THE GIRL, THE POP-UP, THE ICON AND THE LEGENDARY FASHION COLLECTION

A precious cache of box-fresh vintage designer fashion, unique in the world, will be officially re-launched for sale by its new young owner tonight. Voxfrock editor Janice Breen Burns, meets her.

 

A stranger walking past Danielle Goodwin‘s pop-up shop recently set off a once-in-a-blue-moon, life-changing chain of good fortune so wonderful, months later she still giggles with disbelief. “He was just this random guy who obviously knew about fashion,” says the young entrepreneur and founder of Hawkeye Vintage in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran. “He said; “Your (vintage) items are very similar to a lady I know, Mary Lipshut, who has a huge collection.” Emphasis on the “HUGE”. Miss Goodwin was immediately intrigued, suddenly frantic to track this mystery Mary and her marvellous vintage collection.

Danielle "Hawkeye" Goodwin

Danielle “Hawkeye” Goodwin

She was too young, at 26, and had been out of the country, on adventures around the world too long, to know the Mary Lipshut her “random guy” referred to, was a bone fide fashion icon. Now in her late 80s, Mrs. Lipshut is renowned in certain fading circles as a risk-taking buyer for Georges, Myer and her own stores who had imported key designer collections from Europe against a tide of Australian conservatism in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She travelled extensively and counted names such as Gianni Versace, Tai Missoni and even Frank Sinatra among her friends. The clincher though, was Mrs. Lipshut’s legendary fashion collection. It accumulated during several flukes of timing from the late 1970s, including a boycott on the sale of French products and an unsettled supply dispute. On a tip from friend, Italian Vogue‘s Anna Piaggi that the popularity of vintage fashion would rocket, Mrs. Lipshut stored whole shipments of European designer fashion - Courregges, Emilio Pucci, Callaghan, Gianni Versace, to name a few – and left them unsold, untouched, silent in their warehouse, for the next 30-odd years.

When she did break out the box-fresh gems for sale, it was on the upswing of precisely that collectable vintage fashion trend. She called her collection ML Vintage and for more than a decade, showed and sold it by appointment only, one unique piece at a time, to fashion connoissuers, collectors, even galleries around the world including Boston’s Smithsonian and Melbourne‘s National Gallery of Victoria.

Mrs. Mary Lipshut. Photo: Monty Coles

Mrs. Mary Lipshut. Photo: Monty Coles

Then a curious man walked by Danielle Goodwin‘s collectable fashion pop-up shop. “I’d just sold out completely and was a bit desperate: do I extend the lease? Should I go overseas to find new stock? Could I try and source more here?” It had taken three years of combing opshops and flea markets around the world for “Hawkeye”, as her mother nicknamed the peripatetic, vintage-fashion-crazy Miss Goodwin, to accumulate enough stock for a pop-up. Now, her racks were bare again, after just two months. “I had to find this lady! I thought, if she has a showroom (as the stranger said) and it was private, then maybe I could take on some pieces…?”

Finding Mrs. Lipshut wasn’t easy. She had slowed ML Vintage to a near halt for her health and to search for a connoisseur who might buy the entire collection, estimated to be worth up to $3million retail. There was interest from London to Moscow, but the perfect deal hadn’t crystalised. When Miss Goodwin finally tracked her quarry down, neither she, nor Mrs. Lipshut, were immediately aware the perfect symmetry of their needs and wants. Anything but the sale of a single frock seemed preposterous at first.

