Vintage denim gurus Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett, the founders of London-based The Vintage Showroom, scoured Orta’s 30-year-old denim archive to handpick 49 of the most important pieces for a new book, The 5374 Vintage Showroom Book.
Orta released the photo book last month during Kingpins Amsterdam. The book tells the story of 49 garments—a reference to the “forty niners” during the Gold Rush in the U.S. in 1849—that reside in the mill’s archive in Istanbul.
Gunn and Luckett are familiar with Orta’s archive. They’ve have teamed up with Orta on various projects during the last seven years, including their most recent capsule collection, Future Hunter Gatherer.
Rivet caught up with Gunn to talk about the process of making the book and what Orta’s place in future archives might be.
RIVET: What were some of the qualities in garments that made them worthy to be in the book?
Gunn: The hardest thing about producing the book for Orta was narrowing the selection down to 49 pieces from their archive. In the end, we wanted to both showcase some of the extremely rare one-of-a-kind items that they have, while also demonstrating the depth and diversity in the collection. Some of the selection is there based on rarity, some based on the uniqueness of the wash or patina to the fabric, some just because we found them to be a beautiful piece. What we love about vintage is that everything has a story, and each of these pieces definitely has a story to tell. We wanted the book to appeal to vintage enthusiasts and collectors but at the same time being inspirational for designers.
RIVET: What are some notable garments in the book?
Gunn: Hard to narrow down but there is a swatch of Boro fabric that we have been slightly obsessed with since we found at a temple sale in Tokyo, the repeated repair and layered patching makes it a true work of art. The Levi’s number 3 jacket just for its deep unwashed indigo denim, and the Putnam coveralls just because they are incredible rare.
RIVET: Where there any surprises that you came across in the archive?
Gunn: I first came in to contact with Orta as a company around 10 years ago when I still had a stand at London’s Portobello market. I would sell denim pieces to their research and development team for fabric development. It was good to see items that I sold back then when we started to curate everything in Istanbul this year. It was also good to see the influence on the collection by all the people that had contributed and bought for it over the years, with garment tags from vintage stores and markets all over the world.
RIVET: Do you have any personal favorites?
Luckett: For me the Levi’s buckle backs really take some beating both in terms of being such an iconic piece and also because they have the most amazing patina.
Gunn: It must be the denim Putnam coveralls; I have never come across this design before and I think they are amazing. We found them in a vintage store in Tokyo and new we had to buy them for Orta straight away.
RIVET: What are some current Orta garments or products that you believe belong in an archive in the future?
Gunn: I am sure that a lot of Orta’s fabrics will stand the test of time. Our recent Future Hunter Gatherer collections that we have designed in Orta fabrics could be interesting proposition for a future fashion historians. I wonder what someone would make of them in 100 years’ time. We have designed them to look futuristic, yet at the same time someone interested in clothing might recognize the pieces that inspired them. We played around with original garments from the 1930’s and 1940’s and you can recognize this influence I hope it will confuse a vintage dealer sometime in the 22nd century.