It’s easy to miss Rechicle at first; tucked away on a quiet street in Prati, there is no grand sign announcing its presence to passersby. In fact, the only thing giving it away is the window display, which tantalisingly reveals colourful vintage bags and scarves, alongside 1950s beauty cases and designer sunglasses. Intrigued, I step inside to take a closer look.
Annalisa, the owner and creator of Rechicle, welcomes me warmly. She radiates effortless style and glamour, which is the trademark of the items on offer here. She tells me that she was inspired to start her business while caring for her mother, who was dying of cancer. “Time is the most luxurious property we have,” she says very clearly; and realizing this, she left her journalism career of twenty years in order to set up a vintage clothing store.
However, she had very little money to start a business with. So she stared off small. She asked friends to give her the clothes that they no longer wore. Then she found a small shop in Piazza Cavour and began selling their unused clothes. Within nine months word had spread, and the business was going so well that she moved to a larger shop on Via dei Gracchi, where Rechicle has now been based for five years.
“Time is the most luxurious property we have”
Today, the business is still run in a similar way. Each item is personally approved by Annalisa, either chosen directly by her or arriving here by appointment from independent sellers. In fact, I have been inside for less than five minutes when we are interrupted by a gentleman carrying a large, zipped, suit bag: inside is a genuine leopard skin coat. I can hardly believe my eyes.
Annalisa spends some time inspecting the garment and they have a short discussion in Italian. Later, after the man has gone, I ask her how much a coat like this would sell for. “At least 1000 euro,” she replies, and laughs when I gasp at the price tag. ‘”t’s not a lot,” she tells me. It is a very rare coat, yes; and the quality is excellent; but it is also second-hand: something she must take into account with her pricing.
Nothing, therefore, enters the shop without her seal of approval. “Everything you see here was chosen by me,” she says, as we continue to walk around the store. The most important criteria are that the clothes are elegant, stylish, and truly vintage, meaning they must be at least forty years old. “We do not take the 80s,” she says, “the 80s are just old.” As such, Rechicle holds items ranging from the 1920s to the 70s. The only exceptions to this rule are second-hand pieces from the last ten years, which are marked accordingly.
The shop is split into well-organized sections to assist customers, who often come in with a specific occasion in mind. In one area you can find luxurious fur coats in shades of brown, black, and beige; other rails hold sparkling cocktail dresses; others delicate blouses and shirts. A white silk Armani top, with small black buttons down the front, catches my eye in particular. I also fixate upon a pair of black Prada stilettos, adorned with jewels the colour of emeralds. While I rifle through the rails of clothing, we discuss the difference between fashion, which changes, and style or class, which is constant:
“Class; you have it, or you don’t,” Annalisa states. “Style is something you have, you personalize things. You can wear diamonds, but if you don’t have class, [neither will] the diamonds.”
The furniture too is vintage, with some coming from Annalisa’s childhood home. Large green and silver industrial lamps, dating from the 1960s, illuminate the shop’s interior. One particularly ornate gold cabinet dates from the 20s and displays delicate earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. There are also brown leather travelling cases stacked on top of one another, the last displaying an old typewriter and camera. The wallpaper too, pink with white flowers, is from another age. In fact, “nothing here is new,” which is exactly how Annalisa intended it. “We are a little bit against consumerism,” she tells me.
It seems that this anti-consumerism inclination is one of the key philosophies of Rechicle, and is invoked in the name itself. The name echoes the verb riciclare (to recycle), alluding to the way in which clothes are given a second life here. Additionally, the chic in Rechicle is highlighted, stressing that the outfits displayed here are chosen deliberately for their style and elegance, and don’t bend to the seasons of change in high street fashion.
Annalisa takes me past rows of Prada shoes, Chanel boots, and shows me a Hermes watch that came in this morning. I ask if people ever come in for a specific designer. “No,” she responds, telling me it is always about the clothes themselves rather than a specific label. I imagine the designer labels don’t hurt though, and here you’ll find them in abundance, for a fraction of the prices on Via del Baubino. Designer dresses that cost thousands of euros new, can be found here for prices in the low hundreds.
Annalisa employs only three women to help her: a fashion student; a woman in her fifties who, despite no previous work experience has become a star employee; and her own daughter, a musician. The effect is that everything about the store has a personal feel, from the items it sells to the way in which it is operated. Ultimately, this shop wants to bring joy to people by giving them the opportunity to purchase an exclusive item of clothing, for a price not reserved for the super wealthy. At Rechicle, the important thing is that, without spending a lot of money, “people can afford to buy a little dream.”
Before I leave, I help her to dress a mannequin in a green silk evening gown for the shop window, and take some photos of pieces that have caught my attention. I ask her what her dreams are for the future of Rechicle. She smiles, “I think with this shop I have already realized them,” and looking at the beautiful, personalized store around me, I can’t help but agree.