"Equal parts treasure-hunter and zeitgeist pulse-taker, Bob Melet is the man behind the vintage destination for those in the know: Melet Mercantile. The 2,800-square foot SoHo emporium is a wonder world of all things unique and beautiful found all over the globe. The plunder of Melet’s journeys offer inspiration for many A-list designers. The intricate beaded pattern on an antique Navajo bag, for instance, could become the stimulus for a designer’s entire spring line. Or the indigo batik print on a 19th century Balinese textile sample could inspire the concept for a line of resort wear. But fashion designers are just one segment of Melet’s client base. “This space operates as an umbrella for all kinds of talented people,” says Melet, 39. His warehouse is a must-stop place for many production and costume designers in film, theater, and television. “If a set designer in theater is looking for something very specific, we'll source it for them. And most times we'll find it.” He marvels at how a fashion buyer will feverishly look through piles of folded Brooks Brothers shirts from the 1950s and 1960s and not notice that they're stacked on a leather-woven antique Western bench, whereas an interior designer will spy the bench and immediately zero in on it. “It all depends on how your eye is trained,” he says. Melet's eagle eyes have had a lifetime of schooling. “I started collecting when I was a teenager,” he says. “My parents were collectors of art and antiques, and my amazing grandmother was this pioneering interior decorator who would travel to Paris, and come back with loads of antiques for clients. So I developed an appreciation for beautiful things at a very young age.” An antique furniture dealer prior to moving to New York from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1993, he won his spurs (and there are many to be found in the “tack room” located in his space) working as the vintage buyer for Ralph Lauren. “When Ralph opened his Double RL store and started selling vintage clothes, he was the first person in the world to do that,” says Melet, who passionately shared Lauren’s vision of the potential of vintage clothing in the fashion world. Ten years later, he opened Melet Mercantile, and has since proved that while fashion is ephemeral, vintage is timeless."
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