lidow archive

This Brooklyn-Based Stylist Has a 4,000-Piece Fashion Archive in Her Basement

Haile Lidow shares her secrets for finding the most unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for her rentable fashion collection.

Tucked away on a quiet street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, lies a true hidden gem: Lidow Archive, a collection of over 4,000 pieces of retro vintage and designer collectibles neatly organized in the basement of stylist and founder Haile Lidow’s apartment. The archive—Lidow’s own personal collection that she’s been growing over the past 15 years, since middle school—is impressive, featuring such gems as a reissue of the iconic Christian Lacroix top featured on Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover and a pair of Phoebe Philo’s “toenail shoes” from Céline SS13. And it’s all available to rent, for both editorial and personal purposes.

If fashion is a way to uplift ourselves, especially during our current trying times, then Lidow’s space is the ultimate mood booster. As you enter her home, you’re greeted by her grandmother’s eccentric hand-painted mannequins, and once you descend the stairs into the basement-turned-fashion wonderland, you’re immediately entranced by the vibrant colors and prints, sequins, and tulle. A visit here is like playing the ultimate game of dress-up, but for adults—and with real couture.

Since the official launch of Lidow Archive in 2019, Lidow’s collection has graced the covers of magazines such as V and has been worn by the likes of Troye Sivan and Mulatto—and she has some big plans for the future. Below, she speaks to Coveteur on the importance of still getting dressed up during quarantine and shares her expert tips for sourcing unique, one-of-a-kind pieces you’ll cherish for life.

What sparked you to create a business out of your love for collecting vintage?

“I’ve been unknowingly collecting vintage since I was in middle school, and what initially drew me to it was the fact that I could wear vintage clothes and not look like anyone else. When I moved into my first apartment in New York City, I had to get a storage unit to accommodate my rapidly growing collection. Soon it evolved into two storage units and an extra bedroom, and then in 2018 I moved into a space with my girlfriend, where the collection now occupies the entire three-bedroom basement floor of our home.

“A few months later, the basement flooded. It was absolutely devastating. I lost about 30 percent of my collection, and the rest had to be sent to a special restoration dry cleaner in order to be salvaged. Needless to say, it cost a fortune, and it also forced me to rethink everything I was doing with my life. At the time, my collection was strictly personal—I would wear all my clothes and use them for my personal styling projects, but that was it. After the flood, I didn’t have any of my clothes for almost two months while they were being restored, which kept me from working but allotted me a lot of time to think.

“I knew I had to do more with my collection—these pieces deserved a larger purpose than I had previously given them—and I also needed to figure out how to help pay off the dry-cleaning bill and justify expanding my collection again. When I finally received my pieces back from the cleaners, I started photographing and documenting every single piece. Looking back, I don’t think I quite realized that I was starting a rental business. Documenting what turned out to be over 4,000 pieces was purely out of fear and to cover my bases in case anything were to happen again. A year later in August 2019, Lidow Archive was launched!”

What are some of the wildest pieces in your archive?

“This one’s hard—we have so many! One of my favorites is this Dolce & Gabbana oversized ‘sex’ belt that was actually custom-made for Cardi B in J.Lo’s ‘Dinero’ music video while she was trying to hide her pregnancy. That was a big score! A comment we often get from visitors at the studio is that we have the iconic Phoebe Philo for Céline toenail shoes. Some other notable pieces are a custom pink suit made out of Barbie heads from one of my favorite designers, Sophie Cochevelou, a Stephen Burrows lettuce-hem ensemble from the 1973 Battle of Versailles fashion show, and a reissue of the famous Christian Lacroix top that graced Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover. I really could go on and on… I pride myself on having unique pieces that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Do you actively seek out specific pieces, or do they find you?

“Very much both! Since I started shopping vintage as a teenager, I knew it would be counterproductive to go into a store or flea market looking for something specific. Instead I always keep an open mind to see where it leads me and what I find. However, I do seek out specific pieces as well. For example, I’m always on the hunt for vintage Franco Moschino, Marc Jacobs SS17 platform boots, and any missing piece of a set that we don’t already have. We most recently reunited a six-piece vintage 1990s Moschino music-note suit. I have an entire list of specific collections that my right hand, best friend, and archive director Kevin Starynski and I search for every single day. Kevin is absolutely amazing at tracking down these targeted pieces, so he’ll generally focus on that while I focus on looking for more of the ‘unbranded’ types of vintage that is based purely on aesthetic instead of designer label.

“Since officially starting Lidow Archive, I’ve also been incredibly honored to have people, some who I’ve never even met before, gift me pieces they had that they think I’d like. I can’t even explain how much joy it brings me that they are always spot-on. Recently, a friend of a friend of my girlfriend’s gave me a money boa—yes, a boa made of fake $100 bills. It’s my new favorite accessory, and sometimes I just wear it around the house when I need a boost.”

