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Vintage. The view from London.


Still a bit obsessed with vintage after last week’s discussion, we zoomed in on London, one of the world capitals of vintage cool. We asked Sarah-Jayne Boyd from Le Cool London, what does vintage mean to her, what’s new in old things, and where to find great vintage bargains in London right now?

What makes something vintage?

If there is one way to describe the difference between vintage and retro, it would be that vintage suggests authenticity, whereas retro suggests ‘in the style of’ or more bluntly: copy. The recent collections of high street stores such as Miss Selfridge and Topshop are definitely not vintage, but clearly tip their hat in honour of the past and have what I’d say is quite a retro feeling. I don’t favour one over the other, but I know there are purists that do. Moving on from that: when does something become vintage? I’d say when the folk that were first wearing it turn 30 and the youth start wearing it again. The recent 90s throwback (see below) is a case in point. 90s is definitely vintage. You couldn’t say an original Moschino bomber jacket isn’t a coveted item of clothing (to me anyway).

What should we be buying right now?

I’m into the 70s at the moment. Not Abba. And not anything hippy (though that is popular now). I heart disco. Think Studio 54, Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones, Donna Summer and lots of debaucherous glamour on the gritty streets of New York. It’s not Afro wigs and flares, it’s hooded tops and Farrah Fawcett flicks. I’ve yet to find a night in London that isn’t tacky and overwhelmed with hen and stag dos, but I’m on the look out. The music isn’t Abba but b-side Diana and verging on funk. Sylvia Striplin on repeat.

Musically, I’m into 90s r ‘n’ b and hip-hop which largely began with the Work It girls and Livin’ Proof nights in Dalston and East London. Think Biggie, Fresh Prince, early Mariah, and TLC (and more). I’m also loving a bit of 80s groove. It’s hard to describe but it’s proper synth and soul and just precedes the New Jack Swing music from the 90s.

The 50s is still popular, largely due to Mad Men, but there’s lots of good 1920s nights popping up. My favourite is The Candlelight Club. A monthly pop-up held in secret locations and lit only by candlelight. There’s always good food and music and the crowd go all out. It’s not fancy dress (i.e. retro): people buy authentic vintage garms and look gorgeous. It really captures the era.

Your tips for great vintage finds in London?

For shopping, I’m not really in the know on the secret spots. However, I do know that London is a treasure trove for vintage finds. You can’t go wrong with Beyond Retro, which is dotted all over the city, but I like the Stoke Newington one as it’s got some great other spots around it if you wanted a kind of vintage walking tour. Pelicans and Parrots is great for handpicked items so you don’t have to rummage. Although, the people I really admire are the rummagers who root through charity shops like it was their mum’s old wardrobe and find designer classics for bargain prices. That’s true vintage shopping in my eyes. Dalston Oxfam is great for that, as is St Vincent’s, both on Kingsland Road. I love magazines and every now and then, Dalston Oxfam will have this golddust delivery of vintage issues of the The Face or I-D or Grafik. To be honest, I think any of the charity shops along the Kingsland Road are good.

Princess May car boot saleThe Princess May School car-boot sale happens every Saturday and Sunday too, and you’re as likely to uncover some good finds from the locals as you will from the hipsters. For furniture hit one of the bric-a-brac spots around Stoke Newington. I couldn’t tell you the addresses, you’ll see the signs pointing to the scout hall jumble sale. On a Saturday the Del Boy style wheeler dealers dot themselves on street corners pimping out vintage wares for a fraction of the price – you can get some good stuff (and some weird stuff). My real advice is always go up to someone and ask them where they got their piece from – you mightn’t be able to buy their one-off, but you’ll know where to source the good one-offs of your own instead.

I’m aware this is all a little east-London focused, but everyone knows that the best designer finds can be found when you hit up some really posh London yard like Chelsea or Primrose Hill. Portobello is a great shout, but make sure you get a little lost and veer off the main drag and into Ladbroke Grove – Rellik is good for designer finds and the whole area around it is a little less crowded and packed with cool bars and restaurants so you can make a day of it.

In short…

    1. 1. Work It (1990s parties)
    2. 2. Livin’ Proof (1990s parties)
    3. 3. Candlelight Club (1920s parties)
    4. 4. Pelicans and Parrots, 40 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XJ and Pelicans and Parrots Black
    5. 5. Beyond Retro, 92-100 Stoke Newington Road
    6. 6. Princess May School Car Boot Sale, N16 8DF
    7. 7. Oxfam, Dalston, 514-518 Kingsland Road
    8. 8. Rellik, 8 Golborne Road

Find out what’s happening next time you’re in London

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(Photos, top to bottom: George Eastman House, Flickr | Epiclectic, Flickr | London Car Boot Co.)


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Written by , October 22, 2012