'L.A. Frock Stars' debuts Freeport native Doris Raymond

Doris Raymond, the doyenne of Hollywood vintage, stars

Doris Raymond, the doyenne of Hollywood vintage, stars in the Smithsonian Channel's new program "L.A. Frock Stars," premiering Thursday, March 7, 2013. (Credit: Smithsonian Channel)

Celebrities, big money, big personalities and some extraordinary fashion collide in two new Los Angeles-based reality shows that delve deep into the world of vintage fashion from v-e-r-y different perspectives,

On Wednesday, at 10:30, Bravo will debut "Dukes of Melrose" (an add-on to its already fashion-heavy Wednesday lineup, "The Rachel Zoe Project" and "It's a Brad, Brad World") and tomorrow night at 8, "L.A. Frock Stars" bows on the Smithsonian Channel.

On Bravo, it's all about Decades, a glam boutique on tony Melrose Avenue owned by two business partners: renowned vintage expert Cameron Silver and Christos Garkinos, touted as "The Robin Hood of fashion," who "consigns from the really rich and sells to the less rich."

It's 12-episodes of true-to-form Bravo glitz. The central struggle is the conflict between the partners -- Silver wants to spend big, Garkinos wants to save. An early scene depicts Silver negotiating for two stunning vintage gowns that originally cost about $55,000 each -- Garkinos is apoplectic. Along with this is the quest to dress stars in vintage for the red carpet.

"Dukes" is beautifully shot, snarky, sassy and peppered with sexy little zingers. Highlights include the likable Garkinos' home visits to the closets of ritzy fashionistas where he hunts his pricey prey -- empty suitcase in hand.

On "L.A. Frock Stars," the real star is vintage clothing guru Doris Raymond, who hails from Huntington. Raymond takes a librarian's approach -- albeit a passionate one -- to vintage at her La Brea Avenue store, The Way We Wore. If the boys at Decades are brazen -- and they are -- Raymond, supported by a quirky young staff, is refined, charming and somewhat professorial. What the show lacks in Bravo's pizzazz and production values is made up by Raymond's knowledge about and obsession with all things vintage, and glimpses of her estimated $20 million vintage collection.

The six-episode series gets off to a slow start, but as it unfolds, it gets jazzier: Hip-hop artist Kelis seeks dresses for the Grammys, Rihanna's stylist comes hunting for something wild, and, way after hours, Raymond is summoned by Lady Gaga's stylist to open up for over-the-top garb.

Beyond the fashion, there's some learning -- factoids about designers, stars, styles and fabrications are occasionally flashed on-screen.

Which store does it better? "They're actually both go-tos," says Booth Moore, fashion critic for the Los Angeles Times. "Decades was really instrumental in bringing the concept of vintage to Hollywood and the red carpet. It's more flashy with the prices to go with it."

Of The Way We Wore, Moore says, "It's more accessible. But Doris has her place in the pantheon as much as the Dukes. She's kind of a brainiac with a love and appreciation for the craft."

 

LI native is LA's queen of vintage

Doris Raymond, 58, star of the new series "L.A. Frock Stars," is a Long Island gal.

"I lived in Freeport until I was in sixth grade, and then in Huntington until I left for college," she said in a phone interview from her Los Angeles boutique. "I am so honored to be on the Smithsonian Channel," said Raymond, who is considered by many to be the grand dame of vintage. It's the first time the channel has featured an unscripted series. "It was a challenge to keep the bar raised without being pedantic," Raymond said.

How does a nice Long Island girl find herself entrenched and enchanted by fashions from every decade of the past century? "When I was growing up, we had financial difficulties, so I discovered thrift stores," she said. This, and "learning how to sew, and appreciating the handiwork and touching fabric in home ec at Huntington High School" contributed to her interest, she said. She's been running her business on the West Coast for 32 years, though she did return for her 20th high school reunion, to which she wore vintage, natch, a black frock by Travilla, the designer most remembered for Marilyn Monroe's "subway grate" dress from the "The Seven Year Itch." She said her peers were not impressed.

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