When you are in Rome you have to visit “Via del Governo Vecchio 35”, an iconic second-hand fashion shop next to the Piazza Navona. It was originally founded by Giulia´s parents in the 1970s and now she is responsable of bringing it into the future. Get to know Giulia and her extraordinary creativity, character and personality that reflect the real essence of Rome.
Lucifer: Could you share your story with us? The one that led you to becoming the owner of one of the most iconic vintage clothing stores in Rome.
Giulia Salvatore: It is a family story, which began during the second half of the 1970s, at Via del Governo Vecchio 57, and has continued until now, at Via del Governo Vecchio 35 [the name of the shop is also the address–Ed.]
My parents start this story. They were in their twenties at the time. Like many other young people of their generation they were full of dreams and hopes for the future and strongly opposed the capitalist system of that time (my mother was even featuring film Roma by Fellini in the scene with hippies sitting at the famous Piazza di Spagna steps).
Therefore I was born in the midst of bales of clothes. I literally grew up in the warehouses looking at my parents who were choosing clothes, I was sleeping on piles of “pezze”[as used clothes are commonly called in Italy–Ed.], and making work trips to Naples with my father when he brought me with him.
I like to think that I am an incredible expert in my sector because I have seen the evolution and changes of the second-hand clothes world. Without being old, I have an experience of an “elderly woman” in this field.
The “fortune” of our shop began following one of my father’s trips to King´s Road in London during the 1970s. That time he bought used garments for a pound per piece in a shop that was closing because the owners were moving to New York. He only bought a few items on that trip due to the lack of money, but they were beautiful clothes from 1920s, 1930s. And who knows… I like to imagine that my father even crossed paths with Vivienne Westwood and Malcom Mclaren who at the time had their “Sex” boutique right on the same King´s Road. Later in the early 1990s when I was still a teenager my father sent me on my first trip to London to the very same spot in Chelsea.
Afterwards, I studied at classical lyceum, attended the Faculty of Architecture and prepared the thesis on an abandoned building in Via Ostiense in Rome that I was imagining as a fashion space that is missing in Rome, taking inspiration from the architect Rem Koolhaas, particularly his work for PRADA.
I have always worked in the shop with passion and dedication, considering the research to be the most beautiful and stimulating part of this job, same as the creation of free and fluid “outside the box” outfits.
L: How do you organize your store and what are the responsibilities of your work, how does a vintage store work?
G.S: Unfortunately we are currently living a common generational conflict with my father, as I imagine the store in a totally different way. However I am bound by the thought and presence of my father. His presence is certainly important and I respect it. I have always appreciated my father’s dedication, commitment and also a sense of innovation. My parents were the first ones in the 1970s and because of them and their friends who did the same job , I have learned all I know. It all begins with their experience to which I owe everything.
Working together with my father means constant research. When acquiring new items at the store almost daily and with the coexistence of our two tastes at the time of purchase… any of the suppliers can tell you about it laughing… all the bickering between me and my father when I choose my things and he chooses his… but in my opinion, this is our strength, two different styles, two different minds that make a selection, the trust and mutual respect that always makes us learn and teaches us to see with other eyes.
L: Who deals with the selection of the product for sale in your store? And what are the criteria for the selection of clothes and accessories?
G.S: My father and I select the product together on the basis of many criteria like personal passions and must-haves. My father selects the more classic part of the proposals and I, for personal reasons, the most innovative one.
L: Where do you obtain the product to sell in your store? Do people come to sell their own clothing? Are there any places, cities or even countries where you travel to find the right product for your business?
G.S: The products are obtained through old contacts built in decades by my father. The clothes come from many Italian suppliers, not only from Rome. They are also found during research trips in Europe and lately we were also considering moving around the non-European countries – it will be my job to take care of this part.
L: Who are the customers of a vintage store? What is the profile of your clients?
G.S: Due to the location of the store which is in the historical centre of Rome, many of our customers are foreigners. As well as local costume designers for cinema and television, emerging and established designers. What makes me very happy is that there are people from all age ranges between our customers.
L: Do your customers look for particular fashion trends or brands in your store? Which are the most sought after?
G.S: Given the multifaceted soul of the store, our customers make the most varied and often amusing requests; from the most classic clothes and accessories to the most innovative and refined ones that we always try to please, from wedding dresses to the funniest party clothes that are sometimes for the most alternative festivals in the world. This is why I love my job – it constantly challenges me creatively, it motivates me to research, study, to expand my vision and taste.
The whole world passes through my shop and I find different ways of interpreting the concept of “dressing” every day. It can be based on the origin, culture, the way that someone wants to see and feel their own self. For me dressing is an art form, an expression of oneself, a form of creativity and daily stimulus. So I am not very interested in brands, I like the freedom of the individual and the expression of self through the dress, free from patterns and social impositions.
