Everyone in business has to start somewhere. For a teenage Angelo Caroli in the mid-1970s, it was offering styling advice on a local radio station which led selling secondhand American denim and military jackets at a hawkers market in the centre of his hometown.
The awareness of the ‘Made in Italy’ label was still in its infancy, and with a youth population enthralled with the pop music movement and its rising stars Madonna, Wham, Duran Duran, Caroli identified a niche to exploit for pocket money. This astute observation led to a burgeoning business in resale, and soon he began making trips to visit family on the US east coast to acquire more highly coveted goods.
From hustling to owning and operating A.N.G.E.L.O Vintage (a.k.a. Vintage Palace) in Lugo di Ravenna, Italy, his market table has grown to a glorious 4-story, 1, palazzo bursting at the seams with vintage clothing.
The multi-purpose location has the first floor devoted to retail and divided into men’s and women’s, and stocks hand-picked treasures in various on-trend genres, bridal, accessories, and footwear. The stairs to the second floor bring label aficionados to the most desirable luxury designer handbags currently displayed by the colour palette in beautiful vignettes.
It is further up those stairs, on the top two floors at Corso Garibaldi, where the true devotee’s of style will have their breath taken away. I was speechless from the moment the threshold was crossed. It was akin to tumbling into a treasure chest stuffed with of one-of-a-kind pieces by the most revered and respected designers of the twentieth century, and all touchable-unlike museum exhibitions.
The A.N.G.E.L.O. Archive houses a curation of garments from the 1800s to the 1990s. Organized using two systems – the first by genre like Victorian, Hawaiian, knitwear, military, etc., and the second is alphabetically designer name. The 120,000+ items are not for sale but are available to be rented for reference purposes (not for personal wearing) and examined by fashion professionals, researchers, and publications.
Many of the archive garments have been photographed by Helmut Newton, Paolo Roversi, and Walter Chin. American heritage designers Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren have both made a pilgrimage to the Archive.
A 1970s Pierre Cardin mod dress with geometric appliqués, filed under ‘C,’ catches my eye but I am quickly distracted as the Archive Curator presents a jacket from Alexander McQueen‘s MBA graduation collection ‘Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims’ Collection (1992) with a sewn-inside relic of the designer’s hair in a plastic pouch, only to have my attention sideswiped by a Chanel jacket in lavender. This classic piece was worn in the 1990s by Canadian supermodel Yasmin Guari and then gifted to iconic fashion journalist Anna Piaggi by Lagerfeld personally.
A trailblazer in ethical fashion and circular economy before it was fashionable, Caroli is busy working on a very exciting two-part expansion project and 48 collaborating with the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Bologna to digitize the current 120,000+ piece archive creating an online portal for worldwide access, and the overseeing of the relocation of the archive. Down the road, renovations have begun at an abandoned 18th-century building, the ‘Orphanage delle fanciulle’ which consists of two regal stone buildings (separate dormitories for boys and girls) which are connected by a large courtyard. When completed the Archive will be easier for all interested in visiting.
Caroli’s desk is overflowing with fashion magazines with tagged editorials featuring items from the Archive. Celebrating creativity, each flat surface and shelf is packed with reference books, biographies, catalogue clippings, and an impressive array of vintage Hermès clothing and the iconic orange boxes.
A prized acquisition sits atop a shelf, across from three vintage Hermès riding capes. A 1938 travel tote, used initially for transporting horse bridles and reins, which was acquired from a 93-year old Contessa in Montecatini.
During a closet buy, the Contessa regaled Caroli with stories of how she used the bag to travel from Argentina to Italy after the Second World War. Caroli explains that this “bag is the one that initially inspired the Kelly bag and then the Birkin. Although the bag is a little broken down, it is still valuable, worth about 10,000 euros but I do not know if or when I will sell it.” He smiles rather enamoured with this rather non-descript Hermès.
Those who visit A.N.G.E.L.O. Vintage will find stunning and rare vintage pieces from the legendary design houses and obscure designers. This incredible shrine to vintage by famous European designers with prices ranging from the affordable to the atmospheric depending on whether your new ‘friends’ are named Moschino, Miyake, Pucci, or Chanel.
- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at [email protected].
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