Monday, 25 April 2011

10 Things I Like About the 1950s

Alex Drake Vintage Collection
1. 1950s Full-skirt Dresses
Bejewelled Blue Dress is by Lilli Diamond of California

Image Vintage Shoes, by Caroline Cox
   2. Group of 'New Look' styled low-heeled pumps.
These shoes are wonderful all-rounders.  

Alex Drake Vintage Collection
3. 1950s American Swimsuit
Get splashin' in style!

4. Cat eyewear.
When I was in high school, my friends
would tease me and say, 'hey you look like a 40-year old'.
Now they're the trend for 2011. How fabulous!

Hand-stripped by Alex Drake Vintage for 7 days!
5. Ercol sofa
Its classic, streamlined look will always be its strength.

6. Colourful fabrics
Bright is beautiful.

Image Wikipedia
7. Eames Lounge Chair
No home should be without one.

Alex Drake Vintage Collection
8. Tiki Bars
Get one now for the summer.
 And don't forget to stock-up on martini glasses.

Alex Drake Vintage Collection
9. Piquot Ware Tea & Coffee Set
I love its industrial look.

10. Rock and Roll
It was influential in shaping other music forms, 
dance styles, and even fashion. 
The heroes of rock and roll created trends through the images
of them that appeared in print and the then-nascent medium of television.


Monday, 18 April 2011

Soleful Monday

Happy Monday, everyone!

In my attempt to start the day right, I thought getting glammed up is the best way to prepare oneself in thinking up some great ideas for this week's blog.

My bright, red shoes were winking at me, so how could I resist?

And then it hit me. Why not talk about shoes? We currently live with our shoe designer friend, Rachel, in Italy's shoe-making capital, Civitanova Marche. Sorted!

I've always been fascinated with Rachel and her natural creativity. She once came to visit our house in Britain two years ago, then having sat on our vintage leather sofa, started doodling. She was on holiday by the way. Apparently the buttons on the sofa were inspiring her. She left brandishing sketches of what would become part of her winter collection. That in my book, is talent. I suppose that's why she was asked to design the shoes included in an Oscars goodie bag in 2003.

Now, why might an outdoor,  'wash-and-wear' girl like me be interested in shoes?

When I was 13 I had the opportunity to visit the old residential palace of Imelda Marcos in Manila, two years after they were evicted by the Filipino people during the first Bloodless Revolution of the twentieth century. The tour in the palace was part of our history class, and all I could remember was my friend telling me to shut my mouth, as apparently I was nearly dribbling, in constant awe at Imelda's notorious shoe collection, at the sight of Salvatore Ferragamos, and the multitude of massive vats of perfume. I thought: 'so that's where the government money went!'.

This morning, I took a photo of this two year-old shoe. It's a revival of the typical killer heels of the mid '80s. The heel is so high it's half-way impossible to walk on.
In a decade where women were taking on powerful, successful roles in the workplace, these heels were perfect for projecting an image of 'metropolitan chic meets dominatrix', according to a book called Vintage Shoes, by Caroline Cox.

Rachel says that the recent global economic downturn is similar to the economic recession in the '80s. Shoe psychology is echoing that period, and the worse things become financially the higher heels become. I personally think this statement makes sense.

Nevertheless, shoes will always be a vital part of living, and will continue to be objects of art and functionality.

If you're ever in need of a boost, put your favourite garment on and pair it with your favourite shoes. Chances are, if they are colourful they'll make you feel better. Trust me, it works wonders for me, every time.

Oh, and don't forget your handbag.


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Roman Holiday

Ciao a tutti!

Got back from our farmhouse project at 3pm today. And what better way to spend the rest of saturday afternoon than watch our favourite vintage actor, Audrey Hepburn, in Roman Holiday?

The girls needed crisps, apparently to complete the viewing experience. This is virtually impossible in Italy, as local shops are shut from 12 noon to around 4pm. Some kind of Eureka force urged me to head down to a local bar and – che miracolo! – emerge with five packets of crisps. With the contents and a glass of our favourite vino frizzante, we re-entered Audrey's magical world of Rome, 1953.
Oh, the dresses. And the tresses!

So much so that after the film, I got so inspired to raid the clothes rail, and found this ensemble of a late '50s to early '60s Jacquard fabric dress, outer skirt, and hat, purchased from a lovely American trader. Add a layered underskirt and this will look fabulous on anyone with a petite waist.

Interestingly, six years after Christian Dior's 'New Look' was introduced, the dresses worn by the women in the film still reek of that style. I have to say, this is my favourite of all vintage looks.

Ultimately, I think Roman Holiday is a wonderful representation of our desires and aspirations, and the quest for true love and adventure. In the end, we can only work on trying to achieve them. For me, vintage dealing is being passionate about the history of things, and experiencing that warm, fuzzy, happy feeling that goes with acquiring – and selling – them. This film quietly reminded me that the old days were indeed another place. People were well-dressed and polite, something we need to work to maintain today.

