What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everybody, so we’re asking some of the coolest, most-shopping-savvy people we know—from small-business owners to designers, artists to actors—to tell us the story behind one of their most prized possessions.
Keesean Moore began working in a vintage store in high school, where he gained an appreciation for the intentional curation of items. Keesean bought and sold vintage objects in college before moving on to an international career as a fashion stylist. Now, he’s the owner of Moore Vintage Archive, a store and fashion library in Philadelphia that specializes in vintage womenswear. Alongside the carefully selected collection of designer clothing at his store, Keesean displays an assortment of Black literature and cultural objects.
Keesean’s most prized possession is a signed copy of Essex Hemphill’s Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men. When Keesean first saw the late poet and performer’s signature in the book, he “got the heebie jeebies”—as any devoted archivist and collector of Black gay literary history would. “Ever since I started to discover that there was this body of work by people like me, I’ve been on high alert for these things,” Keesean says. “I’m constantly searching for books by [writers like] Assotto Saint and Melvin Dixon.”
In Spring 2021, Keesean was on an excursion looking for vintage items. He was hoping to purchase a Chanel dress for his store and was also perusing shelves of used books. It was then that he ended up finding the copy of Brother to Brother. Although he didn’t go home with a dress that day, Keesean did add a treasured item to his literary collection. “There’s something almost spiritual about having something that was touched inside by one of the foremost thinkers and artists of that late ’80s, early ’90s era,” he explains “When I found it, I was beside myself because I didn’t think that was something I would ever be able to own.”
Keesean found the copy of Brother to Brother at Giovanni’s Room, a Philadelphia bookstore focused on queer literature. The shop features selections of new, rare, and used works, in addition to select vintage items. “I’ve been checking that store out periodically, mostly because I’m always looking for old stuff,” he adds. “There’s a lot of history there.”
In both his store and in his personal collection, Keesean features rare books by Black writers. For him, finding and preserving the copy of Brother to Brother is part of a larger project of celebrating Black cultural history. At Moore Vintage, “Having the Black art and books alongside the designer clothing really elevates those two worlds to the same level. As much as I take care to archive a piece of Chanel, I’m also taking care to archive a few signed copies of [poet] Sonia Sanchez’s earlier works.” In Keesean’s home office, surrounding himself with Black art serves as a grounding and affirmative practice. “To be surrounded by these pieces—the books, art, ephemera, posters—in my workspace…really inspires me and keeps me productive,” he adds. “Having all this Black art around me is like, ‘I’m meant to be here. I’m meant to occupy this space.’”
Keesean is particularly committed to archiving creative work by Black queer artists. He notes that he has also been building an archive of pieces by acclaimed fashion designer Patrick Kelly. For Keesean, this work is not just about collecting objects, but preserving the often obscured histories they carry. “Because I’m the owner of a lot of these pieces, I am also a holder of these stories. And that’s something I take very seriously.”
Wishing For Wings by Assotto Saint
$160.00, Second Story Books
Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men
$17.00, Red Bone Press
Vanishing Rooms by Melvin Dixon
$8.00, Thrift Books
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest