Rae Joseph, Head Curator and General Manager of 1954 Vintage discusses sustainability and circular fashion in the luxury market.

What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

I like to wake up early to take my time practising my morning rituals. I usually start my day with a five-minute morning meditation followed by a short read. I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. I then do a morning stretch to allow my body to wake up properly and follow that with a solo morning walk with a cup of coffee. Once I’m back, I am fully awake, clear, and ready to tackle the day.

How did you get into vintage collecting?

I started vintage collecting coincidentally when I was 15 or 16. My sisters and I were taking a break at a cafe from a day of shopping in New York City, and we happened to be sitting next to the owner of one of the most fabulous vintage showrooms in New York. We talked, and he offered to take us to his showroom. We walked in, fell in love, and the rest is history. Since that encounter, I’ve been collecting vintage and travelling twice a year to hunt for unique vintage finds around the world.


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What was the catalyst for your work with 1954 Vintage and how has it evolved under your leadership?

I’ve always been a lover and collector of vintage. It’s something I’m associated with in my inner circle to an extent where they would ask me to source pieces for them and dress them in vintage for specific occasions. That said, I’ve always kept vintage collecting as a side passion because leaving law to focus on a side passion was too big of a risk for me to take. Until one day, while drowning in a legal file, it hit me! Regardless of how well my legal career was going, I knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t give my passion a chance to explore new possibilities, which is exactly what I did. I am happy and proud to say that under my leadership, the brand introduced the Gulf to vintage fashion in a way that never existed before: a way that is curated to their palate, a way that is up, close and personal. We also partnered with major luxury e-retailers regionally and globally to bring vintage fashion closer to local customers. Including partners like Ounass, for whom we launched the vintage segment, a segment that continues to thrive till today, and Farfetch, for whom we were the first vintage partners in the region.

How have you found social media has supported brand growth?

Education and raising awareness are one of the main challenges for vintage, so social media was the perfect medium to introduce customers to vintage and help them understand its value and magic.

Have you had any mentors along the way and if so, what knowledge did they impart?

With respect to vintage, unfortunately not. What we were doing was new to the market and therefore there weren’t many people to offer guidance, particularly in the vintage sphere. However, we drew inspiration from success stories around the world and saw them as fuel to push forward and keep going.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Just go for it! Follow what you love. Follow what makes your heart sing.

Are there any particular brands and pieces you source that are popular with clients season after season?

Top-selling brands vary by season and are affected by what is happening in the fashion industry; however, certain brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel are consistently top sellers.

What have been your biggest challenges to date and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is education and raising awareness about vintage: What it means, its value/why it’s special, and how it is necessary for the fashion industry’s quest to become more sustainable. For many customers, vintage remains a concept, an idea, something they hear about or see on red carpets. Only a few shop and own vintage outside what their mothers or grandmothers passed down to them. While it is much better now as vintage is getting increasingly popular, we still have some work to do, but we are up for the challenge. It will be worth it! With a shift in focus on sustainability and the resale market, luxury brands are also now moving into resale and vintage offerings.


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What is your view on this and circular fashion?

I think it is fantastic. Unfortunately, fashion is one of our planet’s biggest polluters, so celebrating and encouraging circular fashion is something I will always support. Seeing luxury brands re-sell their old collections is excellent for the environment and the industry as it solidifies the value of vintage and legitimizes it in the eyes of many customers who are still skeptical about buying vintage or pre-loved pieces. I’m all for it. The more, the merrier!

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs looking to make a similar move?

Follow your heart, listen to your gut and get to work!

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