From rich sable capes to soft mink stoles, fur is a fashion that’s fallen firmly back in favour. Be it wrapped round Rihanna or draped over Delevingne, the material’s inexorable appeal has reawakened the world’s fashion cognoscenti, with over 50% of designers showing the fabric at the latest London collections.
Devastatingly flattering and unbeatably warm our search for a second skin lead us to Nina Mercer Vintage, a high end vintage fur dealer based in New York City. To kick off our collector’s issue we met Nina at her showroom to raid her rails and discover how we should rock vintage fur this fall.
VH: HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO VINTAGE?
I’ve been collecting pieces since I was 12. My grandmother was exactly the same. When I was 14 my grandfather started giving me pieces just to get them out of the house, they had a whole attic that was full of rolling racks!
VH: SO WOULD YOU SAY YOUR GRANDMOTHER HAD A GOOD EYE FOR FASHION?
Yes very much so. She would buy clothing in any size, be it wedding dresses or anything! My grandfather once found her on her way home from work cutting up a mink coat to make different things out of it! In fact my wedding dress was one that she bought. The body was separate from the waist it was really beautiful and covered in embroidery. I just had it slightly altered to be sleeveless with a lower cut.
VH: DID YOU WORK IN FASHION BEFORE NINA MERCER VINTAGE? WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’ve worked in fashion since I was 13. When I moved to NY I spent 20 years doing visual merchandising at Macys, Barneys and then J Crew where I was in charge of all the international stores. From there I moved to Prada for four and a half years and finally Estée Lauder for six. That’s when I decided to start my own company and Nina Mercer Vintage was born!
VH: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
It really depends on the season! I wear a lot of fur in the winter whereas in the summer I tend to wear a lot of 60s and 70s stuff – maxi dresses and platforms. My favourite part of the working day is deciding what to wear in the morning! VH: WHAT ARE YOU WEARING TODAY? Today I’ve gone for a 70s cheetah kaftan with a 50s sable collar and Miu Miu platforms. I love sable fur as it’s really warm yet really light.
VH: WHAT ERA OF FASHION INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?
It depends. For fur the 60s shapes are really fun, I have fur with big shoulder pads from the 40s and 80s and more slimmer 70s cuts, I guess it depends on my mood.
VH: WHAT’S THE FIRST EVER VINTAGE PURCHASE YOU MADE?
Well I bought my first platforms when I was seven. They were beige with flowers on them, which now come to think of it were very Miu Miu!
VH: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE OF VINTAGE YOU OWN?
My fine jewellery, all my diamonds!
VH: WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ON MIXING VINTAGE WITH EVERYDAY PURCHASES?
I just do it! I don’t really think about it. I have so much stuff. When I wake up I focus on one item and then base the rest of the outfit around that.
VH: WHAT’S CURRENTLY ON YOUR WISH LIST?
I love 20s jewellery. I also love Dries and loved last season Dolce & Gabanna – the byzantine theme. I generally like stuff from Victoria Beckham and The Row. Victoria has just moved in upstairs, I’m hoping she becomes a customer!
VH: HOW MANY PIECES ROUGHLY DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
I don’t count them! So here within the showroom I have four rolling racks that are jam-packed. Then I have 13 within my house and another storage space as large as this showroom that is full! I’d estimate over a thousand and that’s not including accessories. I try to keep everything in the original packaging.
VH: WHERE DO YOU SOURCE ALL OF THESE PIECES?
Everywhere! Estate sales and all kinds of places. Even my husband and son who is 12 are great at picking up pieces.
VH: WHAT’S THE BEST SALE BEEN FOR NINA MERCER VINTAGE?
Probably some of the furs I’ve sold for over $2000. VH: DO YOU SELL ONLINE? Right now it’s all word of mouth. I started on Instagram and posted products on there. I’m slowly building up products on the website but I’m a team of one so I can only do as much as I can!
VH: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE IN YOUR CURRENT COLLECTION?
The green dress with the mink sleeves or the YSL mink coat. There are a couple of fur coats that are fab and also a jewelled Prada coat. I have some ball gowns in the back that are amazing too.
VH: ARE THERE ANY AMERICAN DESIGNERS THAT ARE WORTH LOOKING OUT FOR THAT ARE GOING TO BE A GOOD INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE?
Any Lilli Ann, Bonny Cashin or Malcolm Starr. Also Halston is always a great designer to source.
VH: WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO SHOP IN NEW YORK?
I’ve always been a Barneys shopper; I have many friends who work there. For vintage Pilgrim are good, they have great vintage Chanel and some really unique jewellery.
VH: DO YOU EVER LEAVE THE US TO DO YOUR SOURCING?
wouldn’t call it sourcing; it’s more shopping for me. But yes I do. A few of my pieces here were sourced in Belgium.
VH: IN LONDON MANY PEOPLE DISLIKE THE WEARING OF FUR. WHAT ARE PEOPLE’S VIEWS HERE IN NYC?
Here it’s not an issue at all. There was one incident at Estée Lauder where one of the girls had something thrown on her fur coat. Also I was on Fifth Avenue once and there was a protest at Fendi but I simply crossed the street. Most of my pieces are vintage and therefore it’s recycling anyway!
VH: HOW ABOUT THE LATEST BUY FOR YOUR COLLECTION HERE?
The wooden beaded jewellery. I am starting to get passed lots of fur from my mother’s friends who are downsizing. My fur storage guy tells me I store too much!
VH: WHO WOULD BE YOUR DREAM CELEBRITY CUSTOMER?
I would totally love to redo Hilary Clinton – she needs to wear dresses, she looks awful everyday! She’s pear shaped and wears pantsuits! I’m assuming she pays someone which is sad because she’s in the public eye everyday and could look 1000 times better. Where does one even buy something like that!?
VH: WHAT’S YOUR PET PEEVE?
People that travel in sweat pants for a business trip.
VH: WHAT’S THE SECRET STATE FOR VINTAGE? IS EAST COST DIFFERENT TO WEST?
There’s a lot in Ohio, Missouri and Minnesota. Over there it is a lot cheaper than New York. There was a huge vintage store in the town I grew up in in Massachusetts. I got amazing mink coats from that store but sadly it’s closed now.