While I’m sure you can’t tell us *all* your secrets, can you share some of your favorite places for finding one-of-a-kind pieces?

“I’m actually a firm believer in sharing my resources—I think there’s enough to go around for everyone, and I love to show my support for the sellers I buy vintage from and the contemporary designers I work closely with by sharing their work with my friends and network. Since I moved to New York in 2013, I’ve been buying from Martha at Gypsy Nation Vintage, a fellow female-owned business. Her shop is magical and full of whimsical pieces, my favorites often being from the ’60s and ’70s. Another place that has quickly become a go-to for me is Thrilling, a fairly new website that compiles amazing vintage from sellers across the country. They are a Black-owned business, and they make amazing themed edits like patchwork, Rocky Horror, Black-owned vintage, The Nanny, and more. I highly recommend following them on Instagram for constant inspiration and insight into their beautiful pieces available for purchase.

“When it comes to major vintage platforms like eBay, Gem, and Etsy, I actively favorite pieces I like in order to keep track of them. Even if I have no intention of buying something, having it saved can end up serving as a sort of Pinterest board for me. My Etsy favorites are the most accurate representation of the various waves of inspiration and phases that I go through while searching; most recently, as I scroll through there are sections of feather headpieces, then 1980s jumpsuits, Marie Antoinette costumes, and vintage sewing patterns.

“My other favorite way to find unique pieces—and, unfortunately, this doesn’t really apply to the current state of the world—is through travel. In the US, I love Atlanta for colorful vintage in an array of sizes, upstate NY for jewelry and antiques (I once found a CHANEL brooch from fall 1990), L.A. for the best flea markets, and probably my favorite of all, road-tripping through small towns and finding little shops along the way. International vintage is wonderful too, and some of my most cherished pieces I found through literally Googling ‘vintage stores’ in cities from Istanbul to Bali to small towns in Spain.”

Do you have any tips for shopping vintage in the current climate?

“I think the most important thing to be conscious of when shopping vintage in the current climate is who you’re buying from and to try and shop small as much as possible. If you’re browsing on a platform like Etsy, eBay, Vestiaire, et cetera, before you check out, look to see if the shop you’re buying from has a website or Instagram where you can buy from them directly. That way they’ll get the full profit without having to pay additional fees, which can really help out a small business in this crucial time.

“It’s also important to make an effort to buy from Black- and POC-owned shops in order to help actively combat the massive lack of representation in the fashion industry. During quarantine, a lot of issues have been brought to light, and with research I realized there was a huge misstep in the diversity of my vintage collection. Since then I’ve been actively working to better educate myself, update my collection, and share my learning, which I highlight on my Instagram as well. I already mentioned Thrilling as being a great resource for shopping vintage, and some of my favorite vintage Black designers are Byron Lars, Patrick Kelly, and Stephen Burrows.”

The global pandemic and months of quarantining at home have certainly impacted the way we get dressed every day. Why do you think it’s important to still get all dolled up from time to time?

“Dressing up for me has always been about the fantasy, and since quarantine, I’ve explored that to the extreme. It’s kept me sane and makes me feel like I’m having all these different experiences even when it’s not possible to leave my living room. I think it’s important to get dressed sometimes, even when there’s nowhere to go. Maybe not every day—I’m all for enjoying sweatpants—but at the very least, getting dolled up in these crazy times is a great reminder of who we are, who we fantasize about being, and who we would like to become. Most importantly, it’s fun!”

What do you see for the future of Lidow Archive?

“Well, I see a lot more clothes in our future, obviously [laughs]. I think the pandemic has forced a lot of small businesses to shift their thinking, and Lidow Archive was no different. During the months of complete shutdown, no one was renting and we had to shift our resources.

“We dove into social media, and instead of solely addressing our clients’ needs in our posts, we began creating content that would entertain a wider audience. I see a lot more focus on not only content creation, but expansion in our future. So far we’ve created a video series, ‘Haile’s How-Tos,’ where I help solve all of your problems (in a full look, obviously), and have plans to introduce more of the Lidow Archive fantasy land to everyone through our social channels. We also were fortunate to expand our space during quarantine, but have even bigger things in store for 2021—both in spatial growth and also in our offerings.

“I’d also love to continue collaborating with designers on custom pieces for the archive. I love working with small designers—in my opinion, they are the future, after all—and there’s something really special in having a truly unique piece that I can share with the world over and over again through rentals. When travel becomes normal again, I’m excited to explore both the vintage and local designers around the world, filming fun content in my finds along the way.”

Photos: Jess Farran

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