Friday, 23 September 2011

Vintage with attitude

Material Girl Aziza

Oh yes, another happy bona fide Belle Amie Vintage customer. Check out Aziza!
She lives in France- ooh la la- is too cool for school, or pretty much anything, and knows how to style an 80's bomber jacket. As soon as the jacket arrived she sent me an email saying: 'she's so beautifuuuuuul'.

I think it is fair to say that Aziza has found her Belle Amie.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The importance of being Edgar

So, the two men who gave their names to Edgar & Swan- one of our first, and arguably our most central department stores- weren't both alive when it became a national treasure of an emporium.

There are two accounts as to how this story began. The first sees William Edgar setting up a haberdashery stall at St James' Market in Haymarket. Penniless, he slept underneath this very stall every night. Saving what he could to start a shop of his own.

St James' Market, Haymarket c.1850 by Charles James Richardson
Alternatively, it began when he walked to London from Carlisle (yes, walked) ready with a letter of introduction from a draper he had helped out at home, and addressed to a London draper who we shall soon all meet, aka George Swan. Now if this is the case, Swan employed him from the off and a few years later Edgar had proven himself partner material. (Material. Ha! Geddit?)

Both these tales are romantic to someone like me, reading about it now from the warmth of home. I have images of him wrapped in the luxurious fabrics he would later sell, asleep on the cold damp streets of London, a Dickensian hero with charm and ambition. Oliver Twist like, walking country lanes on his way to the city that would see his retail dreams come true.

Was anyone else obsessed with the 1968 musical film version of Oliver as a child? I can still along. To all the songs. And must confess a bit of a crush on the Artful Dodger. The actor, aptly named Jack Wild, sadly died of cancer in 2006.
Whatever his introduction to the London, he must have been a hard worker to become such a spectacularly stellar success. Not to the manor born or to the manor bred, but to the manor made. As Eagle House in Clapham- now destroyed save the billiards room- was to become his home. A guidebook at the time described it as a 'large handsome house built with stock grey bricks' a 60 metre frontage and 'carriage drive', extensive gardens, a lake and gazebo. Florence Nightingale's grandfather was an earlier resident. And in those days there was no X-factor style quick buck to a house like this. Especially not from beneath a market stall.

The south side of Eagle House, Clapham, London

But that is it for now. I need to sleep (in a bed, but not a mansion) and dream of retail royalty...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hello to Swan & Edgar, Piccadilly Pedlars

I recently sourced the most peachy perfect of vintage clutches. Its label tells me it is from Edgar and Swan Ltd. A quick Google search, and I realise this is a shop we all know.

Once called Virgin Megastore, then called Zavvi and only last year, re-opening its doors as the first UK offering from European retailers The Sting who are a self proclaimed 'brand network'. (1. Mute your computer before clicking on their site. 2. Anyone ever shopped there?).
File:Virgin Megastore - Piccadilly Circus.JPG

This area of London is so busy with people, advertising, traffic and noise that you have probably never had time to look at the beautiful architecture above the changing brand names. Architecture which was mostly there before the tube station opened on the 10th March, 1906. 

Piccadilly Hotel, Regent Street front, 1905–8, in 1910.
Piccadilly Hotel, Regent Street front, 1905–8 thanks to
This particular building was owned by The Piccadilly Hotel. Amongst much controversy, debate and demands from the management of Edgar and Shaw, it was rebuilt between 1910 and 1920, and Edgar & Shaw moved in.

It was one of the first such department stores in the UK and London, following a trend which started in the middle of the previous century in Paris for a variety of goods to be made available under one roof. (Brand network anyone?) It was a destination for shoppers, fashionable ladies and those wanting to rest with a cup of tea.

Over the next few blogs I'll tell you more about it, what happened, who Edgar and Swan were, how their shop has fitted into all of our histories... and the clutch that I have from this very emporium.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Lady Lucy Luck

LOVE it when instead of a vintage fantasy, I have a current day vintage wearer to report.

And so, check out Lucy! Pretty in her pleated, belted pink dress. Stunner. She picked this 80's dress to wear to Chester races, and it brought her 'lovely compliments'.

No surprise as she nattily swapped the matching belt for a contrasting wide one, and accessorised with a flower in her hair and champagne in her hand. Plus gold shoes. (I am a sucker for gold shoes. Even my trainers are gold.)

Question is, alongside the compliments, did it bring Lucy any luck on the horses?!

PS the dress really reminds me of an emerald green one Mulberry have out for AW11. Or is it more the peach Chloe dress, now on sale at Net-A-Porter?

Thanks to Lucy snapping it up, there's no pleated vintage dress from Belle Amie Vintage right now, but if you want the trend, I do have a skirt. With Polk-a-Spots!!

Night, dears. And do send your vintage tale and photos to me and I'll post you on up. Xx

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The colour of memory

A few months ago, I married.

Only a month later, my new mother-in-law died. Needless to say, what was an immeasurably happy time became a drudgingly sad one.

Kerstin was many things to many people. Mother, model, friend, shopkeeper... She knew where in Stockholm to find the finest cakes, source the most proper furniture and get the best haircut and styling. Some of these things she told me about, some I have learnt while visiting her city to attend to the various bits of admin that surround a family member's death.

One thing I was surprised to learn from her posthumously, was the absolute right red lipstick for me. This is a close to impossible task for many women, and is something I know she would have been immensely pleased I achieved thanks to her, and the make up she left behind.

The colour is Ravish Me Red, from Revlon. I put it on and it makes not just my lips look better, but my eyes and hair too. It makes them softly kissable and has reasonable staying power.

The best thing is, wearing it I remember Kerstin. I remember the glamorous woman she was. A woman who knew about lipsticks. A woman who moved from the Swedish countryside, to Stockholm, to LA, to London... And back again. Who brought up two devilishly smart children after her husband died only a couple of years after the second was born. Who welcomed me lovingly into her family. And who had bucket loads of style. I wish I had known her as the vintage style party girl she once was. I think we'd have been friends. Friends who shared lipstick.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The golden dress of an opportunity

Kimberley had just left beauty school. She tripped up the curb as she got closer to home, but steadied herself. And laughed under her breath. She was happy, because tonight was date night. And she had the peachiest of dresses to wear.

She bathed and changed as soon as she got home, slicking her eyeliner into place. Then running out the door.

She was going to catch the bus and every time she thought about seeing Peter when she got off at the other end, her tummy swooped and soared. She wanted to see him, clasp him, and dance dance dance. Oh. Yes.

The bus came and she beamed at the driver. He more than beamed back. She found a seat, and then shifted to the window so a woman who had run for the bus could sit down and catch her breath. Phew.

After one more stop the woman turned, and put her hand on Kimberley's wrist. Kimberley looked at it, then leant her head on the woman's shoulder and heard her say, in the quietest of voices, 'There's luck in the very fabric of that dress.' Kimberley looked at her, saw that she meant it, and nodded. It was true. The luck and the magic shone through. And she was carried along on it.

She got off one stop early, it was a fresh and hopeful sort of day. And as she passed the florist stall she paused, and bought a bunch of spring daffodils in a feeling of celebration. She would give them to her love.