James Veloria

James Veloria

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Brandon Veloria Giordano and Collin James Weber are the couple behind store James Veloria. The eponymous shop was conceived from the couple’s middle names. The couple has dated for about eight years, and for the past three, they have created a business partnership together. 

The shop is directly under the bustle of Two Bridges, adjacent to children’s shoes and a new guard of galleries such as TRAMPS and Michael Werner Gallery. 

While tucked away in at the top of a Chinatown mall, the shop is accessible to anyone who can find it. Meaning that, while it is niche, it invites anyone who wants to be a part of it. Comparatively to other establishments much like it, prices are reasonable. However, what is special about the shop is how kind Brandon and Collin are, and the relationships they build with friends of the shop.

Collin and Brandon have the most earnest intentions to make every moment of dress exciting and dear, much like, “the first day of high school,” Brandon later says. Like an eighties prom the shop is lined with silver tinsel. The store’s “retro” décor feels almost like someone stepped into a new wave American film or a Memphis Group catalogue. With this, it showcases clothes considered to be rebellious of that time. Brandon has collected vintage since he was in junior high school when he first found an Yves Saint Laurent piece at Goodwill. While Collin, a former librarian always collected sixties and seventies knits and suits. 

I had the opportunity to chat with Collin and Brandon about relationship building as business partners and lovers.

AA: First and foremost: how did you meet?
BVG: Collin?
CJW: We met in Oakland, California about eight and a half years ago. 
BVG: Yea that’s probably about eight. I don’t know—a while ago.
CJW: A while ago.
BVG: Ok, he had a crush on me. He saw me around for maybe about a year. Then he finally got really really wasted and talked to me at a party, and I was really freaked out by him, because he was like, “I’ve seen you around for a long time.” He was kinda inadvertently creepy and drunk. It took a really long time. He lived near me and it was very convenient. So, it maybe took a year before we actually liked each other and saw each other during the day. Collin was a librarian and I thought he was really cute.
CJW: And Brandon told me right away that he was moving to New York. I don’t think either of us thought it was going to be anything, but he ended up sticking around. Then we got to know each other. He moved to New York but we would fly back and forth to see each other.

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AA: At that time were you involved in collecting garments together—Were clothes in the picture at this point? 
CJW: It was a hobby. I think we both loved thrifting and trying to find unique things, just for ourselves to wear. I used to sell on eBay back then but it wasn’t my career. There was a vintage store down in Oakland and I had seen Brandon and I thought he had really good style, which in Oakland/San Francisco area is not the easiest thing to find. He stuck out to me because of the way he put himself together.

AA: Well I feel like San Francisco has such a huge vintage market but it’s so different than your aesthetic. 
BVG: Yeah, at the time, living there I would meet people back-alley with an envelope of cash. There was this guy Mr. Toad that I used to buy from. He would be in a hotel with a trunk of Ann Demeulemeester or something. It was really freaky. It was hard for me to find the stuff that I liked. Ebay was good but it’s nice to try items on. We didn’t really fit in the aesthetically at all. I remember people were very disturbed by the way that we dressed. Even just wearing Comme or anything remotely interesting, people were like “What are you doing?” “Who are you trying to be?”

AA: Comme is really not that California—I think NoCal vintage and I think of Nasty Gal. 
CJW: Yeah and people were spending five hundred dollars on rare Levi Jeans, but anything that was a little different disturb[ed] people there. 
BVG: That’s why we moved really—to sort of be with our people.

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AA: How did you begin collecting vintage? 
BVG: I started when I was really young with my mom. I found an Yves Saint Laurant piece at a Goodwill in Ohio. That’s the first designer that I guess I started collecting. I was about twelve or thirteen. Then I was really obsessed with Jil Sander in high school and I would collect her pieces—which is very random. From a young age I enjoyed thrifting and searching out. My mom was very into this too, so, it was a thing that we would do together. 
CJW: For me, I always bought vintage but I guess it was always weird sixties or seventies stuff like that I bought at a thrift store, but when I met Brandon he already had a pretty decent collection of designer stuff that I hadn’t previously gotten to see. Before, I always associated it with fancy department stores that I couldn’t necessarily afford. I got to try on some of his things like Kansai Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, and Comme. He really taught me a lot about it and then I got kind of obsessed and had to find everything I could.

