A fine vintage
Laura Cartledge discovers how the county works to keep the past alive and kicking.
Faye Spiller believes Sussex is a ‘hot bed’ for vintage and she is in a position to know.
Not only does the Shoreham resident run the retro Johnny Loves June fairs in the country, but she’s also behind the vintage directory for Brighton and Hove.
“I started off selling vintage clothes online and had stalls at fairs then decided to start doing them myself,” she recalls, explaining how the event side began.
“It started off small with ten stalls and soon we had 40 – it surprised me how quickly it took off.”
The fairs are a must for vintage fans, whether they are new to the movement or fully fledged fanatics, thanks to the variety on offer.
“It is not just a market, it is a day out,” Faye says. “We always offer a mix of vintage and handmade.
“It is vintage from any era and reproduction as well. The entertainment is probably the biggest draw, we
usually have dancing – like jive – and singing,” she adds.
“The hair and beauty side of it is really popular too, like the vintage makeovers for hen dos – people like to go the whole hog now.”
Even as the organiser Faye finds it best to sit at the door to prevent temptation.
“Otherwise I would be buying everything,” she laughs. “I have always liked retro things, always shopped at flea markets and been attracted to the music.
“I feel like I am in the wrong era, I would love to be in the 1960s.”
So why does she think this county has embraced this passion for the past?
“I think it is really reflective of the trend,” she replies, “But Sussex is a hot bed for it, especially Brighton.
“It has bubbled up from wanting to be different, it is a lifestyle for a lot of people.”
For more information, visit www.johnnylovesjune.co.uk
Savoy Kicks dance troupe has been called ‘greater than the Great Gatsby’, ‘brighter than the Bright Young Things’ and described as ‘brimming with fun’.
The Brighton six-piece work to bring vintage back to life and up to date with their jazz moves and contemporary twists.
“We call ourselves neo-Charleston,” explains member Rowena Price. “We are not strictly traditional, we don’t just use old tracks, we mix it up a little – it is about morphing the two.
“We bring the fun and the jolly 20s back to life. It is all about entertainment and not taking things too seriously,” she adds.
“There are no rules for us, it is about the unexpected.”
The group, who all have different dance backgrounds, met at an I Charleston Brighton class which is run by Elena and Fiona – now two of the troupe – last year.
“Our first gig was in spring at Brighton Ballroom and after that we did Brighton Fashion Week,” Rowena recalls.
“We modelled, and danced in, pieces by a brilliant designer called Sarina Poppy.
“It’s been a whirlwind but we are running with it – we have to put the work in but it is worth it.”
As well as performing, Savoy Kicks runs workshops and both can be tailored to suit any event from last month’s Rockinghorse Ball to a hen do with a difference.
“The whole Charleston thing is so assessable,” Rowena enthuses. “It’s not too technical but it is challenging to be sure. You get a real buzz from it.”
While the 1920s routines may seem a world away from Rowena’s time as a ballet instructor she believes that is part of the appeal.
“I am just so drawn to music, it has always been the thing which makes me want to move. It is a very basic and instinctive thing,” she reveals.
“There is a story that my mum found me, aged two, dancing to the beat of the washing machine.”
So whether you want to exercise in style or find your inner flapper, Rowena’s advice is to ‘just give it a whirl’.
For information about Savoy Kicks and I Charleston Brighton classes, visit www.dancebrightonandhove.com
Eleanor Callaghan was playing in a band when she realised her outfits were getting more attention than the music.
“After a gig, rather than coming up and buying our CDs people where asking where I had got my dress from,” she admits.
“I have always made clothes for myself but that is when I first had the idea to make for other people.”
The result is Brighton based business Dig for Victory, which now includes Bat For Lashes and Heather Mills McCartney among its customers meaning the dresses still enjoy the limelight.
Deciding to go ‘serious’ meant Eleanor had to adapt her ‘trial and error’ method to something more polished.
“I used to buy cheap dresses from charity shops and then fit them to myself. That is how I learned about fitting,” she reveals.
“You have to have an open approach if you are looking for vintage stuff because it is the size it is.
“When I started seriously I bought an overlocker sewing machine and tried to look at clothes and how they were made,” smiles Eleanor.
“I got a 70s book on pattern cutting which just made sense to me. Going from 2D to 3D was really liberating, realising any shape I could think of I could make.”
And when Eleanor joined online retail website Etsy business ‘really took off’.
“In two months I went from not being able to quite make a living from it, and having to do a part time job on the side, to having more orders then I could handle and employing my first ever seamstress,” she reveals.
“For a while I thought it was a fluke.”
A couple of years later however she set up shop at 175 Edward Street, enabling the team to both see their pieces worn and help vintage newcomers.
“We now have a method for when people come in for fittings. We will pull out a selection which shows the shapes and get people to try them on,” Eleanor says.
“It’s not about the fabric but what fits them, what suits them and what they feel comfortable in.
“Then we look at the colours and the material, how it will hang.”
Admitting she ‘likes all the eras’, Eleanor’s own style approach tends to ‘chop and change’ so it makes sense she’d offer this to her customers.
