Friday, 20 May 2011

La Dolce Vita

Image by Alex Drake Vintage

Happy Friday, everyone!

Have you ever found your life is so hectic you hardly ever notice you're surrounded by little treasures and blessings? My post today is about a snippet of life in Italy. It's not as sweet and lovely as anyone thinks since we're finishing a house project for a friend. The stressful encounters with Italian builders, the race to the supermarket to get provisions before that daily four-hour lunch break, the scary incidents at the local hospital... these things are reasons enough to make you forget you're in a special place.

And so my lovelies, I believe it's time to remind myself why the concept of Italian life lured me into saying "Yes" to the farm house project.

These are my Italian inspirations.
Hope you like them too.

Image from Couture Zappos

Sergio Rossi
Besides Manolo Blahnik, and my good friend Rachel Sparrow, Signor Rossi is my other favourite shoe designer. His natural talent and hard work propelled him to international fame. I love that he instigated an environmental first for the shoe industry by launching the biodegradable Eco Pump shoes in 2009. Part of the sales would go to To me, that's commendable. I imagine his humble beginnings instilled in him an extraordinary work ethic and respect for people - a trait difficult to find in the industry these days.
I also love that the first shop to bear his name is only 20 kilometers away from where I live.

Image from Fashion Collective

Nothing's more soothing than having a nice pastel gelato on a hot and sunny afternoon.
It has lower fat content and is packed with natural fruit or nut flavours. Ladies, if you ever come for a visit, I'd happily treat you to an afternoon of gelato experience at our local gelateria.

Image by Alex Drake Vintage

Vintage bicycles
If the Italians are not in a racing competition (the great Giro d'Italia which, by the way, is still on) they can be seen on their bikes, rickety or not, on the way to the market or to the beach. Now that's a healthy lifestyle! The sight of a 70-year old person cycling around is not uncommon.

Costanza Pascolato of Vogue Brazil, Image from Into The Gloss

Stylish Mamas
It's refreshing to see that fashion is not just for young people around here. Senior Italian women are  simply admirable in saying no to 'BB (Beige Brigade)'.  They dress up just like Costanza Pascolato everyday without fail, especially for the traditional afternoon Passeggiata, or stroll, which starts after 4pm.

Fur coat... check. Scarf...check. Sunnies...check. Immaculate coiffure...check. Leather handbag...check. Heeled shoes...check!
Even in southern Italy, they continue to be fashion inspirations to us all.

Image Alex Drake Vintage

Rural life
Believe it or not, despite the exclusivity of Milan Fashion shows, Italy is made up of two parts: one, the highly industrial north where everyone's awash with style and indifference, and two, the rustic south, where people are friendly and feed you their Mama's food until your belly hurts.
More vino, anyone?


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

How to be a Vintage Fashion Trader

Image from Time Out London

There comes a time when your vintage clothing and accessories collection goes feral and you need to whittle down. You can either impose discipline on yourself, or start to sell things in order to make space for and fund new acquisitions. Behind most vintage traders is an out-of-control collection. If this strikes a chord with you, you've come to the right place.

Being a vintage trader is not all fun and glamour. As with any self-employment, it requires a good business head and more often than not, fortitude.


❤  Passion
You're truly in love with vintage clothing and lifestyle. You're not doing it because it's 'all the rage'. If you're in it for fast money, forget about it. The first few months will be hard work and you'll need to deal with issues along the way. You need to be enthusiastic about your items, and focusing solely on profit will distract you from your main goal – enjoying one of the best jobs in the world, when done right.

❤  An eye for detail
Your collection or stock must be in good order. It needs to be clean, free from damage, and true vintage – i.e. not recent and vintage-style. In time, you'll know you've become an expert if, with one glance at the item, you know its age and origins. If you sell online, the items must be well-photographed. Make sure your packaging is sturdy and reflects the postage fee you charge your clients. If you're in a shop or at a fair, your items should be well-displayed to attract buyers.

❤  An enterprising mind
A proven business method is to source an item for as little as possible, and sell for the highest possible profit. Self-discipline will save you from financial ruin. Always buy with your head rather than with your heart. If there is no profit in an item, simply don't buy it. Be aware that your prices should reflect the current market situation. Any potential client will be put off when they that see your items are too expensive. Factor this into the prices you buy at.

If you're successful you will run out of stock frequently. You'll need sources locally, nationally, and internationally. This aspect can be difficult for some traders as it involves long hours of research and networking.

If you have regular customers, contact them when you see something they might be interested in. Remember, you must be able to move your stock as quickly as you can. This allows you to change your display in a shop or on-line store constantly, to maintain interest.

❤  Social networking skills
The digital age has peaked. Businesses with professional-looking websites and blogs perform better than those without. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking outlets, for maximum exposure.

❤  A thirst for knowledge
Never stop learning. If you're passionate about vintage you should enjoy researching your subject area. Knowledge is power.

