- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - The “Dukes of Melrose” hold many style secrets of fashion’s royalty, and the duo of Cameron Silver and Christos Garkinos dish some of them on their new Bravo series that follows the owners of Los Angeles’ famous Decades vintage store.

They love the gowns, handbags, jackets and shoes they’re selling to their upscale and style-savvy clientele, but they love the stories of the lives the clothes have lived even more.

They gossip about the Marni wedding dress they’ve bought and sold, and bought and sold again. “No. 1 is divorced, No. 2 was over the dress and No. 3 still has it,” Garkinos says.

Sometimes they have to run interference between families: There’s a gaggle of socialite sisters with similar tastes and a competitive spirit, each one trying to top the others. Sometimes, they’ll have to stop a sister from buying something from another sister’s stash.

It’s no problem to call them style matchmakers, either. Customers get to know the look of their favorite sellers. At a recent trunk show, a client couldn’t wait to snap up the goat-fur Roberto Cavalli jacket of a woman she’d met at an earlier Decades event.

Nicole Miller attended the same trunk show. Garkinos and Silver consider it a badge of honor that designers shop at their store for inspiration. Alexander Wang, for one, felt like he had made it to the big league when he saw his own merchandise on Decades’ racks, they say.

Donatella Versace was refused entry. She came on a Sunday, Garkinos recalls, and he was wearing _ gasp _ overalls because they had been painting the store. “I told her, `The store isn’t ready to be shopped,’ and she came back the next day.”

Silver opened Decades in 1997. Garkinos joined two years later. They have a shared passion for good fashion: pieces that last, make an impact and deserve to be enjoyed more than once.

“Yes, there are some people who are a little freaked out by the idea of vintage, but we’re shopping from really good closets,” Silver says, “and these clothes are usually from happy moments. A couture gown from the 1950s is just embedded with history _ and probably champagne.”

He defines clothes in this way: “Used” means something has been worn. “Retro” means it’s from a certain period. And “vintage” means something with value and designer integrity _ and quite possibly from an important house.

Garkinos says age isn’t a criterion. For example, a Prada nylon backpack from the late `90s is vintage _ and so might one of the ombre bags from 2008. It also can be expensive _ in the four-digit category _ and, occasionally, even more.

Vintage clothes, especially in Hollywood, provide the opportunity for a little less cookie-cutter dressing. Some people like walking into the room knowing they’re not wearing a “trend,” although not enough starlets understand that, Silver says. “I want to see more people have their Cher moments, the Celine Dion-in-the-backward-Galliano moment.”

Garkinos muses how some clothes and accessories sell the moment they come in the door, while others, including a custom-made Versace suitcase that was made for Prince and even has his initials and a purple lining inside, don’t _ though eventually there’s the right buyer for everything. (It took almost two years to find the now very proud owner of the Prince piece.)

Stella McCartney, Rochas, Alexander McQueen and Vuitton seem to be labels they can’t hold on to, while Marc Jacobs, beloved by the industry and handbag shoppers around the world, can take a lot longer to sell.

“Dukes of Melrose” (10:30 p.m. EDT) includes that sort of “voyeuristic experience into the world of couture clients,” Silver explains.

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