“The designs are all ours. We have bodies, skirts, lengths and necklines which people can mix and match, it is like a jigsaw,” she explains.
“The shapes keep going but they look very different in different fabrics and they will never go out of fashion – fingers crossed.”
As well as standard sizes, Dig for Victory has a made to measure service which could be described as ‘addictive’.
“We have some loyal customers who get one dress that fits them properly then they come back again and again,” agrees Eleanor.
“People don’t realise what it is like to
The bespoke approach often involves customers picking from Eleanor’s impressive stash of end of roll and vintage fabric.
“Buying fabric is probably my favourite part of the job. As soon as I see it I think ‘I would do that with it or that with it’,” she admits.
“I did find myself at my nan’s eyeing up her curtains once and thinking you could get three dresses out of that.”
While she relishes creating her own designs Eleanor admits she equally loves seeing customers’ selections which can make for some very unique projects.
There’s the sentimental side – which has seen saris which used to belong to the bride’s mother being made into the wedding dress – and the artistic approach which sees one of the customers, and illustrator, get frocks in fabric printed with her own designs.
“We had one lady who had dinosaurs printed on her wedding dress and we have bridesmaids dresses at the moment made out of cat fabric,” Eleanor adds.
“With the more quirky stuff it is not about reproducing another era, it is about making something new out of it.”
More on Dig for Victory can be found at www.digforvictoryclothing.com
Seaford’s Chrissy Smith believes giving old pieces a new identity is helping to keep vintage alive.
“People are evolving it to suit today,” she explains. “It keeps rearing its head in different guises; I don’t think it will ever die.”
A passion for ‘making something out of something else’ and being frustrated by the selection in shops is what inspired Chrissy to create ‘One Off Bags’.
“I am a maker, I have always sown but I am a teacher by trade and I can remember sitting at school and thinking of what I would like, coming up with designs,” she recalls.
As the business name suggests, she was keen to offer something unique so turned to her longstanding love of vintage fabric.
“I was going to jumble sales when I was 13 or 14 and wearing 30s dresses,” Chrissy smiles. “For me it’s about the thrill of the chase – finding a vintage coat that is a lovely texture.
“Then I like the making, knowing it will look really nice when it is finished.”
With ‘texture and pattern’ being the two things which catch Chrissy’s eye, the range of bags is brilliantly varied, from tapestry pieces to fifties floral.
“Because I make bags out of anything and everything I do get people who come back and ask ‘what have you made this time?’,” she reveals.
“The great thing with vintage is that they stand the test of time, even if you get bored of it you can pass it on.”
The bespoke nature also means customers can adapt designs to suit them, but being allowed to view Chrissy’s collection of fabric has been known to be too much temptation for many.
“When people come to my studio it is often a case of ‘I like that and that, I will have two’,” she reveals.
So what are her hopes for the future?
“I am not a business person,” replies Chrissy. “I like to keep it to my own design.”
And that, it seems, is the key to the One Off Bag’s appeal.
To find out more about Chrissy’s work, and where she will be exhibiting, visit www.one-off-bags.co.uk
For one Bognor Regis designer, making her own wedding dress was the nudge she needed to craft a business of her own.
“I have been in the fashion industry for too many years,” reveals Lisa Sheridan.
“I was a swimwear and lingerie designer, my last job was for M&S, but in 2012 I left because of the commute up to London and back every day was too much.
“I had a lot of people comment on my wedding dress so I thought perhaps I should start putting my interests together. It took off from there really.”
Now Lisa’s self-titled brand builds on her extensive experience to create extra special occasion wear.
“I have a good knowledge of how things should fit, which helps,” she admits. “Some styles don’t suit different shapes.”
The bespoke approach means this is not a problem however, with customers able to pick and mix from Lisa’s sketches to make the perfect outfit for them.
“I did one last year where there were seven bridesmaids. It was married together with the fabric but each was different – some wanted a high back, some a low back,” explains Lisa.
“It is about keeping a theme so they look like they belong together.”
While the 1950s classic silhouette is popular, something Lisa puts down to the fact ‘we all love a nice full skirt and swishing around’, she’s also noticed clients venturing into other eras.
“I’ve done a few 70s inspired designs for festival themed weddings where there is more of a bohemian feel,” Lisa reveals, adding she always likes to add authentic touches.
“I like to add some of the old embroidery techniques or antique lace and zips, I always feel it gives uniqueness to it.
“You want to make them the dream dress and make them feel special.”
Whatever the design entails the best bit for Lisa is always the same.
“The bit I love is seeing the final piece come together,” she beams.
“The client puts it on, it fits beautifully, then you get photos of the day – that is very rewarding.”
To find out more about Lisa’s creations, visit www.lisasheridan.co.uk
Pictures by Jenny Rutterford Photography, Jodi Hall Photography, Courtesy of Savoy Kicks, Andrew Roach, Gem Mcneil Greig, Jenny Owens, Ali Gaudion Photography and Anna Pumer Photography