Photography by Fred Sahai
Brandon Giordano and Colin Weber are sitting on the purple carpeted floor of their vintage boutique, James Veloria. Located on the second floor of in a strip mall under a bridge in Chinatown, you could say the shop—which boasts racks of carefully curated vintage designer pieces—is one of New York’s best-kept secrets. The fact that a peculiar place like this even exists (you’ll know what I mean if you wander through the eerie building trying to find the boutique) is one of the reasons the couple love Chinatown. Giordano says of the neighborhood: “We live two blocks away from here, it’s convenient. It feels like what I imagined New York was before I moved here.”
Giordano is originally from a small town in Ohio, right outside of Cleveland, and Weber hails from California. But even before moving to Oakland in his late teens, the store owner was very much invested in vintage fashion. He credits his love of thrifting to his mother, who introduced it to him at a young age. In junior high, he says, he took an interest in designer vintage in particular. “I would go to the library and read Interview magazines and then try and find pieces,” he explains. “There was a consignment shop near my school, I used to go there and put things on layaway for weeks.”
Weber is also from the Midwest, a small town “in the middle of nowhere” in Wisconsin. As for how he got into vintage fashion, he shared that where he grew up, there were so little places to shop that his parents would go to rummage sales and thrift stores, which is where he’d end up getting most of his clothes. “I didn’t really get into it or get excited about it until I moved to a bigger city where there were all these different thrift stores,” he explains. He was around 18 when he started pursuing it more seriously and hunting for specific things.
There’s a lot of love within James Veloria, as it was actually born out of a love story. The name is a combination of Giordano (full name Brandon Veloria Giordano) and partner Colin James Weber’s names. The two originally met in Oakland, and Giordano tells quite the story of their first encounter. “He [Weber] was obsessed with me for a long time, because he saw me walk in the streets and then was really wasted at a party and came up to me and was like “I’m obsessed with you, who are you, I’ve seen you around,” and I was like “Okay I’m bored I’ll talk to you for a little bit,” and then we ended up naked in a hot tub and then the rest is history!” According to Weber, Giordano caught his eye because of his interesting outfits, which stuck-out in not-so-stylish Oakland. When the pair moved in together, they had already been selling individually—online and to other vintage stores—for a few years. But seeing their stock combined in their tiny apartment, they realized they had a store. They started out selling their collection at flea markets and on eBay, and as the hype around their products built up, there was a demand for a physical retail location. Giordano and Weber quit their jobs about three years ago to devote themselves to James Veloria full-time.
Another reason James Veloria exudes love is because it was born out of two individuals' love of shopping. Giordano says that though owning a vintage store is harder than what most people would expect, at the end of the day, he describes his job as “just shopping… Like we’re literally just shopping.” His addiction to shopping drives the store, as they never really run out of things because they are constantly acquiring stock. “There’s just two giant boxes of Tom Ford Gucci back there right now,” he says, pointing to some groovy zebra-print curtains. On the difficult part of the job, Weber talks about how, in vintage, you’ll only have each piece individually, as opposed to stores with dozens of units, which means that you can only sell it once, even if twenty people want it.
The pair express that sustainability is definitely a big reason why they’re so committed to vintage. Knowing how unethical and wasteful it is, Giordano has sworn to himself to never shop fast fashion. He explains: “I feel like with clothing, we’re churning out so many clothes that don’t need to be made because the world is already so full.” So while it would be hard to say that vintage is the solution to this issue, James Veloria is definitely doing their part by not contributing to the problem. Another thing the shop is committed to is keeping their pieces affordable. It is a growing problem in the vintage industry, where shops will hike up the price of items simply because they’re designer. Giordano expresses that in keeping theirs accessible, they’re trying to be “anti-luxury.”
So what’s next for James Veloria? Up until recently, the pair share that they were all about simply keeping the store afloat. Now, this year is about looking ahead. Other than “boring things” like expanding their e-commerce and website, the pair you can expect more collaborations, and another pop-up with Opening Ceremony should happen in about a month or so. Weber would like to do some international pop-ups and keep reaching new people.
A Brief Q&A
FRED SAHAI: Pieces you’re still looking for?
BRANDON GIORDANO: Always Margiela Artisinal pieces.
FS: Favorite collection ever?
BG: Probably Alexander McQueen's They Shoot Horses Don’t They.
CW: Probably a series like '93, '94, '95 Gaultier, just like anything in time was just so good—so epic, so collectible.
FS: People whose style inspires you?
CW: We’re definitely inspired by some of our customers. It’s great to see what people do with the clothes they get from us, what they’re into when they walk outside of our store.
BG: Historically I would say anyone kind of queer and fun, like Leigh Bowery.
FS: What are some of your favorite spots in the city?
BG: We go to 49 Monroe, Kiki’s, Forgetmenot, you can find me at Clandestino, in the back, almost every night.
FS: What music do you like to play in the store?
BG: Lately, I was in this like Italo-disco mix. It really depends on who is working in the store. It’s constantly changing. We are starting a James Veloria Soundcloud because people always ask about our music in our stories.
FS: Any final words?
BG: Keep shopping vintage, it’s ethical and you’ll look cute!