Swellboy on… shopping for vintage in New York

Rummaging for vintage artefacts is a fine way to spend an afternoon

Image: Brijesh Patel

I am obviously growing tolerant in my old age and rather growing to like New York, not least because of the shopping opportunities afforded by the place. I am not talking about all the big-name stores – although the city fairly bristles with branches of Ralph Lauren (including my new favourite, Double RL), as of course it should since the man Ralph is a Noo Yoiker par excellence – but because of the vintage opportunities the city offers.


I spent a pleasant afternoon rummaging around the diamond district the other day, where, in among the wholesalers of the bits of compressed carbon that are a girl’s best friend, I came across the stand of DK Bressler, where I had the good fortune to come across one of the brooches designed by Jean Cocteau for Paris jeweller Fred and about which I have written in these electronic pages before – a lovely thing representing, so it appeared, Aquarius, with a stylised Cocteau face in profile and an upturned vessel. It reminded me to renew my campaign with the French jewellery house, now part of LVMH, to reissue a Cocteau collection.


Another, more recently discovered haunt is the Manhattan Art and Antiques Centre on Second Avenue, a few blocks down from Sutton Place, where my eye was caught by a pair of David Webb cuff links from the late 1940s, executed in his bold style that owed more, to my eye at least, to Vasarely in the 1960s than New York in the 1940s. The same stand had a superb collection of Jean Després cocktail and table-top paraphernalia. The sight of one of his hammer-finished ice buckets, trimmed with his signature chain motif, made me almost nostalgic for my drinking days; not that an ice bucket – even one by an art deco Master – would have been of much use to me at the zenith of my drinking career, as I was careful never to let an open bottle of champagne stand around long enough for it get warm.

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