Ballet costumes, vintage cashmere sweaters, reinterpreted nightgowns, antique undergarments, and Gothic- inspired patchwork empire waist dresses awash in customized colors, from tea-stain mauve to kiwi green, line the walls from ceiling to floor in the tiny Geminola shop in the West Village. Customization specialist and proprietor Lorraine Kirke has created looks for clotheshorses Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker and is decidedly on the money at the moment with her color choices and the mixing of details that defy the specific period and genre test.
In Paris, the no-nonsense duo Michele and Olivier Chatenet have been working in the embellished and reworked genre for years. In their appointment-only atelier, the couple works with vintage designer pieces from the ’30s to the ’70s, adding antique detailing like flea market buttons, heavy stitch work, or perhaps even ripping apart the garment and creating another altogether. Take for example the halter top they made for Madonna out of an antique kimono that received acres of press coverage a few years ago. The label has had some hurdles since then (including a stint at Leonard) but business has not been interrupted — a devoted cadre of obsessive fashionistas keep placing orders that the designers keep limited. In their showroom, one rack is a stash of prints and designer garments up for refreshment, and across the hall it’s a sea of rehashed takes on Gothic, prairie romanticism and simply drop-dead gorgeous mainly blouses and dresses invaded by couture needles and the lethal tailoring of the Chatenets.