We came across David Casavant like we come across everything else: endless browsing on the Internet. The NYC-based stylist and collector has one of the foremost archives of insanely rare, collectible, vintage designer clothing. Think, Raf Simons, Helmut Lang, Hedi Slimane era Dior Homme, Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto and many, many others. His pieces end up on the backs of Kanye, Rihanna, Big Sean and plenty of other celebs for appearances and in the pages of countless publications. Naturally, we wanted to talk to Casavant himself about how he got into collecting and what goes along with owning thousands of grails, so we hit him up to see what he's all about.
For starters, let's talk basic, background info. How old are you?
And how did you get into collecting?
Basically, it started when I was a teenager. I just like clothes, I guess. I started with Raf. I really liked his stuff, then I moved onto Helmut [Lang] and I always just have bought vintage clothes from eBay and consignment stores and thrift stores. I was always sort of collecting in that way. I’m a stylist too, so when I was assisting, people would ask me to bring stuff to shoots. I’d bring it and eventually was like, "I should get credit for this." Then I asked for credit and it moved onto renting it out. There are lots of vintage and rental places in New York, but mainly for women’s. There’s not really a good men’s option. So it came from that.
So it started off pretty small?
Yeah, I guess that because I worked in fashion, it made sense to start buying so much. Then a couple years ago, I started to think of it more as a business when buying. That’s why I’ve sort of gone crazy with buying more.
How do you track down the pieces?
It’s sort of a full-time job in a way. It’s about being consistent. I check eBay. I go to stores every week. I work with sellers around the world that tell me if they’re selling things because I’ve been doing it so consistently that I can find pieces at good prices. It’s not like I look every once in a while. I guess it’s because I buy so much at this point that they just reach out to me first before posting on eBay, which has given me an advantage. Also, when I buy something, it’s not like it will be a waste of money because I’d wear it for fun. But I can justify buying something for more money because I have a whole collection and can treat it as a business purchase.
I assume you’re into fashion outside of just collecting vintage gear then? Do you buy for yourself anymore?
I buy more with collecting in mind or think “This could be good for a shoot” if it's a rare piece that would be good to have. Obviously, I still like wearing some of it. It has evolved from more of a personal purchase in the beginning to now it’s not really about that.
Do you wear things from your archive still? Did you before? Or is it more off limits just for loaning out and photoshoots?
I have too much to wear it all. I have a lot of weird stuff and some women’s. In a way, I treat it as my own personal wardrobe because I like to have it. I keep it all in my apartment with me and I like to be able to have access to it and say, “I want to wear this today.” But it’s not really about that anymore. I also don’t really do it because I want to look cool while wearing it. I have an actual appreciation for the clothes and view them as—it’s cheesy to say but—a work of art in its own way.
How big is your collection now? More than a couple thousand pieces?
Honestly. I haven’t counted, but a lot. I have thousands of clothes just in my apartment. I just had to move to a bigger place to store them all. I have a whole bedroom for them and another walk-in closet for other stuff and then a vintage closet. It's still pretty packed, but it was worse before.
Sneaker collecting seems like a bit of a different animal. So how does this compare?
For me, what I do is completely different, or the way I view it is completely different and what I want from collecting is different than anyone that collects shoes or even a museum that collects fashion. My passion is for people to be wearing or using the clothes. The reason I do it is because I want it to be used. I’m different in that way because my stuff is open for people to rent or use for shoots. I think it would be sad if the clothes didn’t get used. Even if it’s, like, a bit of wear and tear. It doesn’t matter because that’s what keeps life in them.
Are any pieces deadstock? Or have they all been worn, loaned, etc.?
Some stuff is, but I don’t care to rip the tags off and use it. What am I going to do when I’m 80 and have this perfectly preserved Helmut Lang piece with the tags on it? Who cares? It would be much more interesting to say that I loaned this Helmut Lang piece to Kanye and he’s performed in it or it was in a Vogue Italia shoot and has a story.
How does the loaning process work? Is it mostly the stylists that contact you?
