Kismet works in strange ways. For instance, 16 years ago, a young Madeline Cammarata had no way of knowing that she was hawking her then boyfriend’s leather jacket to her future husband, Chuck. When she wandered into Melrose mainstay Golf Punk all those years ago, did her hand touch Chuck’s when they did the exchange? Did their eyes meet? Did their minds walk in tandem on a proverbial flower-covered hill? Whatever it was, the future Mrs. Harmon admits she met the man of her dreams that day and, as far as the story of Los Angeles denim goes, fate couldn’t have planned it any better.
Fast forward many, many years and Chuck and Madeline Harmon have gone on to make beautiful denim together, in addition to two children. They bought Golf Punk, renamed it Chuck’s Vintage, moved it on over to Melrose Place and, around that time, Chuck became known as the man behind the fabric development for stellar brands such as Current/Elliot, PRPS and 7 For All Mankind. As for Madeline, well she’s the face, name and very essence of Chuck’s Vintage as well as being an in-the-know denim damsel.
“I once sold 300 pairs of jeans to a customer,” Madeline says, with a modest laugh. A world-renown denim archivist even saw fit to entrust her with millions of dollars worth of collectible denim that Madeline cherished, honored to have them in her presence. Oh, and she sold them too. “I killed it. I did it. I exhausted it,” she says. Soon, she stepped away from archival pairs, turning her eye to anything that would inspire her: the cut, the wash, the look, be it Wrangler, Chemin de Fer, Levi’s, “every Stronghold under the sun. That opened the door but I missed ‘that girl,’” Madeline says.
The girl she refers to is the one whose eyes light up when Madeline listens to her, hears her thoughts on her body shape which, Harmon readily admits, becomes more important than how the girl actually appears. “When you get a girl in the right pair of jeans…” Harmon waxes. It’s a skill, making her the patron saint of women looking to have the best denim tush on the town. She sells to that girl and she now sells to her mom, too.
Fancy takes Harmon from 60s/70s phases to patchwork periods to pocketless finds and wherever she goes, hoards of denim lovers follow. And whether it’s Morrissey or Alexa Chung, every starlet in between or an average, ordinary Angeleno, Harmon champions the indigo fabric and the woman or man who wears it. She’s the soul of the store, the only one who runs it, heading up a family who lives it. “This store has to exist,” Harmon says. “I don’t care if I’m 80 years old and we’re only open once a week.” And her fellow octogenarians would still find a way to line up for Harmon’s current denim addiction.