Ask +65 transplant Azzurra La Mantia just how big her wardrobe of vintage items is and the number she blurts out might just blow your mind. “I easily own over a thousand garments and vintage accessories,” says the vivacious and statuesque co-owner of vintage boutique A Vintage Tale which opened here in June this year.
Naturally, some of these items that span the ’50s to the ’90s, and from brands like Moschino and Valentino, have landed in her well-curated Joo Chiat boutique. The latter is the latest outpost of the business she started in 2015 in Milan – the adoptive city in which the Sicilian native lived in throughout her adult life and where she also worked for brands like Gucci and Stella McCartney.
In Singapore, La Mantia, along with her business partner Jasmine De Brauwer, is one of the rare retailers to offer a tight curation of vintage threads with a uniquely European flair. Up next for the duo: Their first collection of ’60s-inspired ready-to-wear pieces will feature prints that La Mantia has designed herself.
Indeed, growing up in Sicily with her nonna has rubbed off. “My grandmother owned a boutique in the ‘70s and ’80. She developed an impressive knowledge of fabrics and also great skills in embroidery and millinery. I have been tremendously influenced by her, particularly by the way she sewed on paper models,” she says.
Growing up surrounded by disco-era fashion and clothes from the Dallas generation has made her particular partial to the ’70s aesthetic. As she gladly points out, the style from the decade is not something intimidating to don: “Just wearing a colorful Lurex shirt with a pair of jeans, or a maxi skirt with a white shirt would be more than enough to be in the mood of the ‘70s.”
Describe your sense of style.
“It’s undoubtedly practical, colourful and elegant. I love the combinations of colours and printed woven fabrics. It’s a sort of magic game that revolves around hard-to-find accessories. It’s all about eclecticism.”
What does Italian fashion mean to you?
“To me, it is simply about celebrating the history of fashion. In Italy, we had and keep having designers and artists who have carved their names on the global fashion stage. There’s an infinite archive of wonderful treasures from these folks to discover.”
When did you first fall in love with vintage and how do you incorporate vintage fashion into your personal style?
“It started when I was a very young woman. The first piece I fell in love with was a bordeaux feather hat from the ’50s which I found in a chest in my grandmother’s house. I still treasure it along with gloves and purses she used to wear for special occasions.”
Is there a particular item you collect?
“Earrings and I have all types you can imagine, though I prefer the big ones. Those big ones which are showy and brilliant and which I always wear to ‘frame’ my face.”
What is your most prized possession?
“There is no one particular object I own which I consider more important than the other. Anything can be special for me – especially if it’s tied to a memory, a journey, or to a moment of pleasure.”
What is one fashion item you can’t live without?
“Without a doubt, it will be accessories – especially shoes. The right accessories can add a touch of unique elegance even to the simplest of outfits.”
Who is your favourite designer and why?
“My favorite designer is Miuccia Prada and I have a particular weakness for her Miu Miu brand. I love the printed woven fabrics and its vibrant colour combinations. She creates this character for a woman who is contemporary yet romantic with an old world charm and style all at the same time.”
And how about a new designer that you love?
“I follow many different new designers on Instagram. At the moment, my favorite one would be Emilia Wickstead. I very much love the lines and curves from her latest Spring/Summer ’19 show which comprises of gowns with big giant bows on the back and dresses with prints of roses. I was truly mesmerised by that.”
What is your style tip for someone who is afraid to inject colour to her wardrobe?
“Everyone should wear what makes them feel good. Black and blue, for instance, suit every occasion and give a touch of elegance. However, dark colours can sometimes become boring. Once in a while, mixing colours such as yellow and purple, or pink and red and contrasting prints on fabrics can make a look appear more fanciful and more unique.”