It’s a Fine Fine Life


It's going to be a bit of a vintage fest this week on the blog what with the opening of Vintroville on Thursday (yo, new East End vintage haunt coming atcha!) and Vintage Academe which opened last week.  I didn't make it to the opening but I did choose the hottest day today to go out West to Notting Hill and soak in rows of pretty pretty houses that I will never be able to afford in my lifetime and also catch up on some store visits, one of which included Vintage Academe.  The beautiful website has been in action for over half a year now but it is in the physical store where the treasures of VA can be discovered. 

The landscape of vintage in London has been a-changing in the past five years and even internationally, what people want to get out of vintage has undergone some changes, especially when relating their buying to a fashion/trend-led context – I wrote about this a bit more extensively in the Guardian's two-part guide to vintage and collectibles that came out over the weekend.  I'll have my favourites in London for different purposes – Merchant Archive for its beautifully hunted period pieces that are actually genuinely old, The Shop on Cheshire Street for its you-never-know-what-you're-gonna-get feeling, Annie's for beautiful lingerie, East End Thrift for cheapie cheap vintage etc etc the list does go on a bit…


Vintage Academe is of course a different beast from all of those and, different beasts are what we need really when it comes to vintage stores that often come under a blanket term and STILL, to some people, blanket connotations ("Urgh…. smelly, fusty, old, clothes!"… yes, this attitude STILL exists…).  It's a haute beast as Claire Nicholls, explains in an interview with Coutts (posh bank…).  She got hooked onto vintage as though it were a "class A-drug" and coming from a City finance background, she also understood the needs of time-poor, cash-rich women that wanted an edited selection of beautiful pieces.  Therefore the type of vintage that VA sells does come with a price tag that is higher than most class-A drugs and alas, for most of us, something to admire rather than buy into.

That said, I find it far more offensive that people price a crap 80s prom dress at ¬£60 when its value is more around the ¬£10 mark than when I'm say… faced with a Chanel 60s couture jacket and dress set priced at ¬£2,500.  That's not daylight robbery.  That's Chanel couture.  End of.



This is part of VA's dictate – that pieces are bought not just because they have a designer label on them, but also because they are seminal and truly special pieces in their own right too… so I was wowed and wowed again and whilst prices were not for the faint hearted, you don't balk so much when you really look at the clothes. 

An iconic piece of Thierry Mugler… an editorial-worthy piece that I vaguely remember seeing in editorials…


Issey Miyake's navy ribbon dress… a very early predecessor of course to all the cage activities within contemporary designs…


An Azzaro piece that again adds a trace of origin to the current wave of "metal strand" jewellery/garments…



A peachy Bill Gibb that is more ornate than some of the pieces I've seen of his // Summery slashed floral Comme des Garcons


Yves Saint Laurent oversized rosary beads… any link perhaps to the current A/W 10-11 religious references that Pilati insists ISN'T religious?


Exactly my sort of thing… Givenchy 60s couture sheer voluminous trousers that also have a matching ruffled top… possibly the most 'contemporary' looking piece of vintage Givenchy I've come across…


Jessica, who works at VA plays dress up in the basement where the rails are bursting with even more treasures than what's on the shop floor… love this structured velvet and plaid piece of Comme on her…


In addition to the recognisable designers, VA also source pieces that are beautiful in their own right, ensuring that everything is cleaned, mended and restored thoroughly…. this Edwardian wedding ensemble is in pristine condition…


As are these 20s-40s sheer embroidered dresses…  


I also love slightly off-kilter, pieces like these that are not necessarily 'vintage' but more like world travel acquisitions…


I had to do some trying on… even if I was a little bit hot and sweaty… I love the simplicity of this Chloe 70s scarf halterneck…



Style Bubble circa 2006 shot… with a Yohji Yamamoto asymmetrical navy coat…


Of course I couldn't resist this Versace Atelier piece… in a hot pink shade that matched the thumbnails…



The jacket needs to be worn with this Versace skirt…


Then there's the piece that REALLY got to me… I could let the rest go for now but this Herve Leger dress was the one that nearly made hand over the debit card… colour, shape, design… all spot-on and you could cut out the Leger tag and I'd still be salivating…



VA's edited and curatorial vision applies to the in-house imagery that they have produced for the VA Vision section of their website.  Of course they see their clothes being editorialised by others (most notably by Acne Paper where Tilda Swinton wore a few VA pieces…) but they also want to take it into their own hands and show people that items can be seen in a high fashion context…

An Ossie Clark jacket can for instance be turned inside out (left)…


…or a 50s coat can be punked up (left)…


… or boys can wear a bit of vintage Versace Atelier too (left)!


The section should also be explored with the films they have produced too which also give a different slant to VA's visionary scope.  As it stands, they do have an e-store of sorts which doesn't at all reflect the full selection that VA has in the physical store and they actually plan on taking it down soon.  That said, the vintage Vogues in the Books and Periodicals section is worth a browse and I love this article where Judith Watts reviews a 50s issue of British Vogue. 

Right… now how to ensure that the Leger dress comes to me somehow…

Have a Sleeve


>> My bum is melting into the seat and my legs are tanning just from sitting in my greenhouse of a living room.  I'm not sure patchwork Fair Isle knits is what you want to be looking at on a 30 degree celcius scorcher of a day but… there is a topless torso to balance things out so all is well!  

The real point is I love the idea that Casely-Hayford, one of my favourite menswear labels that both Steve and I lust after in different proportions (he wants to wear the stuff, I want to see more men wearing this stuff…), is offering just the one sleeve as a garment proposition for A/W 10-11.  It's basically a wee step up from leg gaiters, decorative socks and elongated gloves, easy-to-tap-into accessories that designers offer.  With the many layerists out there, me being one of them, grabbing a sleeve or two and adding them to an outfit isn't such a hard task.  Imagine if say the likes of Balenciaga (colour blocking), Louis Vuitton (poppy paisley prints), Miu Miu (cat/bird/naked lady print poofy shirt sleeve) or Prada (holiday postcard print satin sleeve with elasticated shoulder) offered just a sleeve… all in the style of their current collections… I'd be on board for any of those… especially if prices were a little bit more than reasonable than their full garments!