L: In your opinion, which fashion brands will remain most valuable over time?
G.S: It depends on the decades and seasons. I remember that a few years ago Roberta di Camerino and Pucci were sought after, later it was Vuitton and Chanel, now it is Gucci. Nothing maintains absolute value, in fashion it is always a question of trends. For years, I had the back of the store full of Jil Sanders shoes and didn’t sell any of them… and they were beautiful, same happened with fantastic Westwood jerseys… it always depends on the year and trends of the moment. I feel very sorry saying it.
L: How has the type of people who buy vintage changed since the time you remember the business?
G.S: I have spent a lot of time in the shop as a child, I remember all the Roman punks of that time, I even remember some of the nicknames of the ones who used to come for the leather jackets – all the young boys of the “subcultures” who frequented the shop weekly looking for ways to unhinge the stereotype image. They had specific requests to affirm their style of the time.
Now that society has changed, the vintage has become something else, it is often the expression of sums of fragments in solitary… everyone wants to be sure of their resemblance to everybody else.
L: How Do you decide the price of a garment or accessory? Do you have a particular criterion?
G.S: Prices are linked to many factors such as for example fixed costs, difficulty in finding the garment and also the signs of wear.
L: How important is social media in your business? Which is your favorite channel?
G.S: Social media is of fundamental importance to me. I use Instagram now, I don’t have an online store yet but I already ship worldwide. Unfortunately this delay is due to the dichotomy between me and my father that we have in the store due to our different points of view but I will try to change this soon. I do get great satisfaction through the Instagram contacts. Thanks to Instagram I find new clients from all around the world. For example, next week I have to send three items to a very nice guy in Germany.
L: What is the most difficult part of managing a vintage store?
G.S: I consider the availability and the conservation of the clothes to be the most difficult part of my work.
L: How was your experience being a part of Gucci advertising campaign? What did you like most about this experience?
G.S: I loved being part of the Gucci Roman Rhapsody ad campaign. It was an incredible experience, a dream. I was really flattered to have been chosen since they even came to look for me at the store. Without being neither a model nor young enough to aspire in becoming one, and not even being a standard of aesthetic canons. Although fortunately certain ridiculous ideas of “perfect beauty” are already outdated and I think that the beauty and charm of a person lie precisely in the imperfection, in the particularity that makes one unique…
I had a chance to see, at least a small part of it, how the mechanism of creating an ad campaign works. It is an immense and precise work with dozens of people working like a timely mechanism of a clock. Everything was perfectly studied without leaving anything to chance or improvisation.
It was flattering to be photographed by Mick Rock, the one who photographed Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and many other stars. For me, it was a complete excitement but also a moment of total shyness.
Later I also had so much fun when going to Milan for the Gucci fashion show. There were all the hairdressers and makeup artists who made me feel like a queen… I kind of felt like Kate Moss… considering that the night before I partied hard and the day of the fashion show I had the corresponding hangover. The climax of it all was when after the fashion show, at the Gucci party, Bjork performed at the Dj set. She was incredible, powerful, and beautiful.
L: What is the garment or accessory that you’ve found and is still your favorite today?
G.S: I love them all, I have a somewhat morbid relationship with clothes, however I am crazy about a skater body with fringes and sequins from the 1970s that I don’t remember where I found… perhaps a market.
L: Do you believe that the clothes retain the “energy” of the previous owners? If you do, do you have any rituals to change it?
G.S: I believe in the story of the garment as if in the respect I feel for the ones who had an idea of it, cut it, sewn it. And also I believe in the dreams that it represents while being worn. Dreams for me are always positive energy. From this perspective, the energy of the previous owner is an added value to the garment.
L: Which is the least known Italian fashion brand of the past that has value for you?
G.S: Roberta di Camerino – it seems like nobody knows her in our days and Pucci who unfortunately is known by few.
L: If you had to create an ideal outfit choosing from the past-present-future, what would it be like? Please describe in detail each part of this outfit!
Petticoat and silk culotte from the 1940s
Mini trapeze dress by Mary Quant
Gucci socks (year 2020)
Silver Tabi boots (Margiela)
Maxi latex coat from the 1970s
Multicolored butterfly shaped glasses by Dior
Pink bear shaped backpack (Vetements)
L: Can a customer ask you to look for a garment or accessory that is not available at your shop?
G.S: I always try to satisfy customer requests, they often write to me through Instagram or come to the shop directly asking for different items. If they are not available in the store I always try to find them.
Sometimes the clients ask for the impossible (rare collectible clothes and accessories) without realizing the particularities of this job. For example, one photographer asked me for a famous Paco Rabanne metal mesh dress or some girls asked for very difficult to find original dresses from the 1920s for their parties.