Courregges

Courregges

“When I went into her showroom, oh my gosh, it was sooo overwhelming,” Miss Goodwin recalls. “There were evening dresses, hung up on the right as you walked in, a whole row of them…I know how hard it is just to find one single, beautiful dress, in an opshop or vintage store and here, there were 200, in so many colours, in perfect condition…!” She remembers flitting, heart racing, from a bright orange Courregges coat dress, to a rack of Missoni logo tops, to Pucci tailored jackets and maxi skirts in Emilio’s distinctive paintbox graphics. All original 1970s pret-a-porter, all flawless, never worn. “And Mary was lovely; such an old fashioned icon. She had stories, so much information. She asked me if I wanted to buy one piece and I said; “I want it all!” She said, “well, you can…””

HAWKEYE VINTAGE campaign shots224935mm

The truth however, was that neither Miss Goodwin nor Mrs. Lipshut believed it was possible one of the most important retail collections in the world could possibly pass from its original, iconic owner, to a girl with a pop-up shop. “But I wished!,” Miss Goodwin recalls. “I didn’t know if it would be possible, how I would buy it – finance? borrowing? – I didn’t know. It seemed like an impossible dream, but I was so passionate, I just kept going back; “How can we work this out? How can we work this out?…”

Emilio Pucci

Emilio Pucci

By this time, Mrs. Lipshut’s grandson, Mark had stepped in to the relationship with Miss Goodwin, and Miss Goodwin had enlisted a business-savvy friend to plumb every possible scenario that would make the seemingly impossible, possible. “We negotiated for months and months, and…” she giggles, smiles wide at this memory; “We came to an agreement.” The conditions and extent of their contract, signed just four weeks ago, will remain under wraps but its bones are clear:  “The stock is mine,” Miss Goodwin says, “And I will sell it off over a couple of years on a sort of consignment basis. Mary’s showroom (in South Yarra, opposite Melbourne’s iconic Le Louvre boutique) is my warehouse.” She says the collection’s continued storage in Melbourne was a key, emotive factor in the negotiations, as was her own passion and experience (she has collected vintage fashion, particularly 1980s Versace, since her teens), and the undeniable fact that, although housed in an atmospherically controlled environment, the garments would not last indefinitely.

Colinda

Colinda

In Prahran’s off-beat fashion mecca, Greville Street, the “For Lease” board came down at number 147 last week and Miss Goodwin white-washed the inside, fitted racks and shelves, and began one of the most thrilling tasks in her professional life: selecting Hawkeye Vintage’s first stocks from the legendary ML Vintage archive. “This is one of my favorites,” she says now, carefully separating an elegant peach evening jumpsuit from a riot of other snapping-fresh brightly coloured 1970s gowns. Its sleeves and bodice are heavily embroidered with crystals and beads. The label is the relatively obscure Colinda, “Made in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong”, around 1970, and indicative of the quality of many lesser-known designer brands Mrs. Lipshut tracked down. Most intriguingly, the onesie is priced at just $2000, considerably less than if estimated by, say, a European or US auction house, and about half the price that even Mrs. Lipshut calculated as its value for ML Vintage. “Yes, this how the pricing will work now,” Miss Goodwin says. “About 40 per cent less than what (Mrs. Lipshut) had, not because the pieces aren’t worth it, but because I’m selling at what the current market will take.”

Missoni

Missoni

She pulls out a lavish 1970s Missoni floor-sweeper wrap dress with halter fastening and matched cardigan in the same delicate, blue-toned web-knit to illustrate the extraordinary disparities – and the marvellous opportunities for connoisseurs – created by her new pricing policy. “The guy from Decades (vintage fashion mecca based in Los Angeles) has this exact set on his website for $US2800. I’ve got it for $AU1800, so at least $1000 less, and Mary’s price (for ML Vintage) would have been around $3000.” Another revelation, a chic velvet graphic patterned blazer and black flared trouser set, originally priced at $3500, is now roughly half that. Miss Goodwin also unearthed enough unique, original 1970s maillot and bikini swimsuits by brands such as Missoni and Versace, to pack a rack and , she hopes, inspire a new generation of collectors, and for roughly the same prices – $129 to $329 – as today’s contemporary swimwear.

On the lip of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival, Miss Goodwin is poised to lure her own generation of young women already savvy to the joys of collectable fashion, and its ability to sharpen, add a visual edge, or even completely transform an otherwise ordinary ensemble. “I know there are a lot as passionate as I am.”

Hawkeye Vintage, 147 Greville Street, Prahran, www.hawkeyevintage.com