Past is the new present: New York City’s vast vintage world

The Manhattan Vintage Show gathered New York’s most fashionable old souls and global vintage collectors this weekend for a massive retail experience.


Amory Gao

Visitors browse through a rack of clothes for sale at the Manhattan Vintage Show. (Amory Gao for WSN)

Payton Selby, Contributing Writer

While combing through the resplendent clothing assemblage at the Manhattan Vintage Show on Oct. 15, I came across a Russian bekesha coat from the 1930s. As I traced the beautifully stitched embroidery, I found an old note tucked in the sleeve — a letter from the previous owner explaining that their great-grandmother wore this coat when she immigrated to New York from Russia. Amy Abrams and Ronen Glimer, co-founders of Shop Extraordinary Enterprises, aim to cultivate an unmatched experience in these shows.

“Look, at the end of the day, we work in the business of storytelling,” Glimer said. 

Critics often fault Gen-Z for their obsession with fads, enabling the trend cycle to change faster than the weather. However, a vibrant vintage community that was once burrowed in the underbelly of Manhattan has brought appreciating the past into the mainstream. Abrams said that ultimately, the creative individualism of the younger generation is the guiding principle in her curation process. 

“There’s just so much embracing of diversity; it was not like this when I was growing up,” Abrams said.

The Manhattan Vintage Show featured over 90 curators and collectors showcasing pieces they tracked down from every inch of the world, making for a large community retail experience. The massively varied selection reflected the show’s slogan, “vintage for all.” Yet, as I gawked at a 1985 Dolce and Gabbana vest covered in bottle caps and buttons and a burgundy leather coat made in the ’70s; I could not help but be keenly aware of the patience and disappointment it would require to find anything below $150. It was an unfortunately familiar feeling, having grown up thrift shopping in Atlanta, GA, and finding myself staggered by the high price of vintage in New York City.

NYU LS sophomore and social media manager for Manhattan Vintage Stella Santini explained that these pieces are meant to last a lifetime and can be seen as an investment. Santini urged shoppers to consider a long-term perspective. 

“Where am I going to find that again?” Santini said. “Nowhere is the answer; that is exactly the point.” 

Still, I painfully parted with the button vest, as I could not quite justify the $1,000 “investment.”

Ultimately, when we purchase each item, we pay for the stories embedded within them and the tireless effort of the curators. Erin Silvers, the owner of Zingara Vintage & Handmade Treasures in Rockaway Beach, makes her clothing from old towels she collects. The towels are made of terrycloth, an extremely difficult fabric to work with; it takes hours of labor and several weaving machines. Yet, Silvers calls this laborious process the greatest joy of her life. For her customers, the garments are worth every cent. 

Even more varied than the infinite collection of clothing and jewelry was the style of all the event’s attendees. The space gives every person a license to express their individual style in the most creative manner they can. 

“People feel a sense of community,” Glimer said. “They come here, and they feel comfortable trying things that they never wear on the street.”

The event was so masterfully curated that some of fashion’s most influential voices were among the thousands of shoppers to attend throughout the weekend. While poking through a bevy of antique brooches, I looked over to see Lynn Yaeger, a contributing editor of and contributing writer to Vogue, shopping next to me. 

Abrams describes the process of curation as “a lot more art than science.” Abrams’ and Glimer’s creative instincts and determination to create a space that champions individual expression is what makes the Manhattan Vintage experience one-of-a-kind. While I painfully left without the glamorous D&G button vest, I left having found more community than clothing. 

Contact Peyton Selby at [email protected].