L: Is fashion important to you? Why?
G.S: I believe that fashion is important as a means of expression for one’s freedom and individuality, as well as a form of art and creativity. I admire the work of designers who get involved while studying art, fabrics, history of costume, styles, who create their collections while traveling the world and perhaps seeking inspiration in everything that attracts their imagination. I understand the effort to create a collection, creative effort behind it, dedication, perseverance, intuition and energy of each collection. I find it all very exciting.
L: Who are your style icons?
G.S: I don’t have style icons, I am really an anarchist in this. I dress as I like depending on the moment, season, the mood I am in and my personality. For example, I study works by the artists from the 1960s and 1970s carefully. I get inspired by art and also anything that stimulates imagination, as I said earlier, it is because getting dressed for me is an artistic representation of oneself… me together with my clothes, I am my own personal artistic representation of myself.
L: Are you involved in any other fashion or creativity related activities? Currently or in the past.
G.S: Together with Raniero Berardinelli – a painter who is my friend , I am involved in a project called NO RIVALS. It is based on the idea of wearable art. We made paintings on vintage canvas jackets, sweaters and work jackets. I am also creating outfits for a contemporary dance company and a few days ago I received a collaboration proposal for a theatre show. My other passion is acting, I recently auditioned for a part in a film.
L: In your opinion, what is the relation between fashion and the city of Rome?
G.S: Currently, the relationship between fashion and Rome is totally absent. I would be pleased if brands such as Gucci, Fendi, Valentino, the fashion houses that are all based in Rome did their best and invested into this matter in their city. It would be important for the city that is not going through the best times fashion wise. It would also be generous of them given the fact that these brands often use Rome as an inspiration as well as a wonderful setting for their ad campaigns.
L: If you were forced to choose only ten items from your personal wardrobe next week, what would they be?
Ancient Japanese kimono
A woman dress from the 1940s
A disco skirt from the 1970s
A smooth black velvet jacket from the 1960s layered with a jacket from 1930s with damask interior
A pair of golden snake print YSL shoes
Gucci bag (the one with a crossed G) withdrawn from the market due to the logo similar to the Chanel one.
“Cavallino” clogs by Diadora
Westwood sweater with straps and stripes
Vietnam War souvenir west
American college jacket from the 1950s
L: What books, films, places and characters would you recommend to our readers?
G.S: Pier Paolo Pasolini for both: books and films, because of the poetry expressed in his images of the Roman suburbs as Mandrione, Pigneto …
Rome is not only the historic center. In fact, the way that things are going right now, Rome today is the suburbs, where the Romans and the new Romans are.
While speaking to the elderly men I met at the bar near my current house, one of them told me that he grew up in Corso Rinascimento and the other one in Via dei Coronari [historical center streets–Ed.]. The tobacconist also comes from Via dei Bresciani, a side street of Via Giulia [another historical center street–Ed.], where I was born and raised. And now we all meet in Monteverde [outside the city center–Ed.]… The responsibility of this change are Airbnb… and others too… And unfortunately, because of this, the center of Rome fell to a level of a kind of huge holiday home, a cheap amusement park with restaurants where dreadful food is served.
L: What are your hopes, dreams and plans for the future?
G.S: I hope that Rome returns to being more beautiful and alive than before because we are witnessing a difficult period of cultural stagnation, perhaps also at a national level, with the exception of Milan. I wish it was the scene of cultural events, aggregating social initiatives. I’m tired of only seeing Rome used and disheartened by a low-cost fast tourism that exploits and impoverishes it. I would like to see exhibitions in Rome worthy of a European capital like London or Paris, investments to make it more contemporary and not only an old antique tool, as if the history of Rome had turned it into a limit. I am sorry to see it relegated to a marginal and provincial role.
L: If you had to explain to a foreigner what it means to be from Rome, to be Roman, what would you say?
G.S: It is difficult to answer this question. I feel like a citizen of the world, of the universe and I don’t believe in borders.
L: A tip for those who come to visit Rome
G.S: It takes several days to visit Rome. As in any place, it’s nice to just get lost in the city, to let yourself get carried away without looking too much at the maps, guides and timetables. It is nice to sit at the bar, (better if it is not in the central Piazza Navona), to have a coffee and to look at the sky, the pink and earth-colored marble facades of the buildings. Or you can take a ride outside the usual routes and reach Tor Marancia area, see lots of murals at the Garbatella and spend some time there. I would also recommend trips out of town, with a picnic at the beach or in the meadows. You can reach the sea by train in no time. Or I would also recommend visits to the countryside like Castelli Romani and a swim at the lake, or a stop at Tuscia town in the North of Rome, to get to know the Etruscans and get lost in the woods.
Photos courtesy of Giulia Salvatore