I have to be a bit selective because I need to make sure the person loaned out to has an appreciation for the clothes and isn’t going to ruin them. I don’t sell them, so I have to make sure they aren’t going to demand to keep it either. I have to be careful with who I loan to. Because I work in fashion, I guess I already have connections in that way. I loan to big stylists and young, upcoming stylists. They’re usually people who are friends or I know through friends and trust them. I like the idea of being able to support young talent or a young stylist and let them borrow the archive for the shoots because there isn’t a lot of support for young stylists. As far as celebrities, I just have to make sure it’s a celebrity that actually appreciates what I’m doing. Working with Kanye, that opened doors to other young talent he’s working with. I’ve loaned to them and friends who style celebrities that I trust.
I assume that Kanye is the perfect sort of guy to loan to then, as he really enjoys learning about fashion.
For Kanye, his stylist was referred to me and she showed him some pictures I sent him and he actually came over to look at the whole thing which was pretty surreal. He was in heaven when he came over, which was a big compliment to me because he has seen so much. Usually, it’s a rapper or something they will think the pieces are cool, but Kanye has a genuine interest in fashion and Raf and Helmut, so much so that he wanted to come over and see it all. That was pretty exciting.
Do you actually make money off of loaning the pieces out though?
Maybe one day I’ll make money off it. I make some, but I’ve bought way more than I’ve made and I still want to keep buying more. So if I did make money, I would just use it to keep buying. It’s not some business where I try to make tons of money off it. It’s because I’m passionate about Raf and Helmut and want a place to keep them all together and also love the idea of being able to have people use it as a resource. I wouldn’t go so far to call it my way to cash in. My occupation as a stylist, goes along with that.
How much would someone have to pay to rent a piece of yours?
I guess I don’t really want to give that out necessarily. But it always depends on the person, their budget, their relationship with me. It’s not really a set thing. I just don’t know if I want to say that for client protection and some pieces I would charge more for than others.
Is there any piece you really wanted to find that you got for a steal? Or one that you were after for a while that you finally found?
All the time. I would say it happens at least once a month because I do it consistently. If I just keep on it all the time, that piece I’ve always wanted will come up. Sometimes it will be cheap and sometimes it will be a lot. If it’s a lot, then fine. I also get things for pretty cheap, so it evens out I guess. I just found a Helmut Lang nipple tank. There weren’t many of those made. I was always looking for that. I found it once before and the seller wouldn’t give it to me for some reason. But recently I found one so that was cool.
How about a super rare piece that you got for a steal? Do some people not actually know what they have and you can fleece them?
The way I put it is, people that sell Raf are stupid because they’re selling Raf. You know what I mean? I assume they aren’t the brightest. Why would you sell Raf? Why wouldn’t you keep it? This person is already stupid enough to be selling Raf. That’s how I look at it.
In regards to Raf and all the attention he's been getting recently, has that been good for business?
Yeah, definitely. I remember a few years ago, I felt like a lone Raf fan in a sea of people. I used to work on his shows in Paris when I lived in London. I’d be telling my friends going with me and they’d be like, “Oh great” and they didn’t understand. But with Kanye and all that stuff, there is more of Raf mania now.
Has there been another designer like that, who had that sort of popularity since you’ve been collecting?
I feel like Helmut has always been consistently known and amazing, but there isn’t a Helmut Lang movie or anything. He's always been a bit underground, which is cool in a way. I mean old Dior Homme and Saint Laurent now I guess, but I don’t collect that as much now since it’s new. But Hedi Slimane stuff tends to get in the same category.
What piece have you loaned out the most times?
It’s so funny, it’s an L.L. Bean sheer turtleneck. No joke, it’s always loaned out. It's surprising. It always gets pulled. It’s so random. It’s from a few years ago. I got it for a shoot and just kept it and people kept using it. I guess because it’s a basic piece that you can’t find. Then the bomber jackets too, people always pull those.
Are there any piece that you’re currently on the hunt for?
Always, but I took a break this month because I got a new apartment and was buying furniture and focusing on that, so I zoned out a bit. I was looking for a Helmut bondage bomber jacket, but I found it. That was big. But right now there’s nothing in particular.
Do you think any current brands will reach the collectible level that, like, Raf or Helmut Lang are now?
Yeah, I do. What I’m collecting now is Craig Green because that’s amazing. I’d say that is the main new one I’m after right now and I think it’s going to be amazing. I love new young designers. Not all of them, but a lot of them. My friend Grace Wales Bonner, who's based in London, is making big waves and does menswear.