I wouldn’t like to give away in the moment. With the other stuff it’s like – oh my, if one piece goes, three new are coming.
Meaning you’re even more like the gallerist, that’s in it for the research and the collection of knowledge, the education of the view. So in the end you recognize something plissé from far away to be Miyake.
Yes. I also love the stories connected with a dress – what kind of woman wore that and where to? From when does it date and what did I do back then? If I want something, I develop a kind of tunnel vision until I get it.
Where is the input, the inspiration for your particular researches coming from?
From people, who had an impact on me. For the Gallery Issue I was inspired by a shop owner from Stuttgart, where I was born and raised. Her store was next to my school and she sold the characteristic labels of the 1980ies – few Chanel and Versace with some common clothes next to it. When I returned recently after years, I startled – the store was almost all black now and changed completely. She appeared with grey long hair and a huge black caftan. I asked her, if she still had something by Chanel. She gazed at me, with a fag in her mouth: “Chanel. I don’t have that any more. I don’t want that anymore. No one actually wears that anymore.” What a hubris! I then found a beige Yohji Yamamoto dress that was relatively low priced. But I wasn’t too sure about it and said “Well, I am not yet getting along with the Japanese fashion. I am trying to approximate to it.” She, with the fag still in her mouth, replied: “The Japanese don’t do fashion.” Turns around and leaves. What an arrogance! I left the dress, but it stuck in my memory for months. I returned and said: “You had a beige Yamamoto dress in the store.” She replied “You said it correct, I had.” I was so greedy to get the dress! A friend found it later in her stock and bought it for me.
But despite your huge interest in fashion and clothing, you are a no-show on the typical fashion events in Berlin.
I think it’s amazingly exhausting. If you consider, that fashion week in Berlin means that the stores are open on Sundays and Spanish people cross the Hackescher Markt with trolleys, that can’t be it! I don’t have the energy to be that superficial. To stumble from one small talk to the next, that’s not even a small talk, more like “Gosh, I have to go, I have to get to the next show!” – “Jajajaja, I have to get to the next reception…!”
So let’s talk about your hunt – how is that working?
By now I don’t have the nerve anymore to dig into household clearances – I am searching for special pieces, that’s why I’m mainly at flea markets in the west of Berlin, like Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf and Steglitz. This is where the people used to have money to buy nice things. Sometimes I return from the first market at five in the morning with three giant filled bags and can’t end my tour, since I can’t carry any more stuff!
Five o’clock on a Sunday morning?! That demands some discipline…
Nah, I work at a nightclub and start after I finish. You have to be at the market when the vendors start setting up, otherwise it’s not worth it. But it still depends on your luck. I am not the only one who is there that early. In past times I used to be in the first row all the time and would also fight for a pair of pants with the others. Today I prefer getting a coffee and see wether I can get a piece or two later. I am way more relaxed now. If I don’t find something today, I will find something tomorrow.
If one considers how many hands touched a dress until you get it…
That’s what fascinates me. A year ago a woman dissolved her wardrobe, she used to wear only Chanel and bought every item twice – one to wear and one for back-up. I thought I was bonkers! She definitely had eight different bags, and then hats and costumes, all twice – insanity! Every monday at eleven she brought some to the store, and at half past I bought everything up. That went on for six months – I never met her! I was dying to see her, just to know who’s that crazy to buy everything twice! Or the Rick Owens jacket, that I just sold at Nightboutique, it was barely two seasons old – who gives something like that away?! I learned that it belonged to a woman, who thought the jacket was great, but her boyfriend considered it butt ugly and she wasn’t allowed to wear it once! I have that precise image of her – a quite cool woman with a fine taste, and a Swabian boor at her side, who likes Tommy Hilfiger and Ralf Lauren and thinks his girlfriend looks deformed in a avantgarde leather jacket and that he couldn’t take her to the next wine fest. I don’t remember faces and names very well, but dresses stuck in my head. If I see you in a dress, and then again in four years, I will know, I met the dress before.