Carmen Hait

Carmen Haid’s Atelier Mayer updates memory lane to electro avenue
Carmen Haid, a former luxury fashion PR supremo [Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Céline] set up a small luxury e-tailer, last year. The site - a vintage archive being raided by clients and media alike - recieved a commendation at November’s 2010 Global Fashion Awards in the Emerging Brand & Retailer category. ISBN spoke with Haid the day actress Emma Watson wore a Rafael Lopez for Atelier-Mayer outfit for the latest and last Harry Potter premiere.

You worked with Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford at Gucci and then Céline. What made you leave and start

I had this passion linked to vintage fashion for a long time and it was difficult to find things online. I’m a great fan of Net-à-Porter and Natalie Massenet has done a great job of revolutionising the way we shop luxury online. So I thought there must be room for vintage jewellery and clothes. I did a lot of research about whether it made sense and launched it.

What was your first commercial transaction? 

A 1960’s evening Ungaro coat which cost £1,200 to a private client.

How do you source so many vintage items? 

It’s a very small company, so it’s me sourcing everything at the moment. It’s mostly from private collectors, also from dealers and auctions and friends in the industry.

How much online traffic hails from Asia?

I sell about 20 percent to Asia. China is around 11 and Japan nine percent. But I’d like to develop both those markets. Japan has a lot of vintage but I need to go there and explore which I’ll do next year. You have to be locally connected in Japan otherwise it’s impossible to end up with the good stuff and not a copy. For the mainland Chinese people, I think some of them are not really ready for vintage yet. It takes a little longer to develop that taste. It’s the same way Russia was 10 years ago - blinged up with the latest - and now they want vintage things. But there are certainly people already in China who love vintage.

What’s the most asked for item on Atelier-Mayer?

Chanel, Chanel and vintage Chanel. Chanel seems to be the ne plus ultra of luxury. The firm’s still in private hands and still a huge success. I don’t want to just sell Chanel handbags but I probably could just do that alone.

Which piece of jewellery would you trade your other pieces for?

There’s one. It’s a necklace, commissioned in 1928 by the Maharaja Singh of Patiala. It’s the largest commission ever received by a Parisian jeweller. It has five huge diamonds, in light yellow, 235 carats. It’s a spectacular piece. I’d give all my jewellery for that one necklace.
Carmen Haid
Carmen Haid

What’s the most challenging aspect of running business online?

The speed of everything. But that speed is also the amazing part. You reach a global audience. I have a following in so many parts of the world so quickly. You can reach out to people who don’t have access to beautiful things. So you can grow quickly but the challenge is not to grow too fast.

How do you forsee the evolution of Atelier-Mayer?

You start with fashion, go to lifestyle, art, interior design, vintage cars, you can make it all luxury, there’s a lot of room. It’s about the way you grow it. But the uniqueness of a piece in what I do now is the whole point.

Who is the most underrated designer in the world today?

One is Anthony Price. He’s a London designer of glamorous evening wear. He used to design for David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, the Rolling Stones. A very iconic designer but never got the credit he deserved. Then Rafael Lopez, Spanish designer, [sells in D-mop Hong Kong] a very talented person who hasn’t been given the opportunity to showcase his talent properly.

Emma Watson wore Rafael Lopez for Atelier-Mayer to the Harry Potter premiere. How did you conjure that miracle?

I’ve been dressing numerous clients for the red carpet over the last decade. Emma came to Atelier-Mayer as she wanted to wear something very special for her last Harry Potter premiere. It’s the end of a decade and the start of a new beginning for her. In wearing that dress she defined a new style, iconic and chic, like a young Audrey Hepburn but very now. It’s the best example of how vintage can look modern.

Spain seems to be gaining more fashion and luxury energy.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if the next decade is Spanish. Emilio de la Morena’s last collection is very beautiful and modern. One to watch.

Share an anecdote about yourself and Yves Saint Laurent?

In France there is a tradition on St Catherine’s Day; every haute couture house gives each female staff of 25 years old a gift from the designer. So I received a piece of couture and a green cut-glass stone ring from Yves Saint Laurent which is a one-off and I wear it every day. It gives me energy and it’s a wonderful piece.

How do you define vintage?

It’s anything over 25 years old, one-off, no mass production involved. I’ve seen so much waste in terms of packaging and entertaining at the luxury companies. Of course there needs to be a level of quality with such goods, but it does all need to be more sustainable. Vintage is sustainable, environmentally friendly. All my packaging is made of biodegradable material. I’m not going to solve the world’s problems, but at least I’ll do my bit to help.

Will we see you in Hong Kong anytime soon?

A collaboration is being discussed.