Store Feature: Moll Flanders
If you are ever traveling to Italy, Rome is undoubtedly a stop that must to be on your list. The city as a whole is simply beautiful, rich in architectural design and art that spans centuries. Other than the lavish history of the land, Italy is undeniably well attributed with its influence in the world of fashion. While the city of Rome may be less commonly associated in comparison to other cities like Florence and Milan, no one can deny the influence that it has come to have. While the common traveler will look to take advantage of the retail environment given that name brands are slightly cheaper along with tax refunds on purchases, the more fashion inclined traveler knows that aside from reduced retail there’s an abundance of vintage treasure scattered throughout Rome. That being said, In the last couple of years it has come to my attention that the online secondhand market has exploded with the creation of sites such as Grailed, Poshmark, and Depop; however this concept of ‘shopping’ for used clothes existed long before its electronic rebirth in the form of thrift stores and flea markets. Thrifting is a skill in which the Italians embrace proudly and this is clearly shown in the numerous shops spread throughout the city. The stock they carry can range from classic vintage tees to haute couture to OG nikes and everything in between, you name it they got it …. and there’s a good chance it was made in Italy too.
One store we stumbled upon in our search was Moll Flanders, a small designer secondhand shop located near the Colosseum within the Monti district. The store primarily carries upscale brands for both men and women, which is unique because stores of this nature in Rome are known to carry mainly womenswear. The selection at Flanders is what differentiates it from the rest being that it consists of a wider assortment of brands compared to other stores we’ve visited. Most consignment and luxury vintage stores usually carry traditional name brands such as: Prada, Valentino, Hermes, and Gucci. In addition to the traditional brands Flander’s selection includes: Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Acne, Miu Miu, Undercover, Juun.J, Carol Christian Poell, Dior, Commes Des Garcon, Givenchy, and Norse Projects just to name a couple.
We got the chance to sit down with store founder Mateo Murru to find out more about himself and his business.
How did you start the store and who helps run it?
“My sister, my friend and I ran the store in the beginning but now my friend is no longer apart of it. Before working here I had many different jobs, one in particular being a construction surveyor, after I lost my job I suddenly had an urge to go into fashion and wanted to open my own store. At the same time my sister’s husband also had the idea of consigning clothes from people so we combined our ideas into one. The store was established five years ago in 2013.”
So you didn’t go to school for fashion at all?
“I attended University here in Rome. I tried two different schools, the main one being Roma Tre my focus was in Communication and globalization civility. No, I didn’t go to school for fashion. Everything I learned for the fashion industry I learned myself or from people I know. I also read a lot online and inform myself.”
What made you decide Rome? Why not another place such as Milan or Florence? Places that appear to be fashion oriented?
“I live here so It’s easier, this is my home. This store is actually unique for Roma, while there are other stores like mine they are usually for women. My store may even be the only in Rome with men’s luxury consignment. Maybe Rome is not the right place for my business but I still stay.”
What’s the audience like for secondhand clothes in Rome?
“Some people from Rome don’t appreciate secondhand clothes and rather pay more money for newer items but worse quality. Foreigners are more interested in secondhand clothes compared to the locals, most Romans don’t know their brands and they don’t research their fashion. People will ask why some of my clothes are priced the way they are when they are second hand and I have to explain the original price is $1500.”
Do any stores inspire the style of what you collect and sell ?
“Some shops but they are regular retail stores and from these shops I know what brands to collect. Degli effetti, which was one of the first stores to carry Ccp and another store called Motelsalieri inspired me but Motelsalieri no longer exists. Other shops such as Darklands, Pnp, and L’eclaireur Paris are where I also got some ideas. I prefer lower profile type clothing for myself but that’s different from what I carry in my store. Before, I used to be really into Redwing and Levi’s so I bought many items but as I got more interested in clothing I moved on to Avant Garde. I just like good quality. My style and what I buy for the store are similar but not exactly the same so there are some brands that I won’t take and some items I take for sure, it’s quality that I’m looking for.”
What’s your typical customer like ? In America lots of the younger generation are now into fashion is this something you notice here ?
“I have all types of clients younger and older. However, young people don’t typically shop in my store, it’s not really for them. Younger people and uninformed people don’t understand the clothes and what goes into them. The prices are for people who have real jobs and have reason to spend more.”
Do you use the website grailed?
Personally but not for the store.
What do you think websites like this mean for stores like yours?
“Not a good thing for stores. I prefer that people try things and feel the material. I am usually knowledgeable on the brand and the process behind the clothes so I can converse with the customer. You have to try on your clothes. Personally I try not to buy from online, It’s too easy. When I travel I like to find shops that interest me and try the clothes there.”
Lastly, how would you define American fashion? Any new designers that catch your eye?
“I don’t know many new brands from America. The newer brands in America are more chic and not my style. I know Redwing and I know Levi’s. I know that items made in America are good quality. What other brands are in America ? Greg Lauren ? I know Rick Owens is from LA but I think his brand is inspired more by European fashion which is why I didn’t mention Rick Owens.”
Well, there you have it straight from a local’s perspective. Of course one interview does not speak for the entire population but it’s fair to say this view is one that is shared by those in his profession. As an interest in second hand clothing rises it is fascinating to hear the opinions of a business owner like Matteo on his customer audience and current trends in the market. There are clear similarities and differences in both culture and views in comparison to that of American conception. I also have noticed that quality has seemingly become more unimportant to people and perhaps this due to our lack of curiosity. Anyways, If you are ever in Rome this shop is definitely worth your time, whether you’re looking for a great deal on a unique piece or just want to chat it up with some locals Moll Flanders will not disappoint.