Fashion’s Original Vintage Store Celebrates Turning 50

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: French vintage specialist Didier Ludot is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his store at the Palais-Royal in Paris with a sale of 50 pieces from his personal archive and a window display with couturier Stéphane Rolland.

Several designs from Rolland’s fall 2023 collection, a tribute to opera singer Maria Callas, are on display alongside archival looks from Christian Dior and Balenciaga and a striking pendant light by French designer Hubert Le Gall.

More from WWD

The sale, meanwhile, includes items such as a black Yves Saint Laurent haute couture dress from 1968; a 1970 Pucci silk pajama top; a Karl Lagerfeld-era Chanel haute couture tweed suit from 1992, and a printed John Galliano dress from 2005.

Guests including Cameron Silver, Becca Cason Thrash, Francis Kurkdjian, Thierry Wasser, Elie Top, Olivier Echaudemaison and Guillaume de Seynes spilled out under the arcades of the former French royal palace to celebrate the milestone.

“I can’t believe I’ve been here for 50 years. I mean, I can and I can’t, because back then, the Palais-Royal was totally different,” Ludot told WWD. “It was full of dusty 19th-century stores.”

Thierry Wasser and Becca Cason Thrash.
Thierry Wasser and Becca Cason Thrash

He started off with a small space at number 16 selling items such as Auguste Bonaz bakelite jewelry and Art Deco perfume bottles. “My first store was so small, I couldn’t even stretch my legs,” he recalled. “I was 22 years old. I was oblivious, I didn’t care. I just loved the place.”

He moved to his current location in 1984 and the boutique is now three times its original size, becoming a destination for designers, collectors and celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon, who wore a 1950s Dior dress sourced from Ludot to receive her Oscar for Best Actress in 2006.

Long before the resale craze, Ludot started selling secondhand clothes in the wake of Saint Laurent’s controversial 1971 Libération collection, inspired by ’40s wartime fashion in France. “At the time, we didn’t call it ‘vintage’ but rather ‘retro,’” he recalled. “Nowadays, ‘vintage’ is like a brand.”

Some women seek one-of-a-kind pieces to stand out from the crowd, he noted. “Then there are the women who buy themselves a past. They come here and say it belonged to their mother or grandmother,” he said, citing the case of a U.S. editor who sent her assistant to pick up a crocodile Hermès Kelly bag before a weekend with Calvin Klein in the Hamptons.

“Most importantly, women buying a vintage couture outfit treat it like a jewel. It’s their own personal treasure,” he said.

Ludot chose Rolland as his partner for the anniversary celebration because the couturier trained with major houses and perpetuates the tradition, greeting clients in a townhouse where he carries out fittings. “On top of that, we’re close friends, so we share the same taste. It gives me hope that haute couture can survive,” Ludot said.

Cameron Silver.
Cameron Silver

Best of WWD