The Classic Fat Cat Tale

The Classic Fat Cat Tale

I don’t usually delve into the economics side of fashion as I’m not about to spout off about something I know little about.  I’m not about informing or educating anyone.  However, the subject will crop up when there is blatant injustice being done here.

Steinberg & Tolkien, one of the oldest and most established vintage emporiums on King’s Road in London is being forced to close on the 24th September due to the rising rents in Chelsea.  ‘We just couldn’t afford to carry on’ says Ruth, the manager.  Owned by mother and daughter Anne and Tracey Tolkien who have no wishes to relocate as they are writers (Tracey wrote the book ‘Vintage: Art of Dressing Up’ ).  It turns out the landlord sold off a few stores just down the road to make way for chain stores. 

The reaction to Steinberg & Tolkien’s closure has been outrage and shock.  For a long time before the likes of Rellik and Virginia came along, this was THE vintage store to name-drop and has had immense press coverage as well as editorial presence.  It was also the first vintage Aladdin’s cave I had ever visited at the tender age of 13 but was of course frightened by the price tags.  No, it isn’t cheap but when you have Alaia, Chanel, SchIaparelli, Biba, Missoni hanging off the walls and rails of clothing dating back to pre-20th century, you’d expect to pay a pretty penny.  In fact, it was almost sad to see a designated closing down sale room where everything is 80% off.  This isn’t a place which should be dictated by economic inevitabilities but instead, it should exist in it’s own orbit without interruptions from the ‘real worl’, because that’s what it feels like when you swish 1930’s delicate peach tea dresses against you or try on Courreges hats in a low ceiling basement.  But there it is.  Just as I’m blissfully ignorant of the economics involved in fashion, it comes slamming down in your face when you hear about shops as famous as Steinberg & Tolkien closing down. 

So there’s nothing to do, no petition to sign, just accept that S&T will be no longer on the 24th and if the landlord’s recent decisions are anything to go by, a few months down the line, we shall see a store decked out with shiny spotlights and bleached floorboards.  Until that day, I would suggest a visit to marvel, try something on and take something away, be it an actual item of clothing or just a memory. 


Leave a comment
  1. Eternity

    2007-08-04 at 11:58 PM

    Oh no, another of those places I had yet to visit is closing :(. Hopefully I’ll be able to run along and see it before it is gone forever.

  2. Hebden

    2007-08-05 at 1:29 AM

    That’s the most depressing news I heard all day. You just know that some ubiquitous chain store will open in its place.
    (I’m going to go grumble in a corner for a while about the McDonalds-isation of the world…)

  3. Portillon

    2007-08-05 at 8:38 AM

    That’s awful. I had no idea, luckily I’m going to London in four weeks so I’ll have time to visit. Still it’s very sad.

  4. jennine

    2007-08-05 at 8:47 AM

    oh dear, that’s a shame. i love that shoppe… although i could never afford anything there on a student budget, i still loved looking at the hair combs and handbags.
    thanks for posting about this…

  5. toveb

    2007-08-05 at 4:23 PM

    Oh, how sad. I remember visiting there once ages ago. Why didn’t I remember to do that when I was in London this June? Oh, boo.

  6. Heather

    2007-08-05 at 4:37 PM

    whimper whimper…that store should so not close down! it’s like a pot of gold!!! so sad 🙁

  7. WendyB

    2007-08-05 at 4:58 PM

    Oh no! I can’t believe they had to close down after charging me such a fortune for that moth-eaten Ossie Clark coat in Harris Tweed (I do love it though). That should have paid the rent for months! Really, they do/did have a great collection of Ossie. What a shame.

  8. Mrs Fashion

    2007-08-05 at 7:19 PM

    Oh my gosh – I didn’t know!
    They were always very unhelpful when I went in to pull stuff though… oh well…
    Mrs F x

  9. silje

    2007-08-05 at 8:48 PM

    Oh no!
    I was gonna visit Steinberg & Tolkien when I was in London this easter, but didn’t have time to do it.

  10. rollergirl

    2007-08-05 at 8:55 PM

    Wow what a shocker! I’ve never bought anything there either but I never pass by without going in and I always loved admiring the Schiapirelli boxes. Can’t they relocate?

  11. meg

    2007-08-05 at 10:21 PM

    ah this is truly sad. Like you susie, when I first came to the UK, I literally stumbled into this store and thought oh my God! What a find! Like I had found some hidden treasure no one else had ever discovered! I’m sad it’s going and quite frankly wish I was there to get something on sale! It’s really too bad.

  12. candid cool

    2007-08-06 at 2:14 AM

    Kinda sad that this epidemic is spreading in south Florida too, high rent, independent retailers being forced out, and chain stores or restaurants moving in.

  13. dezmond

    2007-08-06 at 1:41 PM

    Shame, but its happening all over. Westbourne Grove is the same, soon it will only be high street or loss making flagships there.
    Still a couple of vintage places as good as S&T if you know where to look.

  14. Gata

    2007-08-06 at 7:40 PM

    I already noticed in 2005 that King’s Road was overflowing with chain stores. It was depressing even then – losing S & T is just another nail in the coffin.

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