AA: When did your love of clothing and romantic partnership evolve into a business partnership?
BVG: About three years ago.
CJW: So he moved here first and was working in fashion, more styling at first and then working for a designer. And I moved here and started working for an interior designer, which ended abruptly. At the time we started selling more on eBay. [Brandon] was working as a personal stylist and helping people clear out their closets. We were getting a lot of great clothes and we would list the items on eBay and sell [them] for [his clients.] 
BVG: Some of these people we still work with too, which is really nice.
CJW: So when my interior design job ended I thought I would keep selling clothes until the money ran out and then I’ll start applying for jobs. And it just never really did—the money didn’t run out. Everything sort of took off. We started doing a flea market. That was when we conceived the name and made it a business. We did the flea market every weekend. That feels like the beginning of James Veloria to me.

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AA: So, it was the flea market and then everything just really developed from there? 
CJW: Yeah we were connecting with so many people so quickly. It was a terrible flea market too. Some of the people we met there though are some of our best friends now, customers, people we’ve worked with.
BVG: Our friend Anna Santangelo, who styles a lot of our things we met at that market, Sarah Abney met us there—all of these people that’s how we met them. I would start dressing them or we sold stuff to them. That was when we thought, ‘ok, this could be a real business’ and I hated my job.
CJW: We got into A Current Affair and did that for the first time. It took both of us about a year to throw everything we had into A Current Affair. That was where we met design teams and so many people that made us feel like we had a real business versus selling stuff on the weekends in a parking lot.
BVG: That’s where we met Humberto [Leon].

AA: And what else do you two do with your time outside of this project?
CJW: Not enough lately…
BVG:[James Veloria] has definitely grown a lot and it’s so exciting, but we really have to focus everything on it. With this [Opening Ceremony] trunk show coming up we are collecting and sourcing Gaultier, Prada, Miu Miu. Then we’re also creating original content and working with our community to do that, trying to have a unique online presence, and then also trying to have a consistent e-commerce. It just takes up all of our time. At least we both love it! All of our dates revolve around shopping and sourcing. But, it’s so fun. All of our dinners kind of turn into meetings but it’s like planning kind of our dream-job-future—very romantic. 
CJW: I used to get off work and then do this, because it’s what I want to be doing.

AA: It is so interesting to me when couples work together in fashion, because my parents worked together in this industry. My life growing up, every family dinner was a meeting—
CJW: You can’t not talk about it.

AA: We would talk about the shows, whatever buy…It was the product of growing up with a couple that worked together and worked in the industry for a lifetime. That brings me to my next question. So, within the world of vintage there are a lot of collectors who have been in the game for a long time. How do you feel that perhaps your approach is a bit different than theirs?
BVG: Making the clothing accessible to people. I think for me, having to go to ‘whatever hotel room’ to meet Mr. Toad and jump through all these hoops just to get what I wanted made Collin and I want to create a business that makes these items accessible to a lot of people who really love it, but maybe, hadn’t thought they had enough money for it. There are stores that have buzzers before you can get into them and they’re very intimidating. It’s like a weird pretty woman thing, but it’s for vintage. At the end of the day we’re selling old clothes. You know? We want people to wear them and have fun in them. Not for it to go into an archive where it’s going to sit—Even though we really respect that. We just want these clothes to have life, and I think we’re different in that way. We really try to only buy things that have a bit of humor, that are fun.
CJW: Fashion can be way too serious sometimes and we’re trying to keep it fun all the time. We know that people are smarter about how they shop these days. Like you can’t just find something designer and mark it up to a thousand dollars. People have a pretty good idea of what something would go for. So, I think finding really special things and keeping the price-point fair for people is what lets us set ourselves apart. People can look things up on Etsy or eBay and see what something similar is going for. 
BVG: I think that an older generation doesn’t take that into consideration and price can get pretty outrageous for pieces that honestly aren’t worth that.

AA: A great example is the artisanal Margiela leather glove top that you guys priced under $3,000.
BVG: It was $2,600, which is the most expensive thing we have ever had—

AA: Which is the most competitive price I have ever seen for that piece. I’ve also seen that garment for 20k on 1stDibs, so that’s a great example.
CJW: We’ve had two of them now it’s not impossible. 

AA: What makes something worth selecting for the shop?
BVG: Someone said that I always dress like it’s the first day of school. I feel like that’s sort of what we do. If you are going to wear a really simple outfit, at least all the pieces that you’re putting together can be special and that makes you walk out into the world feeling good.

 

Images courtesy of JAMES VELORIA

 

interview ALEX ASSIL

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