Vintage shopping: whether you’re an aficionado or an amateur, chances are you’ve gotten your hands onWhat Goes Around Comes Around‘s vintage selections or even their own line at some point. That’s because WGACA, now in its 21st year, has become a household name in the vintage luxury circuit and has been bringing their A-game since day one.
Founders Seth Weisser & Gerard Maione launched What Goes Around Comes Around in 1993 with their West Broadway flagship– back when West Broadway shopping wasn’t really a thing yet– and has made it their mission to dress vintage lovers in only the rarest, and most authentic pieces found all over the world. In 2008, the team introduced an LA outpost, and now are focused on growing their luxury accessories business led by their VP of Sales, John Oot (formally at Marc Jacobs and Zac Posen.)
We caught up with the guys at their new (and stunning) West Village showroom and chatted about what inspires their personal style, shifts in vintage trends throughout the decades, and Bill Murray (yes, Bill f*cking Murray!)
Get to know Gerard, Seth, and John:
You and Seth co-founded WGACA 21 years ago. That’s incredible! Have you seen any major shifts in the vintage industry throughout the years? If so, what are they?
Thank you and there absolutely have been. When we opened the store in 1993, we were focusing on an edited curation of victorian-1970’s since that was considered true vintage at the time. We then came upon a Japanese bubble shortly after with huge demands of classic american sportswear from denim, military, workwear, etc. That lasted until around 1998 when the Japanese market collapsed. Then we began to supply design teams from all over the world, from the likes of Ralph Lauren, Gaultier, Galliano and many more. They were buying and renting into the vast archives we had amassed, selecting special inspirational pieces and textile to work into their collections. With the fall of the recession in 2008, companies budgets got squashed and we were working on our own vintage inspired ready to wear collection for 6yrs. We saw one of the biggest shifts to date occurring and evolving, where the market and the new generation were drawn to label driven designer vintage and accessories. With that, we decided to stop our ready to wear and put full emphasis on our luxury accessory business, which now boasts the beautiful new showroom you’ve met us at!
You’re the brand’s Creative Director & Buyer. What kind of customer are you shopping for?
Our shopper at this point is typically one who is a sophisticated fashion consumer and is looking at WGACA to give them a special array of one-of-a-kind options that will enhance their look and wardrobe. With the experience we have and the depth of product range, we truly look at it as the “best of” from all over the world, and that’s why customers come from all over the world to see us.
Celebrities absolutely love WGACA. Any fun, unexpected celebrity encounters you can tell us about?
There have been so many great celebrities that have blessed our presence, but one that sticks out, which was completely spontaneous and in a league of their own, was french actress Catherine Deneuve. It was in our old Tribeca showroom about 10 years ago when the door opens and in walks Catherine and a close female friend of hers. She proceeded to spend hours with us, trying on vintage pajamas and lingerie, chain smoking cigarettes and telling stories, the whole time i was thinking “this can’t be real.” What a beautiful icon, down to earth, warm and complimentary.
If you could dress one style icon dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones. Brian lived way too short of a life, but his impact of style was close to none for the 60s era. Though all the Stones had incredible style, he took it to another level with a flare that was unmistakable and could go so many directions depending on the moment. His accessorizing was off the charts and hence where I’ve built a pretty serious scarf collection, including a rare grouping of 1930’s art deco english ones that legendary rockers were sporting back in the day.
For vintage shoppers looking for a good splurge: what would you recommend to shop that would only appreciate in value?
For women, an iconic piece from a noteworthy designer, such as an Azzedine Alaia dress or a Chanel bag. For guys, important collectible pieces– can be a great pair of vintage denim, a Belstaff jacket, or a classic leather or a rock tee.
What Goes Around Comes Around in one song… What is it?
We Will Rock You! by Queen.
Favorite era and why:
The late 60’s-70’s. It was the pinnacle time in music and fashion where full expression was released. It platformed so much inspiration for what we love today. Style and rock-n-roll were at its best and it was a period where vintage began to be immersed into wardrobe with Victorian & art deco influences that made it a look that will never be the same– and it’s a lot of what my closet possesses!
