Style, elegance, mystique and attitude: This is Tiara Chameleon personified. She is the embodiment of vintage fashion’s evolution, a genre elevating and redefining its station within the clothing industry as its champions reimagine themselves.
“I’m no different from a Basquiat or a Jackson Pollock; I just paint people with clothes,” Chameleon professes. “I too am an artist.”
For generations, high-end fashion houses dominated the scene until sustainability, scarcity and a hyper-focus on individual expression became more vogue as vintage ascended to the level of wearable art.
Art is a higher form of expression; it endures. In the world of vintage, longevity is literal — a quality Chameleon believes defines true luxury.
“I appreciate the way [vintage] clothing was constructed back in the day,” Chameleon expresses of when she felt function and fashion were most in sync. “Silhouettes [then] were more complimentary to the body. The fabrics were stronger. It was more durable.”
Art also has emotional power, provokes imagination and invites reflection — and the purveyors of modern vintage, like Chameleon, are bonafide artists who embrace their identity as multi-hyphenate creators.
“A creative soul, an artist, a stylist, an image consultant, vintage connoisseur — all things art, fashion, vintage, beauty,” Chameleon says of her versatility. “I’m part of it all.”
Chameleon and her brand 1984V, an online vintage concept store and style house launched in 2020, positions her among the trend pacing visionary fashion boutiques carrying the baton and remixing what it means to own vintage and sell vintage.
Though Chameleon’s journey wasn’t spoon-fed to her. Her virtuosity as a conduit and curator with an attention to detail — textiles, fabrics and shapes — was born out of a desire to belong and rooted in her childhood memories in Ohio, where wearing hand-me-downs and “affordable living” was part of the community’s culture.
Vision + Tenacity
As a young African American art school student in Chicago, Chameleon quickly recognized fashion was currency. Labels like CELINE, Louis Vuitton and others, ironically, signaled originality.
Eager to prove herself while lacking the resources to acquire high-fashion pieces, Chameleon relied on her vision and tenacity.
Ever the revolutionary, Chameleon turned to vintage which she describes as accessible luxury to build her wardrobe and dispel any notions she was “less than.” It was her unabashed refusal to empower clothing labels to dictate or, much worse, diminish her self-worth.
“College forced me to train my eye to make everything I wear look high-level,” Chameleon says.
Strangely, in institutions of aspiring artists where many are jockeying to propel their careers and build fashion empires, succumbing to mainstream fashions feels counterintuitive. It’s a microcosm of a more insidious problem — misdirected valuation in the fashion space.
Chameleon leaned into the notion of “fake it until you make it” without realizing that in the process of challenging the status-quo, she was laying the foundation for her career.
Others quickly took notice of her ingenuity and began to literally buy the clothes off her back.
This moment revealed the tried-and-true perceptions about fashion and the consumption of fashion were outdated. Chameleon recognized you didn’t need to construct a fashion line to appeal to the diverse tastes of individual consumers and creatives. You only needed to repurpose a sustainable resource: vintage wear.
In fact, vintage is now so ubiquitous major fashion houses and boutique brands are creating retro collections and marking up the price point, recreating a watered down experience of shopping for vintage looks. What’s missing is the organic exhilaration of discovering a piece in the “wild” that speaks to your individual tastes and essence. That’s what Chameleon strives to encapsulate.
The 1984V brand is a time capsule. As a music fan, it’s the era when Prince, “Thriller,” Madonna and Elton John topped the charts. It’s the same year iconic coming-of-teen movie director John Hughes “arrived” and Richard Branson launched Virgin Airlines. It’s also the year the iconic video game Tetris (designed by artificial intelligence researcher Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov) came on the scene and the year the first MTV Video Music Awards show aired — back when they still played music videos.
For pop culture palaeophiles, it was a good year. For Chameleon, it was the year she entered the world, a decade immortalized through her vintage brand.
“It’s like the heartbeat of that year [and what I] want you to feel when you shop 1984V,” Chameleon says of the brand’s ethos. “It should feel like you’re watching “Thriller.” It should feel like you see Prince on stage with the blouses. It’s taking that time period and then implementing that into all my fashion.”
Chameleon goes on to declare that 1984 is an “anchor year” rather than the full incarnation of her brand. She’s a child of 1984 but also an admirer of the ’70s, ’60s, ’50s and ’40s. She’s an Ohio Players, Bootsy Collins and funkadelic loving soul.
For Chameleon, vintage fashion is a playground for exploring, celebrating and reimagining the past — then folding that past into your own style.
“My brand is a walking, living, breathing juxtaposition of two things that don’t go together and I make it go together,” Chameleon declares. “Take the ’70s funk and take some denim. Take this silk blouse and take this French vest. I’ve found a way to marry [opposites] into my brand.”
Love, Fearlessness + Fashion
At the heart of 1984V is giving others the confidence to embrace their individualism “to be who you want to be,” Chameleon implores.
For Chameleon, the journey itself is a vehicle for discovering her confidence and artistic freedom.
“[This journey’s] taught me I’m fearless. It’s taught me I’m resilient. It’s taught me [to] beat my own drum. It’s taught me there’s no limit to how innovative I can be.”
As an emerging pioneer of vintage fashion who fuses decades, generations and styles, Chameleon is on the cusp of a vintage revolution. In fact, she dreams of one day exhibiting a collection in a high-profile museum because it’s where her “art” belongs.
In May of 2020, Chameleon and several models for her brand marched down to Black Lives Matter Plaza with fists raised. Black, beautiful and donning vintage, they made their presence known. It was an act of solidarity with others standing together against racial injustice. It’s a moment seared in her memory that radiates everything she stands for as a creator.
“My brand represents empowerment, unity, love and fashion.”
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