James Veloria Is The Serious Vintage Hub For Unserious People
Co-owners Collin James and Brandon Veloria talk sourcing, Opening Ceremony, Christopher Nemeth blazers, and their best client stories.
The Young and The Restless is a monthly column which explores the independent retailers and vintage sourcers outfitting the young people of today – their clubby wiles, de rigeur spirit, and exacting sartorial attitude on display both in-store and online.
Cigarette burns and a life well-lived are key to the prized blazer that Brandon Veloria Giordano, one-half of the creative duo behind James Veloria, wears. The subtle imperfections are what they count as integral to the piece’s value.
Rich storytelling is foundational to the brand’s ethos, and the above snippet is just the tip of the tulle-trimmed, bejeweled iceberg of the downtown vintage retailer.
The brand was brought to life from the founders’ apartment (their living room once served as a showroom for customers, including Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon). They now operate a highly-visited, deliciously colorful storefront in the Lower East Side.
In recent news, a second store has been added in LA – the product of a runaway-hit popup that welcomed the brand with open arms.
There are a few attributes that make James Veloria so special. Sourcing, for example, is an aggressively diverse operation: from in-store buying appointments to eclectic home visits, or occasionally, through dubious strangers with hidden caches of vintage Alaia and Fendi.
We caught up with Giordano as they ducked onto the LA shop’s balcony, lit up a cheeky Virginia Slim, and cut deep into the flowery tale of this vintage operation.
Sam: How would you describe the personality of James Veloria?
Brandon: In my eyes, I feel like she's someone who's down for a good time and doesn't take herself too seriously. That’s the throughline for us. When we first opened, we were thinking about how there aren't a lot of spaces that carry this type of curation, that we didn’t want it to feel stuffy, but wanted it to feel like it’s whatever!
These clothes were meant to be worn, you should go out in them, and not feel like anything is too precious. Even though they are precious, you should still go and wear them, have fun in them, and give them life.
Sam: What does the day-to-day of running the brand look like?
Brandon: From the start, we learned that making a business fun and enjoyable for customers requires a lot of hard work. We work really, really hard to find the pieces, especially at a price point that’s accessible to people. The majority of our day is shopping from anywhere and everywhere we possibly can.
Sam: That’s super cool! What does sourcing look like for your team?
Brandon: We buy from the public – people make appointments to bring clothes to the store. We also do a lot of private appointments at apartments and homes. We help people clear out their closets. Those days can be really fun or scary, because you're in someone's house and you could be like… oh shit, get me out of here!
But over the years, we've gotten good at filtering out that sort of situation. In the beginning, we could just be trapped in someone's apartment on the Upper East Side (laughs).
Sam: Wow, do you have any standout experiences from buying appointments?
Brandon: Hmm, here’s a fun one – a client answered the door in a leotard with a glass of white wine and just wanted to drink with us. The more she drank, the more incredible pieces she pulled out of her closet.
I remember her telling us that she didn’t wear clothes anymore because she just liked to dance, and wanted all of the downtown children to wear her old clothes. It was good stuff too! There was old Alaia, Moschino, Fendi fur coats…. it was crazy, but a really fun experience. That's the ideal situation.
Sam: There’s a sea of fabulous projects that James Veloria has undertaken – could you share one that you're particularly proud of?
Brandon: Working with Opening Ceremony was very game changing for us. It’s the reason why we’re in LA now as well. Collaborating with someone who had created such a special world in New York was super eye-opening and inspiring. It showed us what we could turn our brand into, you know?
Our very first major project was a 300-piece Jean Paul Gautier collection in 2017. It was kind of before the major resurgence – obviously he's always been amazing – but there wasn't as much interest in his archival stuff at the time.
That collection really made our business. My husband was talking about it the other day. At that point in time, we were so broke and we kind of spent all of our money getting that collection together. But we knew that once it was released, we were going to be able to be in the green. Ever since then, it's been about building up and up and up. We feel really lucky!
Sam: How did your relationship with Opening Ceremony start?
Brandon: We met Humberto at our very first “A Current Affair,” a vintage show in Brooklyn and in LA. He would come to our apartment which we set up as a showroom, but was actually our living room, and come shop. It was just a natural conversation, like hey, you should do this.
Sam: In starting out James Veloria, what have been some impactful learnings?
Brandon: Working with our team has been such an incredible learning experience. Finding myself in a position of mentorship to people... I've learned so much through [the staff] about how to create a community and space that’s a positive place to be. It’s really special to be a part of all of these people’s lives and watch them grow. I never thought I would be in that sort of position.
Sam: Are there any pieces that have traveled through the brand with an unexpected backstory or origin?
Brandon: We have two of these Christopher Nemeth deconstructed blazers that were worn by Pete Shelley, the lead singer of the Buzzcocks, and then had his own solo career and he's like this, this gay, punk rock energy that’s everything that our business embodies.
A really good customer, who was his drummer, gave them to us and they’re kind of like my prize possessions. You can wear them upside down, right side up, and they're just the most amazing pieces. I'll never sell! There are cigarette burns in them and they’ve had a whole life.
Sam: How do you see James Veloria evolving as it continues to grow?
Brandon: Honestly, I want to work with more people. I feel like our community can grow and maybe we're at a place in our business – it's been six years – where we could be able to highlight new designers, people whose work we really respect, and who are creating things ethically.
I'm not going to say who, but we definitely have some projects coming up with new designers who are creating things out of existing garments. We want to build our brand in that way. You know, it doesn't just have to be vintage, James Veloria can encompass so many different things. So, we want to explore that even more and create a full world. That’s the dream, who knows!
Producer: Sam Falb
Production Assistant: Belle Beauchamp
All clothes worn provided by James Veloria