Vintage shoppers know well the rush of finding that hidden gem tucked away in some overlooked corner.
For Dianne Vavra of Huntington, it came from a simple leopard-print trench coat she discovered in the damp, musty basement of a shop in the Marais district of Paris, where she can often be found thanks to her "day" job -- senior vice president of press relations for Dior Beauty.
She paid 25 euros for the coat (a little more than $30 at the time) and started wearing it, well, just about everywhere. Compliments quickly followed, from friends, colleagues, a buyer at Barneys. All that got her thinking and, voilà, her company Le Trench was born. She "reinvented" the coat with the help of a local pattern maker and the website, le-trench.com, went live earlier this month.
Vavra's Dior job means a lot of celebrities on her virtual Rolodex, and a number of them have been happy to take the coat out for a spin. Actress Abigail Spencer wore one to New York Fashion Week, Lena Dunham thought she might wear one to her book signing, Sharon Stone is a fan.
The beauty of the coat, Vavra says, is that "it's incredibly practical, yet super chic. It looks good on everybody." Right now it comes in three colors -- black, red, and a black and gray serpent print (a neutral that's as close as Vavra could come to the original leopard, which is tricky to produce). She hopes to add a new look every season -- eventually she'll nail down that leopard, she says.
At $495, it's a bit more expensive than Vavra's original find, but she points out that it can be worn with everything. Throw it over jeans or yoga clothes or a cocktail dress -- it works. Just remember, Vavra stresses, to pop the collar for that touch of French flair.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Dianne Vavra's first name.