❤  People skills
Whether you sell online or in a shop, you need good communication skills. Any problems encountered must be sorted fast. Clients expect personable and professional service, as well as quality merchandise. However, there will be frankly painful clients who will bring you down. Don't let them – it's just part of the job.

Ultimately, if you operate with integrity you will gain a good reputation. You'll build a repeat-customer base, which will recommend you. This is essential to a successful business venture.

❤ A versatile handbag
Standard kit for the vintage trader: tape measure, camera, notepad, pen/pencil, scissors, emergency sewing kit, cheque book.

It's useful if you can sew. This is handy for last-minute alterations, should a client need something urgently – which can clinch a sale.

Image from myshutterstocks Flickr

What to do next:

❤  Sell in a shop
Cooperatives in some countries, and in the UK vintage or antique centres, are always looking for new traders. Chat with the owners and the other traders to 'get a feel' of the place. The shop should be located in a place with good customer traffic. It should be clean and well-maintained, and the monthly rent must be reasonable.

If you're thinking of running your own shop, be aware of what it involves. The expenses involved are diffuse and frightening – rent, insurance, music tariff , card machine rentals, utility bills and marketing costs. If there is free business advice available for start-ups in your area, get it.

❤  Sell on Etsy or Ebay
Online selling has never been easier, especially on these two leading sites. You need to register and there are fees to pay, but they are much lower than the costs of a shop. Your postage fees should be reasonable. Clients do consider these before making a purchase. If someone charges disproportionately high postage or shipping fees they appear greedy. Simple.

You may also want to sell from your website, but you'll need to work hard to market it.

❤  Sell at fairs
Most organisers will take on-line payment of your stall fee. You must then select a good representation of your stock, wrapping materials, business cards and any props you need for display (tip: a screen and mirror to create a changing room is a huge friend to clothing dealers). Make up sandwiches and a flask. If you can, convince a friend or a family member to help you, bring a credit card machine if you have one or a laptop or iPad to access your Paypal (this will guarantee sales especially since non-trade customers don't always bring a wad of cash to fairs).

❤ Sell at auctions
Highly recommended when your items are quite valuable. The leading clothing and textile auction house in the UK is Kerry Taylor Auctions, based in West Dulwich, London. Fees apply whether you're buying or selling.

Finally, enjoy the experience and the people you meet (you will meet a multitude). It's a once-in-a-lifetime, special experience which I'd recommend to anyone.



Friday, 13 May 2011

10 Things I Like about the 1970s

Original Ossie Clark Maxi, Image from c20th Vintage Fashion

Alex Drake Vintage Collection, 1970s Maxi with Bolero jacket

1. Maxi Dress
Floaty maxis are back. You're probably rolling your eyes by now and saying "yes, we know!" but I just had to post this.
I still maintain that the style's premier exponent, Ossie Clark contributed so much to the fashion world in the '70s. Although the end of his life saw him in poverty and abandonment, his creations will always stay with and inspire us.
Only three years ago, Avsh Alom Gur tried to re-launch the brand, but failed. How satisfying it is to see that maxis are in season this year!
Pity the fashion buyers who failed to spot the timelessness of Ossie's trademark free-flowing, carefree chiffon and crepe dresses. Hopefully they're now kicking themselves for not buying.

Alex Drake Vintage Collection, ASOS with Sergio Rossi Heel

2. Wedges
Thanks to the efforts of Salvatore Ferragamo during the 1930s, the humble clog evolved into the wedge. I personally like wedges because they are more practical than high-heeled shoes (pair them with anything, darling), yet oh-so glamorous.
It has since enjoyed a revival in the '70s and again in the '90s. But because I remember my big sister's '70s wooden wedges when I was in pre-school, I've always associated them as being an all-time hit in the '70s. Everybody had a pair.

Image from Vintage Shoes by Caroline Cox

3. Hot pants
They're short and versatile, come in cotton, denim, leather and PVC. You can pair them with wedges, heels, pumps, etc. You can run, walk, jump and climb as fast as you can without snagging your clothes on anything. They look incredibly sexy, too.

Image from Skateboarding Magazine

4. Skateboards and Skateboarding
OK, so Farrah Fawcett had a stunt double on Charlie's Angels. But she really did inspire me to get on a skateboard. The invention of polyurethane wheels around 1973, produced a smooth ride and decent turning ability.  There's something about the free-flowing, dance-like, trance-like fluid movement as you direct your skateboard forwards, side-to-side, feeling air across your face. You're at peace, but aware of speed, seeing the distorted images of people and things that you pass...
For me skateboarding is as close as I can get to the high of surfing, out of water.

Image from Trekbbs

5. Pan-Am
There was a time when air travel equated to a glamorous lifestyle. If you were a stewardess, then you were truly beautiful, well-dressed, and all women would want to be in your shoes.
In 1970, the first Pan-Am Boeing 747 landed in Heathrow. The era of mass global travel had begun.

