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Angelo Caroli

Italy’s king of vintage visits Vancouver.

It really is a great photo. Grace Kelly emerges from a car wearing sunglasses and a fur coat. A hand reaches in from off-frame and holds the door for her, while a suit-clad Prince Rainier III gently supports her white-gloved wrist. Kelly, coolly beyond the fuss swirling around her, clutches the large Hermés leather purse soon to become, due to her association with it, one of the brand’s most popular and iconic pieces. It’s a moment in fashion history, captured.

In addition to the image of Kelly and her eponymous bag, there’s a blown-up picture of Coco Chanel clucking over a row of suit-clad models, and one of Yves Saint Laurent flanked by leggy ladies wearing his signature safari-inspired dresses. The posters are part of vintage curator Angelo Caroli’s A.N.G.E.L.O vintage pop-up boutique and Timeless Luxury exhibit, upcoming at Vancouver’s McArthurGlen outpost until the end of December after touring twelve of the outlet’s European locations.  The pop-up is a rare opportunity for shoppers to peruse a sliver of Caroli’s storied collection, which, in its entirety, includes as many as  180,000 pieces dating as far back as 1850.

“The majority of the pieces come from private owners, families who contact me to sell their goods,” Caroli explains with the aid of a translator (he speaks rapid Italian). Avidly passionate about vintage clothing, one gets the sense that Caroli’s life is like one big Easter egg hunt, with silk Salvatore Ferragamo scarves and Chanel 2.55 bags in place of the chocolate and jellybeans. “I recently was invited to a private Roman villa in which the top floor was comprised of rooms separated by brand: a whole room of Chanel, a whole room of Hermès , a whole room of Gucci,” he recounts, eyes alight. And how did it feel to discover that treasure trove? “Fantastico!” Caroli exclaims. (Somewhat redundantly, his translator adds, “It was like a dream.”)

In fact, Caroli’s entire job sounds like a dream. At his castle in Lugo, a town about one hour from Bologna, Caroli hosts designers from Europe’s leading fashion houses when they visit to study archives of their own, and their competitor’s, vintage pieces. He also hunts down and provides clothing for magazine editorial shoots, movies, awards shows, and exhibitions.

Caroli started his career at age seventeen, working at a radio station. His job was to give on-air styling tips for recycled and reused clothes, an experience he suggests was the fashion industry’s equivalent of being a young style blogger today. Caroli then began frequenting second-hand Prado and Naples, inspired by the soulful character and mystery of vintage clothes. “Vintage is all about memories and the unique life experiences of the people the pieces once belonged to,” he explains of his fascination.

Caroli is adamant that one can and should wear vintage finds daily. “I am always dressed only in vintage,” he says while sporting a knit vintage blazer in a particular shade he describes, upon careful consideration, as “red terracotta.” Yet he acknowledges that some pieces are beyond wearing, or even re-selling—they are collector’s items. His first experience with one such piece was a 1920s gown beaded with glass and pearls so precious he decided to simply keep it forever.

That sense of preciousness contributes to the A.N.G.E.L.O pop-up’s appeal as a shopping destination. As does the truth that fashion is cyclical, and past decades are always resurging on the runways (“the quality and style of the fifties is returning,” advises Caroli, “but for very chic, fashion-forward women, it’s more about the early nineties”). However, as far as Caroli is concerned, nothing looks dated when worn properly. It’s all about style.