10 Things 'L.A. Frock Stars' Star Doris Raymond Taught Us About Life
The beloved L.A. vintage maven and star of Smithsonian's style-centric docu-series proves that fashion people need not be stereotyped. Here's why.
The fashion industry, in it’s traditional sense, gets a pretty bad rap (watching 45 year-old women argue with each other over fourth row fashion show seats is enough to make one want to reinvent herself as a nun and run far, far away). But not everyone who works in the apparel world wishes they were Miranda Priestly. Case in point is Doris Raymond, the unbelievably genuine, whip-smart owner of The Way We Wore, the venerable Los Angeles vintage emporium that regularly attracts designers including Nicolas Ghesquiere and Peter Dundas who use Raymond’s encyclopedic fashion knowledge and extensively killer inspirational collection to fuel their future collections.
Not only is Raymond one of the most respected industry players in town (Dita Von Teese, Lady Gaga, Debi Mazar and every stylist ever shops her store, too), she’s also a reality star with the second season of her L.A. Frock Stars series premiering on the Smithsonian channel earlier this month.
“When I talk about it, I call it a docu-series,” Raymond told us over coffee, fruit and scrambled eggs on a recent sunny L.A. morning. “There’s nothing scripted, there’s nothing fabricated to create drama. I’m just so proud. It’s raising the bar.”
Anyone who watched season one saw Raymond’s jewel-box, La Brea Avenue shop set against historical fashion context (think Pop Up Video but for fashion instead of Hall & Oates songs), along with Raymond doing her thing — working with Oscar-winning costume designers and throwing down at auction for the treasures that make up her merchandise mix.
But season two, which can be seen on the Smithsonian Channel every Thursday at 9PM ET, does come with some small changes.
“The factoids come up in a different way, which I think is much more engaging. And it’s an hour long versus a half an hour,” Raymond says. “The feedback we got was that people wanted more.”
Every time we find ourselves leaving a conversation with Raymond, who got her start selling vintage in San Francisco flea markets in the 1970s, we do indeed find ourselves wanting more — more wisdom, more life advice and more tales of a storied career that on any given day can find her digging through trunks in the middle of nowhere in hopes of scoring a pristine Vionnet original, to hanging out in Paris with Martin Margiela himself.
So to mark our most recent visit with the vintage maven, here are ten pieces of life advice we gleaned from our chat. Fashion industry victims should take note, stat.
1. Surround yourself with a killer team.
Raymond has an exceptional team in place at her boutique — including longtime shop manager Sara Bergman, who has worked with Raymond for years. She found the team behind Frock Stars just as vital when deciding whether or not to sign on for the show.
“Living in L.A. you hear the stories of how things get edited and butchered and it can make you look bad. But I had total confidence in NHNJ, the producers. I was in unfamiliar territory, so I had no idea how it was going to work out. Fortunately we had the same awesome director, Lauren Thompson, who is an Emmy-award winning director. So because there was continuity with her and with Katy Kassler who is our producer, working on the production here it was smooth sailing. What was different was we had a different DP who loves clothing. And so he really took time to show the clothing in the most favorable light.”
2. Good things are found in unexpected places.
Apparently the suburbs of Chicago hold some of the best vintage clothing collections Raymond has ever seen, information that we would have liked to know while we were growing up there.
"On one of the episodes this season, we got a call from an estate liquidator in Chicago who had seen the show and felt like she had an estate that would not bring in the money that the estate deserved for this incredible collection of clothing that belonged to a former model. Most of the clothing was from the '70s and '80s, so we captured that on film. flew out to Chicago and it was the second best estate we ever purchased. Everything from Holly’s Harp, Halston and Yves Saint Laurent."
3. Which brings us to our next point: never forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
While Raymond said that the aforementioned estate collection was jaw-dropping, she knew right away that it wouldn't fit everyone's tastes. And that was just fine with her.
"Her strength was more in eclectic outrageous that some people would look at and go, ohmigod. but not in a good way. But I looked at it and said, ohmigod this stuff is amazing! Feather dresses, marabou coats! Just beautiful. And her hats and her shoes…and they were good human sizes!"
4. Innovation, reinvention and change is good. The rigid rarely get far.
"I’m at a point in my life where I’m building up my business and my brand with an intent to sell. That probably will be two or three years from now, my inventory value is tremendous. Hopefully my brand value will be tremendous. And my intellectual property — I own the Way We Wore — getting ready to launch an other website for items $99 and under for women. It will be called Vougely Familiar. It will be vintage, and when I start running out of authentic vintage in that price point it will be repurposed."
5. Don't be scared to take chances.
Raymond has met her fare share of style-world luminaries in her day. And the ones she values most are authentic personalities who aren't afraid to take chances, which is why Martin Margiela -- who stepped down from his own namesake label in 2009 -- is at the top of her list.
"There’s no regrets there," she says of the designer's decision. "You move on to the next chapter."
6. Your craft is king.
"That’s why I hold Martin Margiela himself in such high regard. Its’ not about him the personality, it’s about his clothing. And sadly the circus that surrounds the media frenzy [of fashion shows] — people say it helps propel sales. I don’t see how it can. I went to a Proenza Schouler fashion show a couple of years ago in Manhattan and the seating was such that the models had to walk around you. And I loved it! You could actually see the clothing, it was all an arms length away. It was incredible."
7. Own yourself.
"I just had my 61st birthday. That’s another reason why I love Smithsonian Channel. Another network would say, 'Oh I love the idea but can you find a similar business with someone in their 30s?' With other networks, it’s all about the smoke and mirrors.
8. Have a vision for your life.
We're already depressed at the thought of Raymond leaving the helm of her business (see lesson number four). But we must say, what's next on the docket sounds pretty damn good. The fact that she has such a detailed vision in place for her next chapter is the true inspiration here.
"I have a plan. A third of my time will be devoted to charity. I’m not sure if it’s going to be animal charities, children’s advocates or a charity for the elderly. I’m committed in my mind and my pocketbook to any living creature who doesn’t ave their own voice. I feel like I'm at an age now where I really have to start giving back, because I’ve been so blessed. A third of my time for traveling because the world is changing so quickly an there are so many exotic places I have yet to go to that I don’t want to be homogenized. Madagascar is at the top of my list. And the third thing I want to do it spend a third of my time being creative. Because I've spent my entire life working anywhere from 8 to 15 hour days, 7 days a week, surrounded by all this beauty that stimulates me and I haven’t done anything with my stimulation. I’m waiting to scratch my aesthetic itch. I started weaving 15 years ago and found that I’m a natural weaver. I really want to get back into that. I want to sew. I’ve already started hoarding metallic '20s and '30s French lace in my house, because I want to start making one of a kind garments. If I decide that I want to sell them I want a nice stash. In my fantasy, my muse would be Daphne Guinness. My fantasy would be to make clothing for her. Things like piano lessons. Even though I can’t sing for beans I’d like to know how to sing properly, for myself. And I want to learn how to paint. There are all these things that I want to learn how to do that I’ve never had time do to.
9. Read the above again, think about what you would do in your perfect world and write it down. Look at it every day until you check every item off your list.
10. Cliche but so true: do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.
"I have to say that my job is pretty awesome."