WGACA is known to carry the best vintage luxury in the world. What has been one of your proudest pieces to have carried?
We have so many amazing pieces that we have found. To pick one would be really hard but I am especially proud of our Chanel Surfboard.
You’re in charge of sales. What would you recall as being one of the most extravagant pieces WGACA has ever sold to date?
We have sold some very rare and collectible pieces. One that was near the top of the list was an 1890’s Levis Buckleback jean we sold back to Levi’s for their museum at $25,000.
You’re also in charge of the team. What would you say is the biggest challenge in managing a team?
As you grow, it is all about keeping the business personal and having a team that can best speak to the company philosophy and brand message.
You guys opened the LA store in 2008. What’s would you say is the biggest difference between an LA customer and a NYC customer?
New York clients are always more reactionary and impulsive. Our LA clients love super special pieces and statement items.
What’s the one piece in your closet that you would never dare selling no matter what?
Only one? I could be buried in my 50’s Harley MC jacket.1
Growing up in New York, we’re sure you’ve seen a lot of party shenanigans. Any crazy stories you can tell us from being a Soho retailer in the early 90s?
I don’t want to incriminate myself so have to be careful here. We have had a lot of really amazing parties and people come through the Soho store during our 20 years. I did have an amazing night one time with Bill Murray shopping for Christmas gifts in a blizzard in December 1994. After he did some good damage both with shopping and well as helping finish a few cocktails, he then left with his arms full of goods. I later found out from Bill that he could not find a cab then a limo pulled up and invited him in. He ended up hanging with Victoria Gotti and the kids until 3am.
Any advice for aspiring vintage buyers & retailers?
It’s a very tough world to start up a new business. Make sure you love it and have the right support.
Favorite era and why:
The 70’s because that’s when the fashion and cultural revolution went next level.
You’re somewhat of an accessories & wholesale legend, having worked at Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Botkier and others. Is this your first go-around with vintage and what would you say is the biggest difference?
This is my first go around selling vintage, yes. However, I have been shopping vintage for my whole career in handbags. Looking at the past, in terms of design, helps me to build a better understanding of what I do today.
I think that the biggest difference is the pressure of design. I have spent so many markets pitching the next “It” bag. This allows us to sell all of the past “It” bags from so many different brands.
You were brought in to be the VP and have since aided the wholesale side of the business. How long has wholesale been in place and who are some of the retailers you currently work with?
The wholesale side of business started small about 6 years ago with Shopbop. The boys saw the potential of this new business and grabbed hold. About 2 years ago the sales started to take off and we built an entire wholesale division for this.
We have worked with some great stores, including Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols, A’marees, Stanley Korshakand Louis Boston. However, our most exciting project for me is our partnership with Al Ostoura in Kuwait to open an international What Goes Around Comes Around boutique. It will be a boutique focused solely on vintage luxury and opens at the end of this month.
You’re a Native New Yorker as well. What would you say is the second best city for shopping luxury vintage accessories other than NYC?
Ha, well I am a native “upstate” New Yorker. I am from Syracuse originally but have lived here in the city for a long time.
There is not one place that I can think of that I prefer to shop. Whether it is Paris, LA, Miami or Rhinebeck, NY, I have noticed that since I started working with WGACA I just find myself seeking out places every single time I travel.
Piece you’re most excited to currently carry:
It really is not about what I carry. I am always very proud to see random people on the street carrying bags that I know I was associated with in some way. It is also a great feeling to be able to have my girlfriend carry something that I work with.
Favorite era and why:
My favorite era is the 80′s. I have great memories of my childhood during that time and it just reminds me of a carefree time where everyone was so expressive. With what we are doing, I get to enjoy that era even more as we fuse the past with the present.
Last question: where do the three of you like to head for a power drink & meal?
There are so many restaurants and bars to be mentioned but I think we can all agree that one of best throw-down meals in a while was at Carbone. Those boys over there know what they are doing.