So here's to life and love! Cin! Cin!

photo credits: Vacanze Romane (, Dior Sketch (Dior by Marie-France Pochna book)


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Vintage Fashion is Here to Stay

Hello, Vintage lovers!

Apologies for the silence. I've been sorting wardrobe for a few days now. In the process I came across this pretty little 1980s red housedress from Germany by C&A (Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer).

Little is known about C&A, but it was a major high street brand in the UK for about 75 years, and only left the UK market in 2001 due to fierce competition from other dominating brands. They are still around and have an on-line presence.

Going back to the dress, this one is quite special as it brings together design elements typical of several periods. Fashion styles evolved progressively from the 1900s to 2000. But, as with anything, certain styles or 'look' are inevitably referred back to.

From afar, the pattern and colours of the fabric are from the 1950s, reminiscent of Lucienne Day and Marion Mahler.
The stitching pattern across the chest and upper back is reminiscent of a cowboy shirt from the same era.

Then one notices the collar, which is from a polo shirt, popularised by the tennis champion René Lacoste in 1926.

The sleeve detail is of civilian clothing from the Second World War. Shoulder pads and puffed sleeves were typical of the era. Since everything was rationed including clothing materials, women's wear had to be simpler and practical as they had to take over men's labourious jobs. This dress is a Utility Wear revival.

Even though designers come up with mould-breaking concepts every day, good design ideas will stand the test of time and keep coming back. This is why vintage is here to stay, because good design is good design, whatever, wherever, whenever.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

How to be a Vintage Trader whilst Keeping Your Sanity

If at some point you find that your collecting or hoarding have gone feral, there's a chance you'll start to consider whittling down. 

A few years trading in the vintage and antiques scene led me to acquire some know-how on this matter. Not that I claim to be  an expert  but I have a few ideas which, hopefully, will help guide or inspire you.
I don't have the foggiest when I started. I was working full-time, and began to pick up the odd thing I liked.  I was blessed at this point to meet genuine, honest people in the antiques trade who helped shape my ideas and ideals to this day. In return, I would like to pass on what I learned from them.

Know your passion. Whether it's furniture, clothing, design, or collectables, it's imperative you stick to one area of interest, at least in the first few months. This will help you build your expertise on the subject. You can always move on later to another period or area. In fact, you probably will as one particular passion tends to lead to another.

Read & Research. Never stop learning. It took me a good year to know what I was looking for and what I was buying. Information technology has reached its zenith. With a click of a mouse, you can find what you need to know. Alternatively, you can always pop down to your local library. Don't forget that British TV is known for its trademark antiques programmes. Don't just shun them because they are shown relentlessly – they're still a valuable source.

Buy what you love. You'll find it easier to sell because you're passionate about it. Behind most dealers is a passion for collection gone horribly wrong. If you fail to sell an item, you'll be able to take great pleasure in having it at home with you.

Sell in an Antique Centre or Vintage Shop.
 Partly because of recent hard economic times, and partly because of vintage and retro's growing popularity, Antique Centres are increasingly making stalls available to Vintage traders. Happily, this is a good business model for a trader.
You can start a business by taking a space in an existing centre or vintage shop. This means you only pay rent for this, rather than a whole shop. Your overheads are reduced to one simple monthly outgoing, and you don't have to come in daily to man your stall. Staffing is a major cost for most retail ventures. Your main priority is to stock a good selection of items to interest potential buyers. You must however, keep your stall tidy. Ultimately, you are contributing to the main shop or centre's collective image. 

Look at the lay-out of the shop/centre. Can you get your things, e.g. big furniture, in and out easily? Is there a lot of traffic from passers-by? Does the venue have good vehicular access and parking? This has a major influence on how much passing trade a shop or centre gets.

How secure are your items? Is it a clean place? There's no excuse for having a dusty shop just because you sell old things.

Choose the ground floor if possible. It is a known fact amongst shop keepers that people will spend more time on the ground floor than trekking up to the next floor. 

Have a chat with the shop owner or manager. Are they friendly, and do they give good eye contact? Are the other traders interested in chatting with you? Do they greet people who are coming into the shop? Atmosphere is everything in retail, something which many antique centres and shops neglect to note.

Remember, for your business to succeed, you need to have honest, dependable and personable people running the stall for you when you're not there. These are the people who will turn a miserable and negative customer into a happy one on your behalf. And trust me, there will be miserable, negative clients, no matter how wonderful your unit is.

 Visit other shops or centres in nearby areas. You might find somewhere more suitable for you.
 Additionally, put yourself on the waiting list of several potential venues. This will help you secure a stall sooner rather than later.

Sell at Fairs.
 Okay, you might find this intimidating, as you'll be constantly on your feet and interacting with potential buyers. But fairs are a great place to hone your communication skills and learn your subject. What you must project is that you're knowledgeable about your goods, that you enjoy what you do, and that although some discount is available you know where to draw the line. You are a business, not a charity.

