By Page Walker
Recently, I indulged in the magic of Vintage Martini after brunching at The Porch across the street on Henderson. I have not lived in Dallas long, and I was on the lookout for a spot to quench my love of “the hunt” for unique vintage fashion.
To my surprise, I walked into a perfectly curated boutique that required no digging through piles of shoes or examining every desirable item for a hidden stain. The tidy consignment section caught my eye first. “Is this real?” I thought to myself. My favorite brands, gently used, at great prices, were hanging in front of me, organized by type and color. What did I do to deserve such royal treatment?
If you, too, like treasure hunting and high-end fashion — meet your new muse: Ken Weber.
Co-founder of Vintage Martini with business partner Greg Kelly, Weber built a dream for fashionistas who strive to create unique, quality wardrobes.
After receiving praise from none other than Vogue, Vintage Martini today draws elite shoppers from all over the country. Unlike most vintage and consignment stores that take hours to sift through, Vintage Martini is organized in a polished, intentional manner by brand and decade.
Weber refuses to take clothing that doesn’t meet his standards. “Everything is cleaned, repaired. I want everything ready to be worn. If they buy it, they can wear it right then.”
Kristie Ramirez, editor of Modern Luxury, says the boutique is always in pristine condition. “Vintage Martini does a great job at curating its selection, and Weber is super knowledgeable.”
Customer Lizzy Holbrook says she returns to the boutique time after time. “I love how everything is so easy to find. I have shopped vintage and consignment for years and have yet to find a store with a better layout.”
Weber has traveled from coast to coast, acquiring the finest vintage garments. He has mingled with fashion designers, sipped wine in the closets of socialites, dressed celebrities and appeared on reality television. This spring, he is set to appear in the first season of Real Housewives of Dallas. Totally enviable, right? But this life did not just appear on a silver platter. He has dedicated his life to his craft and love of vintage fashion.
Weber planted his fashion roots during his college days at West Texas University. He studied acting but found his true calling off stage in the costume closet. He switched his major to costume design, where he discovered an even deeper love for the history of fashion.
Upon graduation, he moved to Dallas and jumped into the film world as a costume designer. During this period, Weber found a warehouse to store his growing collection of vintage, which he would rent to costume designers. He built a reputation as a vintage aficionado. When the film work in Dallas slowed down, he started selling at flea markets.
“Once you start buying and selling vintage, it’s like an illness. You can’t stop. It’s an addiction. So I started buying and selling and buying and selling.” — Ken Weber
The momentum was really growing for Weber and his vintage addiction. He began selling at vintage shows and soon caught the attention of celebrities and fashion designers.
In the mid ‘90s, Weber decided it was time to take his inventory online.
Reflecting on this bold career move, Weber says, “When I started selling on e-Bay, there was approximately 35 pages of vintage clothing.” He then smiled, as if he was about to deliver the punch line of a clever joke: “You know e-Bay started as an online auction house for PEZ dispensers.”
After e-Bay, Weber launched his own website. Opening a brick-and-mortar store was next for the growing business.
Vintage Martini first opened its doors in Carrolton, a Dallas suburb, in 2007, where it resided for six years. The recession of 2008 hit all small businesses hard the following year.
What kept Vintage Martini from failing like so many others during this time?
A favorable article written by the Dallas Morning News in 2008 helped as did Weber’s executive decision to sell consignment along with classic vintage. This kept Weber from spending too much on new inventory. Instead, he could acquire items for free and pay consigners a portion of the sale price when they sold. This allowed the store to continue to carry a high caliber of designer vintage clothing.
Weber’s “best of both worlds” approach to retail is why Vintage Martini has continued to thrive.
In 2014, the boutique moved to its current location at 2923 N. Henderson Ave. Moving the store front to the heart of Dallas was an exciting milestone. In the hot new location, Vintage Martini continues to flourish and attract loyal followers.
Today, Vintage Martini has created its own niche in Dallas. “You have consignment stores that carry brand new contemporary that can’t be more than a year old,” Weber says, “and you have vintage stores. Most of the vintage stores carry generic vintage. We focus more on high-end designer, contemporary and vintage.”
The boutique’s customers recognize that Vintage Martini truly stands out in the vintage and consignment worlds. Fashion designer and SMU professor Chelsea Bell says, “Vintage Martini is my high-end consignment store of choice. Ken Weber is truly an expert in dealing clothing, both vintage and consignment. His high taste level and sense of merchandising provide customers with a shopping experience that makes you forget you’re buying something that has been previously worn.”
So, what’s next for the Vintage Martini?
Recently, the boutique underwent a renovation that did away with the men’s section, expanded the couture room and added more mid-level designer items. According to Weber, the new space has some great ‘70s pieces and crazy cool art.
“What I’m excited about really is when you start going through the racks, every name you hit is an exciting designer,” he says.
Co-founder Greg Kelly is equally as pleased with the new space. “People are not having to dig for designers they want, and it is giving the vintage more visibility than before.”
With the new additions, there may be no better time to get your “hunt” on or discover your inner vintage addict. Acording to D Magazine, at Vintage Martini, you can find all the “throwbacks” — be they ’20s flapper frocks or flared pants from the ’70s — in “immaculate condition” alongside “jaw-dropping couture ensembles from Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior, and Chanel.”
So go forth and shop, with Weber’s motto in mind: “Fashion is great regardless of the year it came out. It can still be fantastic.”