Fashion icon Richard Parsakian on vintage, combat boots, and creating a “safe space” | Pittsburgh City Paper

Fashion icon Richard Parsakian on vintage, combat boots, and creating a “safe space”

click to enlarge A smiling man in black jeans, black belt, black-and-white T-shirt, and a dark denim jacket leans against a display case that shows off bright neon green and pink shoes and other accessories
CP Photo: Tereneh Idia
Richard Parsakian at Eons Fashion Antique
Name: Richard Parsakian
Title: Owner
Job/Work: Eons Fashion Antique. 5850 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside
Websites:,, and
How would you define your style? 
I have two fashion styles, one for work and one for events, and almost always 95% slow fashion: sustainable, recycled, or green, depending on the terms you like to use. I can also say vintage since that's where my brand lies.

Work is super comfortable and practical. Winter brings out combat boots, jeans, and T-shirts. Summer is my signature black tank top with jeans and combat boots or shorts with athletic shoes.

My event looks can be anything I consider my "costume look." Still relaxed, maybe a T-shirt with a sports jacket, fun skinny-cut pants, or dressier with a vest and tie added. Always with my signature combat paratrooper boots with a side zipper. I love to "paint" a look from my closet collections. Black is my color, but I can change it up with some bright colors when my mood goes there.

Who are your style inspirations?
I am inspired by so many cultural icons from the past and tend to throw them in a mixer to make my own independent statement. I am always humbled by the genius of Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto, Claude Montana, Issey Miyake. But I create my own style from combining many decades of fashion.

When was your first independent style/fashion moment as a kid?
Looking back at my childhood photos, I don't remember really having my own style until high school and college. Probably getting my first bellbottoms was a Woodstock moment of declaring freedom and started my love of revolutionaries. … Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, social change amplified what we wore. The JFK, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X assassinations were moments from my generation, as was Woodstock, the moon landing, Stonewall, and the Vietnam anti-war movement. Social disruption has always influenced my style.

How has your style evolved through the years?
As I get more involved in fundraising for nonprofits, I found a need to have a more polished look, but still keep that avant-garde edge. For example, I love to wear a tux jacket with my leather pants and combat boots. I like putting that unexpected twist on my looks. My leather was custom-made in NYC by David Menkes, a CMU grad who builds all the leather costumes used on Broadway. He also specializes in leather fetish wear. Also, my knowledge of fashion history and representation is important.

What have you noticed in terms of vintage and antique clothing interest over the years?
I have basically four types of clients. Those interested in the fashion look or designer names that have elevated slow fashion and sustainability that respects the planet. The second group shops in my store and treats everything as "costume" for a period party. The third are vintage clothing dealers that travel throughout the world looking for specific items to resell. Some come from the UK, around the U.S., but most are from Japan. The Asian market has an incredible interest in anything American. The final group are costume designers who work in theater, dance, or filming movies and TV productions. I love working with the creatives in the last group because you see your curated items on actors who bring life to those items that once had a Pittsburgh backstory. It is an honor to have conversations with these designers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work.

Tell me about what you’re wearing today.
I usually wear my thrift-sourced clothes, many of which come through my store. Look No. 1 has my signature paratrooper combat boots, my black industrial jeans by INC, a 1980's Jeanjer Jeans jacket with a Keith Haring lapel pin (Keith worked down the street at the Center for the Arts before having his first solo art show there in 1978). Underneath is a Paradise Garage tank top gifted to me by two long-time friends Brent Earle and Tomé Cousin. I also have my 1970's leather band watch and another leather wristband I purchased in pre-Katrina New Orleans — I wear this to honor those lost in that horrible flood.

Look No. 2 changes up the jean jacket for a 1970's print kimono. I was going to wear this for my visit to the 2022 Fire Island Dance Festival that I support, but the hot weather made me change my look. Look for it at an upcoming event.

You told me that “Everything has a meaning.” Could you talk about the meaning of the things you are wearing? 
I love connecting fashion and cultural history when I have conversations with customers or when I work on one of my fashion events. For a recent fundraiser for Pittsburgh Opera, Diva Dreams & Fashion Queens, I dove into the Eons archives to dress 27 models who were friends, dancers, and actors to curate a show that was gender-fluid and gave representation to a community that included, trans, queer, Black, and nonbinary friends.

In each look, I attempted to create and "paint" a look that took into account that person's cultural history through who they were wearing, so they understood the significance of that designer. Through this way, I create “fashion theater.”

Do you have any gifts from someone that you wear often?
I wear the Paradise Tank top all through the year. My NYC friend Brent Earle, who gifted it to me with Tomé Cousin, is an LGBTQ legend who was part of that club scene and continues to bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic. Brent founded this organization that raised awareness and funds for AIDS. He also worked with ACT UP in NYC, an activist organization that was very vocal during the early days of the epidemic. He was friends with Keith Haring and brought him to one of their meetings after which Keith created iconic artwork for the organization. I am honored to know and have them as friends.

click to enlarge Fashion icon Richard Parsakian on vintage, combat boots, and creating a “safe space”
CP Photo: Tereneh Idia
A close-up of Richard Parsakian's 1970's print kimono

In addition to your entrepreneurship, you also are very involved with community. What projects and actions are you working on now?
I am always multitasking and am honored that my voice seems to matter. I am very involved in the dance and theater community, and love to support my friends who are creating amazing and important socially relevant work. Especially Staycee & Herman Pearl, Kyle Abraham, Billy Porter, and slowdanger.

I love being a member of the advisory board of the Pittsburgh Dance Council, which brings the work of many international and national dance artists to Pittsburgh.

I am also honored to be a member of Pittsburgh's LGBTQIA+ Commission which has a mission to protect and uplift voices in our marginalized communities as we are being attacked by others who seek to erase our rights of equality. I have a long history of elevating the drag community who were there at the Stonewall rising and continued to create AIDS fundraisers when the government was ignoring the crisis. I have the most respect for these drag queens and kings. I created the historic Pittsburgh Pride Flag that has had a presence in marches and political events for over 25 years.

In the arts world, I am on the boards of the Pittsburgh Art Commission and Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, both of which elevate the voices and artistic visions of Pittsburgh creatives.

Each year, I help curate a sustainable fashion event, Ecolution, that helps to elevate the discussion of how art can speak to the dangers that are destroying our planet. I am also involved with Planned Parenthood of Western PA, helping to raise funds that protect a woman's right to choose & provide reproductive health care.

Is there anything I left out that you would like to share?
Yes, I would just like to talk about how I have created a safe space for my queer community and others who feel they need a place to explore their gender identities, free of judgment. I love to tell the stories of how a mother said she heard Eons was a safe space to bring her trans son and recently an aunt was excited that her nonbinary nephew bought his first dress at my store. I get really emotional when I talk about this because it tells me I am doing something right. We are the guardians of our future generations. We must always teach the children. We are the changemakers. #ArtEqualTruth.