The easiest bit is booking a stall, and paying the organiser. Most will accept payments via the internet.
 The hard part is organising your items, wrapping them securely, and transporting them. If you're a stamp dealer, then you're laughing. If you sell furniture, you need muscles. And a van. Be prepared to drive at dawn as you need time to set up your stall before the fair opens to the public. Some fairs open very early in the morning.

Haggling is part of the whole experience, and something that many people loathe. Keep in mind though that this is a game, and it's a part of trading. If someone tries to be cheeky, keep your cool and stick to your price. You have to decide if you're prepared to let your item go. If not, then someone else is meant to have it at some point. There will always be another customer.

Below are some sites in my little red book and they're not meant to be definitive.

For general antiques, crafts, and decorative interiors: for fairs in Newark, Swinderby, Ardingly, Shepton Mallet, Newbury, Redbourn for Art Deco & Art Nouveau for Decorative Interiors for General Antiques, Vintage and Collectables for High End Antiques, Vintage, and Collectables

For vintage furniture, clothing & accessories, crafts, textiles:

Sell on the Net. Ebay is where Internet trading started. It had a significant dampening effect on auction house revenues a few years back. For other sites, check out

You'll have to be disciplined with time-management though, as you could find that you spend more time with your computer than your friends or family. Running your own business is supposed to be liberating, not ruin your life.

Sell at Auction Houses. If you have valuable items, get them looked at by your local auctioneer. Or go to the bigger places like Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams. Again, if you do your research you'll sell your item at the right auction house, and with a bit of luck, the right bidders will be there to fight for it. Selling fees and VAT will be applied on your final sale amount.

The one and only clothing & textile auction house that I know of is Kerry Taylor Auctions in West Dulwich Kerry is an experienced clothing & textile auctioneer. She's very down-to-earth and you'll certainly sell your items well with her now that vintage is on the up.

Display well. This is make or break in trading, whether in a shop or at the fairs. In my case, I'm fortunate that my better half is talented when it comes to space organisation. But I did learn through time and by doing it on my own. 

Many moons ago, I was in my unit, when a family who was just about to step in stopped and said "Is this a flat? We're so sorry to barge in!". I had to explain that it was still part of the main shop, as evidenced by the price tickets on every item.

One of my 'claim to fame' celebrity visits came from Mr. Jools Holland. I'll never forget his words – "You have an exquisite shop!" I kept my cool for a second before descending into giggly fan mode. I don't know what I had on display that time. It was fairly generic vintage, but laid out nicely.
 You don't need to create a display for Buckingham Palace, but it should be something cohesive that will be pleasant to look at. Clean and dust once a week, and rearrange things regularly. It's surprising how many people pop in week after week to check out your place.


Enjoy dealing! 
Trading is not just about profit. It's about discovering the item's provenance, knowing who you sold it to, where it's currently housed, and enjoying the friends you've made along the way, whether they're clients or fellow traders. And keep on smiling. There's nothing more disappointing than seeing a trader looking forlorn, unenthusiastic, and unapproachable.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Spring 2011

It's currently 17-degrees and sunny on the Adriatic Coast. The lovely view in front of our flat does nothing but inspire me to sort my clothes collection, organising them for my wedding Vintage Fair in London in two months. For now, please enjoy this little collage, inspired by the colour palette from Pantone.
1.Panton Flower Pot Lamps (   2.Yellow Panton Chair (  3.Brown 60s Bowling bag (alexdrake vintage)  4.Yellow 60s Dress (alexdrake vintage) 5.Pantone Spring 2011 Palette (  6.Yellow 70s Panasonic R-70 "Panapet" Radio (alexdrake vintage)  7.Brown  60s Heeled Sandals (alexdrake vintage)


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Pink is the new black

1950s Dining Set which is getting rare to get hold of now a days. It's fab to remember happy clients who acquire nice things for their household. This set went to a lovely couple in Leeds who were 1950s exclusive collectors.



Found this photo from my first-ever shop stock archive.
Always casually reminds me of breezy Spring. Cleaning and gardening tools at the ready.

Friday, 1 April 2011

First Blog

Before my vintage clothes collecting frenzy commenced, I began buying mid-20th Century furniture and collectables while I was pregnant with my daughter. When she turned six-months old, my loving husband reminded me that our house was becoming a warehouse. I countered that it was his doing, since I was influenced   by his sporadic collection of antique furniture and ephemera, and the classic car he was doing up in the garage. This point didn't have the impact I hoped, unfortunately.

I decided that in order to justify my collecting, I would start a Vintage Shop. That way I could buy new items once I had sold something. This is rather habit-forming, unfortunately. And buying often runs ahead of selling. This, I discovered, is where storage units come into their own.

This is one of countless Kitchen Larders that I've bought and sold over the years. I've always believed that a home is no home without a good kitchen, and a good kitchen has functional wares that look cool.