Image from
6. Datsun 240Z
Sleek, fast for a classic car, and oh-so gorgeous. It is the 1970s, rendered in metal.
If I ever make money from blogging, shall have one for myself!

Image from Modern Design Interior
7. Boby Trolley
Just 226 miles north from where we live, in Padua, a highly talented Italian designer called Joe Colombo created a versatile, portable, vertical storage unit. Nowadays it is a stylish presence in art and design studios, hairdressers and even homes.

Image from Coolpicking

8. Punk
The then anti-fashion, anti-establishment movement whose name lend itself to Punk music was in every way revolutionary. Fashion and music became the look and sound of a significant social shift. Britain in the Seventies has been considered the crucible of societal change.

Image from Digicam History

9. Walkman
This made possible the revolutionary idea of being able to listen to music anywhere and everywhere, without disturbing other people.
It seems obvious now, but without the Walkman, there would be no iPod.

Image Alex Drake Vintage

10. Reggae
As the '70s was a period of revolution, people found themselves wanting to reach out more, happy to declare their views. Art, music and fashion evolved into something new.
From the '60s Jamaican beginnings of Reggae, it became popular in Britain, and the world, largely through the output of Bob Marley and The Wailers.
The off-beat rhythm was a platform for declaring spiritual, ecological and political views, and a soundtrack to the growing voice of multicultural Britain. It's been said that Reggae has influenced Punk music.



Friday, 6 May 2011

10 things I love about the 1960s

Image by FC Gundlach
1. Mini  
Not the car - though I'm quite fond of it - I'm in fact talking about the Mini dress. 
Young people in the '60s suddenly found themselves wanting to wear non-conforming clothes. 
Different and radical was the theme of fashion. 
Mary Quant may have popularised the Mini dress, 
but the real 'inventor' was John Bates, best known for 'the smallest dress in the world', 
bikini dress, pvc clothing, and embroidered empire line evening dresses.

Image of Nancy Kwan via
 2. Vidal Sassoon haircut  
The iconic Vidal Sassoon produced geometric yet organic haircuts. 
Best known for the revival of the bob haircut, Vidal Sassoon helped 
'shape' the definitive women's hairstyle of the '60s.

Image via

 3. Jackie Kennedy 
The First Lady who set new standards regarding dress, 
elegance, good manners and strength in the face of adversity. 

Image Alex Drake Vintage
4. Op Art 
The mesmerizing, mathematically-based, three-dimensional visual treat 
that Optical Art offered in paintings, tv adverts, textiles and clothing, 
and even on album covers, had so much novelty that it was popular for several years.

Image from Vintage Handbags by Marnie Fogg
5. Bags, bags, and bags 
The pastel coloured, patent bags of this period 
are just so yummy you could almost taste them. 

Image via
6. Boutiques of London 
From Carnaby Street to King's Road, these places housed 
new and enterprising small shops, eager to bring fresh fashion and style 
to an urban youth wanting and needing instant gratification and radical change.

Image Alex Drake Vintage
7. The original Biba 
With Barbara Hulanicki's vision, wonderful taste for an eclectic shop interiors, 
plus attention to clothing details, Biba, which started in Kensington, 
became a huge London brand, famous across the globe. 
People loved Biba's simple ethos of providing affordable, beautiful clothing, 
in a socially conducive environment - it had a rooftop for parties, and
some people even ended up getting married after courtships held 
in that magnificent place.
It also was the first brand to offer free 'make-up trial before purchase'.

Image via
8. Space Age 
With the Space race on between the U.S.S.R. and the USA 
(who would put the first man on the moon?), the world of fashion, art, film, furniture, 
and home electronics turned to science fact and fiction for influence and inspiration. 
The above photo is a Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio, produced in 1966. 
Dubbed as 'a room within a room', it was meant to provide 
privacy within a delightful cosy space. From its debut in 1966, 
its architectural and functional qualities make it a furniture classic.

Image from Decorative Art '60s, by C&P Fiell, Taschen
9. Habitat 
With designer Terence Conran at its helm, Habitat in the ’60s 
displayed goods in a minimalist way 
as inspired by Scandinavian shops. 
Its stock was affordable, tasteful and truly useful. 

Image from Sixties Design by P. Garner, Taschen
Photo by Peter Max 

10. Cosmic ’60s Art 
This print by Peter Max was popular in American dorm rooms. 
Thanks to his four-colour reproduction printing technique, 
he created countless colourful prints cheering people up. 
Looking at his work, I've always considered him as 
a grandfather of contemporary graphic design. 
'Love' is a powerful word, and one that I love. 
I'm saying it again...Spread the love.  

Decorative Art '60s by C&P Fiell
Sixties Design by Philippe Garner
Vintage Handbags by Marnie Fogg