Before terms like “fashion resale,” “preloved fashion” and “gently used clothing” became popular, inveterate shoppers kept an eye out for vintage pieces sold by friends or at flea markets, or they were fortunate enough to be handed down antique jewelry and designer gowns by their fashionable relatives.
The latter is true for Erica Concepcion-Reyes, founder of Riqueza Vintage and Fine Jewelry. Her love affair with vintage started when she inherited her great-grandmother’s Ramon Valera gowns and prewar jewelry pieces. She has since worn the minimally altered, decades-old gowns on several occasions and been complimented by those who have remarked on how well-preserved they are.
An eye for luxury
“Seeing how beautiful these gowns and vintage jewelry were, I started to acquire them whenever there was an opportunity,” Concepcion-Reyes told Lifestyle in an email interview. She hasn’t limited herself to Valeras, though, but considers “anything that is beautifully crafted, rare and historically fascinating.”
For businesswoman Vicky Marchadesch, flea markets have always been her jam. Even as a former executive for a company that distributed luxury fragrances and skin care, and who used to travel regularly to Europe and the United States for work, she always included a side trip to her favorite flea markets in Paris, Rome or San Francisco.
“I’m really an ukay girl,” Marchadesch told Lifestyle in a phone interview. “Like many others, I started by trawling the ukay-ukay stores in Baguio for branded luxury bags. This was in the late ’90s to early 2000s.”
She got to know which of the sellers brought in preloved, genuine luxury goods from Japan and would head straight to them whenever she was in Baguio. (For shopping tips, see sidebar on C2.)“
Aside from making a beeline for the flea markets when I traveled abroad, I also would go to outlet stores. I started with Gucci and Ferragamo before I went for the more high-end bags from Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.”
When she wanted a “new” bag, she would sell one of her own, and she always found a willing buyer.
As a jeweler who specializes in vintage and estate jewelry, Concepcion-Reyes has a discerning market, one that is willing to spend on her exquisite pieces. Two of the more memorable ones include an extremely rare, 19th-century gold relicario with the image of the Blessed Mother painted by the famous 19th-century portraitist Justiniano Asunción, and a beautiful Cartier Art Deco brooch with old mine-cut diamonds and emeralds set in platinum.
“There are plenty others but these two pieces were really remarkable in terms of workmanship, provenance and quality. They are now both in the collection of jewelry collectors whom I admire and have so much respect for,” she said.
She is not averse to selling such one-of-a-kind pieces even if she could keep them for herself and pass them on to her daughter because, she said, “Being in the business, one cannot keep everything.” What she has kept are the jewelry from her great-grandmother that she intends to pass on to her children.
Cost per wear
Deciding what to buy, sell or keep is a decision that all collectors eventually have to make. Marchadesch’s initial obsession with luxury bags has evolved into one for antiques and everything else related to the home.
“I hardly go out anymore, so I enjoy decorating my home with tabletop accessories like lamps and other knickknacks. I also keep an eye out for chairs, and I never buy an entire set. Very few items in my home are new. I have a wild and quirky array of items on display, but what I particularly gravitate to are pieces from the 1970s. The more intricate they are, the more interesting for me,” she said.
She’s kept some of her signature bags but now that she has become a homebody, her interests have changed.
Concepcion-Reyes continues to be focused on vintage and estate jewelry, and credits her late mentor Ramon Villegas for instilling in her an appreciation for workmanship when appraising jewelry. Villegas was an art historian, jeweler and antiquities dealer.
“On top of that, I read a lot about antique jewelry, visited museums here and abroad, and exchanged thoughts and ideas with fellow antique jewelry collectors,” she said.
In a time of fast fashion, what is the allure of vintage? For former luxury bag lover Marchadesch, it was mainly a business decision.
“Since I would meet regularly with our principals during overseas work trips, I felt I needed to be seen wearing a bag by the brand. When I would buy a bag, I always considered the cost per wear,” she said.
Depending on how many times she was able to use it, she could bring the cost per wear down to around P1,000, which was not bad at all, she added.
With home items, Marchadesch gets kick out of spotting something she likes—the quirkier, the better.
Concepcion-Reyes continues to be drawn to vintage jewelry pieces that are “one-of-a-kind, have survived the test of time, and remain charming and beautiful. Oh, the stories they could tell if only they could speak!”
Neither of them are superstitious about acquiring or selling previously owned items. Marchadesch said her friends often compliment her on her eclectically furnished home even if they would never consider taking that design route themselves.
“I do not believe in superstition, I believe in the power of beauty. These beautiful vintage jewels and objects were made during a time when people handcrafted things without machines. The artists, craftsmen and designers who made these beautiful objects used their imagination, put their heart and soul into making them,” said Concepcion-Reyes.