“Cenci”is a well-known vintage shop in West Norwood in London.
The vintage shop Mr. Massimo and Ms. Dede run has a number of great items and there is much vintage clothing and accessories that are available only here.
Famous designers and people from the business world go to visit Cenci to get ideas and inspiration..
This time, we interviewed Mrs Dede who is married to Mr. Massimo and the manager of Cenci, Why has Cenci continued to be praised consistently? Please read her answers..

-Please tell us your personal backgrounds Mr. Massimo&Ms.Dede.

Mr. Massimo – Italian From Florence. The original Cenci was in fact, in Florence, Italy from 1973 until 1989. In 1985 Cenci opened its London shop in Monmouth Street in Covent Garden. Massimo is a wonderful cook and also had a restaurant in the hills outside of Florence.

I am a American from Wisconsin. I went to Florence to study Art History after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.
I met and married Massimo and together we ran the restaurant near Florence. I also had a clothing shop selling new clothes on via Guicciardini near the Ponte Vecchio from 1975 to 1992

-When did you first become interested in Vintage?

Massimo has been interested in Vintage since as a teenager he bought second-hand clothing in Florence.
I arrived a bit later, in the middle 1980s when Cenci opened in London.

-Where does the stock at Cenci come from?

We buy used clothing in Italy mainly. Massimo selects everything. The clothing is transported to London where it is washed and sold now in our warehouse in West Norwood.
Accessories (suitcases, handbags, jewelry, purses, belts, hats, cuff
links, studs etc) are sourced by me personally in America.

-From which countries, primarily, does the clothing come?

The clothing is American, Canadian, Italian, Swiss, Austrian, French, German and English. Sometimes Australian and even Japanese (made for export to America in the 60s).

-What kind of clientele visits Cenci?

Our customers are designers, manufacturers, musicians, theatre productions, opera, dance companies, television, film, and regular people who have good taste and their own style.

-While dealing with Vintage and Used clothing of various periods and countries in Cenci, where do you actually buy the stock? Do you buy different periods from particular countries?

We buy almost all the clothes in Italy. Factories in Italy buy the clothing as raw materials from which they re-cycle the wool into new fabrics. They have been re-cycling wool in Italy for over 500 years. If you buy a new garment and it does NOT say ‘virgin wool’, it is NOT coming from the sheep, but from old clothes that have been re-cycled. Even ‘new wool’ is re-cycled from fabrics that have not been worn.

-How often does stock arrive?

We have new arrivals about every 3 weeks

-How do you select the stock? What criteria do you use for its selection?

We select the items that we want and feel we need for the shop.  We do not select specifically for customers, though we have sourced items for others at various times (ie fabrics).  We care about every aspect of the items – the era, the fabric, the design – and while we try to get the clothing in the best possible condition, if the item is unique we will buy it no matter what its condition.

-What is the difference between American vintage and European vintage?

America has had a ready-to-wear industry for longer than most other countries. In Europe, things were not made in series until much later.
European clothing is often tailored by hand while American clothing was manufactured on assembly lines.

-I heard that you opened “Cenci” in Covent Garden several years ago.
Please tell us the difference between the shop in Covent Garden and your present shop in West Norwood..

The shop in Covent Garden was very small. The overheads were very high. When our contract ended at the end of 2004, we moved our retail shop into our wholesale warehouse in West Norwood. We have much more space so many more items.

-Why did you close the shop in Covent Garden?

The passing trade on Monmouth Street could not pay the overheads. The expenses were too high. It was no longer financially viable to remain in Covent Garden.

-Why are you based in West Norwood, and not the downtown area?

As previously explained, the space was very limited and the expenses were too high. We also no longer have to commute and drag the clothing back and forth from our warehouse.

-How many items do you have?

We have over 500,000 items.

-What do you think about Japanese fashion?

Japanese fashion is very avant-guard, much like British Street Fashion. The young people have their own style and are a big influence on the famous designers.

-Do you have a personal favorite Japanese designer?

Rei Kawakubo.

-Some vintage (couture) was made formerly by hand by the designer. Do you feel there is a difference between recent clothes and designer clothing?

Designer clothing has become big business. In previous decades, couture was only for the elite. Now, modern designers appeal to a much wider range of clientele. This requires mass production and in order to control costs much of this production in done in the orient. Quality suffers as a result.

-What do you think about current Vintage Shops?

Many vintage shops do not carry only vintage, but mix new and old. Many other vintage shops consider 1980s and 1990s vintage. For CENCI, vintage is older than 40yrs, though we do stock second-hand 1980s and 90s.
The items of clothing must be at least 40 yrs old. When we began in Monmouth Street in 1985, we did not consider 1970s to be vintage, just second hand.

-How do you see “Cenci” in the future?

CENCI continues to thrive because we are able to offer original clothing and accessories.

-What do you feel are the particular reasons Vintage is so popular?

Vintage is very green. We are now living in an age where most of us are concerned about the future of our planet. Vintage also is better quality and of better construction than modern clothing.

Interview & Text:Kumiko Kobayashi

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