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The Saudi Vintage Curator Whose Enviable Collection is Both Fashionable and Sustainable

Rae Joseph

Rae Joseph in vintage accessories by Chanel. Photography by Nicolas Manassi & Hayat Osama


Rae Joseph spent years curating antiquated clothing before launching her premiere vintage fashion house 1954 by Rae Joseph. “I was known to all of my friends as the ‘vintage person.’ If anyone wanted a vintage piece, they would come to me. I wear vintage all the time,” says the Saudi entrepreneur. The Columbia University graduate is a licensed lawyer and practiced capital markets law across both the Riyadh and New York stock exchanges. “Throughout my legal education and career, I’ve always done art and fashion the side. I’ve studied fashion at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and dabbled in a lot of creative fields where I studied dressmaking, did some painting and pottery. I’ve always had this artistic side. I took a career shift and the rest is history.”

Rae Joseph

Rae Joseph. Photography by Nicolas Manassi & Hayat Osama


Joseph resides between Riyadh and New York. While her online business caters to both regions, it keeps her on a busy, seven-day work schedule. When she can, Joseph squeezes in time to navigate the art scene and her favorite galleries. “I have a lot of friends in the art and fashion industry in New York, and I’m very involved in the Italian and European crowd, so I’m lucky to have access to different art galleries and museums,” she says. “One of my favorite things to do is to go see up-and-coming artists. We go to the big museums like the MoMa and The Met, but we also like to go to lesser-known galleries and shows to discover new talent,” she adds. Andy Warhol is among some of her favorite artists. “I love him not just for his art, but for how he influenced and transformed culture,” she explains. Building on her personal art collection, right now, she’s currently eyeing a Keith Haring piece from the artist’s 1989 Chocolate Buddha series. “I just respond to art; I don’t look for names of specific artists. I generally look for a connection.”

Rae Joseph

Rae Joseph wearing a vintage Halston dress and Chanel necklace, with a 1940s custom-made box bag. Photography by Nicolas Manassi & Hayat Osama


“I was 16 when I bought my first vintage piece,” says Joseph. She became acquainted with the owner of a vintage showroom. “He took me under his wing and really opened my eyes to the historic value of vintage,” she explains. Exhilarated by this new discovery, she walked out with six purchases including a 60s shift dress once owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. “The magic is when you wear it, it hugs the body just right, and it’s definitely going in a glass box, since it once belonged to a style icon.” Among her greatest hits is a custom-made, hand-painted gown featuring a sweetheart neckline that she wore to her brother’s wedding. The previous owner of said gown – the late Princess Grace of Monaco. “The person I purchased this from wouldn’t let me touch it with my bare hands; I had to wear gloves,” she says, reminiscing. “Putting aside the Grace Kelly aspect, it’s such a special piece, due to its craftsmanship. Another piece in her repertoire that made her jaw drop when she first laid eyes on it is a Christian Lacroix Haute Couture sweater featuring a bejeweled cross – made famous by Anna Wintour’s first Vogue US cover. “When I found that piece, I got goosebumps and I had to sit down. It’s magnificent,” says Joseph. “I always look for the best for my clients. I try to find pieces that are well-structured and high-quality. And, when I come across a piece that combines all those elements, I usually love it myself.”

Rae Joseph

Rae Joseph in a Halston dress with accessories from Chanel and other vintage finds. Photography by Nicolas Manassi & Hayat Osama


At the end of her day, Joseph turns to the stove to decompress. “I often cook, and I find it very therapeutic,” she says. She admits there’s no specific dish that she’s a hero at, she just lets her creativity flow through mixing spices on roasted vegetables, stirring hot and hearty soups that strike the right balance between richness and warmth, and cooking up a mean cod. As for traditional Saudi dishes, she offers: “I’m not that good to be honest, they’re very elaborate and it’s a really long process to prepare.” Meanwhile, when she’s back home in Riyadh, her go-to comfort food is her mother’s rice. While Riyadh has no shortage of diverse restaurants, Takya currently piques her taste buds. “It’s the first Saudi fusion restaurant. I tried it a couple of times and it’s already become my favorite.”

Rae Joseph

Rae Joseph in a Halston dress with accessories from Chanel and other vintage finds. Photography by Nicolas Manassi & Hayat Osama


A crackling sound breaks in the background and Ella Fitzgerald’s velvet vocals to Lullaby of Birdland pours from a brass phonogram and sets the mood in the 1954 by Rae Joseph lounge. “Similar to our concept and the pop-ups that we host, we try to transcend our guests to a different time when they walk in. Clients flock to the lounge from around the region to take in the experience while being treated to private viewings from the collection. “This is also where we keep some of our special pieces. Seeing the spark in people’s eyes when you explain to them the history behind a piece really feeds my soul and drives me even more,” she says while perched on a forest green velvet loveseat that’s positioned in front of a gallery wall of gilded framed vintage Vogue covers. Like the name of her brand, an air of the 50s fills the room. “I’m really inspired by the eras that took place before and after World War II. After the war ended, women were encouraged to regain their femininity and that’s when Christian Dior created his famous New Look, probably one of my favorite silhouettes of all time.” When asked why 1954 specifically, she answers, simply, “It’s the year my father was born.”

Rae Joseph

In a vintage silk Christian Dior loungewear gown, with a book on Islamic finance that she contributed to. Photography by Nicolas Manassi & Hayat Osama

Originally published in the January 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia

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