Cameron Silver is known as ‘The King of Vintage’ — a title that was given to him upon opening his Los Angeles vintage emporium Decades. The coveted Los Angeles-based brick and mortar space specializes in ‘an edited selection of authentic vintage treasures and future collectibles’ and with each piece on display, Silver’s mantra has always remained the same — to ‘Dress Up!’
His pre-loved collection dates back to the 1920s but half the draw of the Decades experience is getting one-on-one time with the store’s owner, a charismatic character with an unrivaled sense of humor whose encyclopedic knowledge of all things fashion is nothing short of remarkable. To celebrate the latest arrivals of chic Hermès handbags and more in Christie’s Handbag Shop, we sat down with Silver to discuss all things ‘Birkin’.
You’re a known collector. How did you get into the world of vintage collecting?
Cameron Silver: When I was singing and performing around the country in the mid-Nineties, I began searching for cool men’s vintage, which morphed into a career change and the eventual opening of Decades in 1997.
You’ve been dubbed ‘The King of Vintage’. Not a bad title. How did this originate?
I think Fiona Golfar, Editor-at-large of British Vogue knighted me.
An example of the Hermès Haut à Courroies
You have a seriously in-depth knowledge of luxury handbags. What was the very first Birkin Bag you purchased?
I purchased the original inspiration, a massive vintage [Hermès] Haut à Courroies from the 1960s, around the time I opened Decades.
What was unique about it?
For starters, it's huuuuuge! I think it was 70 cm as it was used to carry a saddle. At the time Birkin Bags weren’t known by most and I had the coolest weekend bag that would give most a hernia!
With so many luxury houses out there, why does the Birkin Bag represent the ‘Holy Grail’ for so many collectors?
It’s not trendy. It doesn’t go on sale. The Birkin isn't an ‘it’ bag and most important, Hermès artisans can repair this entirely-sewn-by-hand bag so it becomes a family heirloom that can last many decades. Plus, with proper care and reflecting inflation, a Birkin can increase in value.
I own it: a [Hermès] Bordeaux Porosus Crocodile HAC travel ‘Birkin’ — I've seen one other in 18 years. It requires a private jet to accompany it!
An example of the Hermès Black Crocodile ‘SAC 404’ Bag
What vintage bags are you currently obsessing over?
I always like unusual or out of production bags with phenomenal hardware. Birkin bags are rather ubiquitous but I’m fond of really rare models like the famed ‘404’ from Hermès. I also love vintage Bonnie Cashin for Coach, Delvaux, and Comtesse.
What are your tips for buying a vintage bag?
First, if it doesn't hold a cell phone, you’ll regret the purchase. Second, I’d check that the inside is functional and well preserved. I also avoid vintage bags if their top handles were replaced by wonky link chains — they never look correct. Minor refurbishing can be a negligible cost, but replacing handles or re-plating hardware is often prohibitive. Finally, there’s the leather or skin — if it’s dry or cracked, no amount of conditioning will bring the bag back to life. It’s like human skin: a face-lift on really wrinkled skin won’t make those heavy lines look smooth.
The vintage that you sell and the vintage that you wear seem to be in impeccable shape. How do you care for your vintage bags, specifically?
I use dust covers and keep the bags stuffed with acid free tissue between wearing to protect the exterior and maintain the shape.
What’s your latest personal splurge?
I’m thinking about a men's Fendi Peakaboo. I rarely buy modern bags that are of the moment, but I think this is a really smart design. I'd be happy to find one pre-loved!
Looking for your own handbag find? Browse the latest arrivals of collectible Hermès and other luxury handbags currently available at Christie’s Handbag Shop.
This piece was contributed by Yale Breslin. Photo Credit: Stephen Busken