I said I would revisit the incredible stuff that is at Designer Jumble and true to my word, I wanted to give everyone a pre-Bank Holiday weekend heads up about the wealth of beauts that are currently going for a song at ex-Vogue editor Abigail Chisman’s wonderful designer jumble at Westfield Stratford. You know my weakness for second hand designer loot. It’s why I go to Tokyo twice a year to scour Rag Tag after Rag Tag with my two other hunting buddies Phil Oh and Tommy Ton. It’s why I’m a devotee of places like Strut and Bang Bang in London. It’s why sites like eBay and Vestiaire Collective are constantly on my hit hit hit list. It’s why I sometimes go down the auction route with Kerry Taylor. In short, it’s my way of procuring designer fashion but on a fairly modest budget. Well, comparatively speaking anyway. In my head, it goes something like this. Why pay £150 for a brand new high street/mid-level jacket (yup those prices have gradually crept up) when I can truffle out a Comme des Garcons jacket on eBay instead for £80.
Abigail’s love of vintage clothing and designer vintage was born out of budget-related necessity. Working as editor of Vogue.co.uk wasn’t exactly paying out a fortune and she couldn’t afford the very designers that she was writing news stories about. Designer Jumble was thus borne when Chisman left Vogue, out of a “Someone else’s trash is another’s treasure” mentality as well as an empathetic consideration for price points. Chisman has been popping up at various venues since and her residence at Westfield Stratford is set to last until June.
Pilfering the rails of Designer Jumble at this very moment is particularly joyful because the full collection of a consummate and enthusiastic fashion-head, Hannelore Smart has been fully unleashed. Entitled “Fashion is a Circus” (you don’t need to tell ME about that comparison), Smart’s 1,500 collection of an eclectic array of designers from the 1970s through the 90s is now out there up for grabs. Smart’s name may not be familiar but a scroll through images of her and you can see she lived a full and style-driven life. She was a German Pam-Am air stewardess and then literally she ran away with the circus, when she married titan circus impresario and performer Billy Smart Junior. Smart’s circuses, which were televised to millions in the UK at one point, were extravagant spectacles in the 50s and 60s (their Big Tops held 6,000 people!) and still an ongoing circus brand today.
All the while, Hannelore was living it up, acquiring a rambunctious taste for high fashion that ran an extraordinary gamut. The star piece of the collection is a rare Issey Miyake moulded acrylic corset, which Hannelore had the bod to wear. She chose things for their design, rather than the label which means the rails are varied and doesn’t seem to be loyal to one designer or another. She had a taste for the fashion rebels of her day which mean the collection is rammed with Jean Paul Gaultier, Gaultier Junior, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons pieces. Thierry Mugler, Gianni Versace and Azzedine Alaia also gets a huge shout out, showing Hannelore’s vampier side. And then on the practical side of things, there are heaps of 90s Prada nylon pieces, which feel just as relevant today.
A mere glance at the fairly low starting prices of the select auction pieces which Designer Jumble have put up, to raise money for London Alzheimer’s Society (Hannelore is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s) and it’s already tempting. Auction ends on May 6th and I’d personally have a go at the Chanel bike helmet starting at £125, the Tati Alaia dress at £150 and the extraordinary fez hat created by Stephen Jones currently at £125. But beyond these selected lots, there are hundreds of bargains galore in-store with many Gaultier, Westwood and Comme pieces priced around the £50-150 mark. Alaia aficionados should pop in for key pieces at good prices. I saw an amazing Prada Sport navy space-age suit, which to me is a steal at £200. I bagged a Vivienne Westwood swimming costume for £45 last week and will be sure to go in again to do another jumble sweep. I urge a visit to Westfield Stratford soon if you don’t want to miss out. Abigail has put some of the pieces up on an ASOS Marketplace store but for a full-full selection with new stuff constantly coming out from the back room, a physical visit would be ideal.
Oh, and even if 70s-90s designer fashion isn’t your bag, at least go and take a silly selife with these fantastic Linda Farrow vintage specimens. They’re ace. I’d buy the whole collection up in a heartbeat if I didn’t think they’d find more meaningful homes as individual objects.