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Helen Uffner

Helen was born in Brussels and first came to the States as a 3-year old before returning to Brussels and finally immigrating permanently to New York with her family in 1961.  She attended the International School of Brussels and was an art major both in High School and University in New York. Upon graduation, she took off to travel through Eastern Europe and the Balkans and ended up working in Israel in commercial photography.  She returned to New York and went to work for a management consulting firm, designing presentation forms and questionnaires, ultimately taking on more responsibility until she became a consultant in her own right, with Columbia University as her first client.

Dating back to Junior High School, she always had an interest in art and antiques and explored thrift shops and auctions with her babysitting money. Among other items, she amassed a modest collection of antique clothing, which she considered works of art rather than articles to be worn.  Even while living in Israel, she would haunt the flea markets and ship clothes home!

In 1978, a fashion forecasting magazine, The Toby Report, profiled her collection of Victorian through 1920’s cotton and silk lingerie. After receiving requests from boutiques and stores such as Macy’s, Bergdorf’s, and Filene’s, she began supplying them with 1940’s men’s ties and lingerie.  Around the same time, friends in theater started buying her clothes for productions, and in 1982, a store in Soho sent Woody Allen’s costume designer to her home to buy items for his upcoming movie Zelig. They bought everything she had.

Helen had an epiphany!  She realized that instead of having to restock her collection yet again, why not RENT to productions instead of SELL? She left her consulting job and began pursuing her creative idea fulltime.

Beginning as a modest home business, Helen’s inventory grew to 600 cartons in storage. In 1996 she moved to a large 6,600 sq. foot loft in the heart of the Garment District, becoming the only east coast costume rental house (and one of the few in the country) to offer not only 20th century clothes and accessories but mid-to-late 19th century.  In June 2007, she relocated to a spacious loft in Long Island City, conveniently just on the other side of the 59th Street Bridge.

As of 2008, her company is in its 30th year of business and is known around the world as one of the premiere vintage costume houses.  Helen has been honored with 4 Emmy Award citations, profiled in various national and foreign newspapers and interviewed nationally and internationally on TV, and also enjoys nurturing students’ interest, guest-lecturing for various universities, and inviting schools for tours of her showroom.  She works with both big-budget movie productions and small theater productions alike, keeping rental prices famously reasonable and her stock immaculate.

The project closest to Helen’s heart was the film “Torte Bluma,” which ultimately won 1st Prize at the L.A. Short Film Festival in 2005.  Approached by the low-budget movie’s designer, she was told that the 18-minute short was based on a true story that took place in Treblinka, starring such major actors such as Stellen Skarsgard and Simon McBurney.  Helen decided to donate all the clothes in return for a dedication at the end of the film to her 7 immediate relatives (grandparents and uncles) who died in Treblinka, and her parents, who survived the Polish labor camps. The deal was sealed, and she is proud to have a timeless dedication to the family that both survived and perished in W.W.II.

 

 
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 Helen

30-10 41st Ave, L.I.C., NY 11101
phone: (718) 937-0220 fax: (718) 937-0227

©2009, Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing, LLC