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- 15 Apr 2010
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Carmen Haid: Director of Atelier-Mayer.com

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Turning memory lane into a virtual designer avenue

LONDON – It all started with a little girl and her grandmother at a Vienna fashion show. Carmen Haid was three at the time, dressed in a velvet frock with bows and lace. Grandma happened to be Madame Mayer, a couture tailor who founded her atelier during the Wiener Werkstätte design movement. Back at grandma’s house after the shows, young Carmen would lull herself to sleep by rubbing the silk window curtains between her fingers, surrounded by bolts of sumptuous fabrics, old garments and curios. With childhood memories like these, there’s little wonder that three decades on Carmen Haid has made a thriving business out of luxury vintage clothes.

Germany and America beckoned after she left Austria but Haid’s career really took off in London. She spent ten years pounding the pavements of Bond Street between Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci Group and Celine as a fashion publicist. At YSL, she witnessed the brand’s transformation from a couture house ruled by its ageing founder to a prêt-a-porter business designed by Alber Elbaz and Hedi Slimane to its take-over by Gucci Group followed by Tom Ford’s aggressive global roll-out. It was the era of frenzied acquisitions, sky-high marketing budgets and the surrender of many family businesses. Captivating though it all was, she began to feel drawn to a slower pace and a working environment where timelessness is a virtue greater than trendsetting. Haid’s wardrobe was jam packed with vintage finds and designer friends were regularly borrowing pieces for inspiration. The next step was only natural: an exciting new start-up called Atelier-Mayer.com.

Haid decided to revive her grandmother’s workshop in the form of an online boutique selling vintage designer fashion and accessories. Together with her partner Alice Kodell, today she sources exceptional pieces with a contemporary edge from dealers, collectors and specialists around the world which are delivered to eager clients in bespoke branded packaging. Haid identified a niche for online luxury vintage retail when she noticed three movements converging into an opportunity. Vintage had become so fashionable that celebrities were wearing old designer dresses on the red carpet; high-street giants like TopShop had gotten in on the game with upmarket vintage departments; and luxury e-commerce was flourishing at pioneering firms like Net-a-Porter.

The site is a veritable digest of designer brands over the decades. With videos of historic catwalk moments, rare behind-the-scenes retro photographs and a detailed directory of 20th century vintage fashion, Atelier-Mayer.com provides added value for shoppers who can immerse themselves in the style era of the clothes they are buying. For her part, Haid has come full circle with a tribute to her grandmother that is both a business model adapted to the 21st century and a vast vintage archive for clients to plunder.