IT'S THE WEEKEND: Is Gwent a hotspot for vintage clothes?
1:10pm Saturday 28th September 2013 in News
GWENT has been swept up in a tidal wave of nostalgia, with more and more people turning to vintage hobbies, fashion and lifestyles.
With more vintage clothing shops popping up across the area every year, and tons of annual vintage car, steam and bus exhibitions, Gwent is becoming a hub for pastime enthusiasts, and it is becoming increasingly popular.
The area is home to jewels such as the national vintage tractor road race in Chepstow, and the ever-popular annual vintage car rally held at Tredegar House and Park has just reached its 33rd year.
Raising money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, the annual rally has grown to become one of the biggest of its kind in the whole of the UK, raising £52,000 last year and a total of £760,000 since it was first launched.
Gwent is also home to several popular vintage clothes stores and has hosted two popular Steampunk festivals, which saw 500 people attend the three-day event to celebrate their shared love of Victorian re-enactments and the steam-powered science fiction of writers like HG Wells and Jules Verne.
Even just 10 years ago one would not have found such offerings in Gwent – yet the increasing popularity of pre-loved and vintage styled clothes, has meant that not only are they popular, they are viable as businesses.
Gwent is now home to several popular vintage clothes stores, including Emily Rose in Griffithstown, and Vintage Vision in Abergavenny and Chepstow.
Emily Rose Vintage moved from its Cwmbran premises in September 2012 after outgrowing its premises within less than a year of opening.
Owner Liz Prosser, 34, started off selling vintage clothes and accessories as a hobby, picking them up from around the UK at fairs.
Now, her beautifully decorated shop not only sells new, vintage style clothes, vintage clothes and ready to order dresses, but she offers space to local craft designers and artists to showcase their work and sell their locally produced and unique gifts.
The shop stocks handmade vintage inspired dresses in a variety of sizes (handy if you aren’t blessed with the standard 1950s size 8 hourglass figure) and handpicked original vintage clothing.
Mrs Prosser said: “I think the reason vintage is so popular at the moment it because it offers a change from the high street; it’s something unique and not mass produced.
“The quality is just so much better with vintage clothes. I have so many different types of people who come in to buy clothes – recently a lot of people have bought dresses because they wanted to get dressed up for the Goodwood Revival. At the same time I’ll have someone pop in on their way to the post office or to buy a pint of milk and they’ll come out with a dress, or a skirt.
“I also get younger people come in and buy an item and then they will wear it with their Converse and their denim jacket.”
The shop also offers gifts, jewellery, shoes , bags and china hire, but its ESP is that it offers a vintage photo shoot. As part of the experience you can try on as many dresses as you like, then head to the 50s inspired salon for vintage hair styling and make up topped off with a glass of bubbly and cake.
The package includes props and a 10 x 8 Photo, and is particularly popular with hen parties and birthday girls.
Mrs Prosser added: “What makes vintage clothing so special for me is I love thinking about the story behind the outfit - someone may have worn this on their first date or on honeymoon or something.”
The concept of the story behind the clothing is an aspect Vintage Vision, the Abergavenny and Chepstow-based social enterprise has decided to focus on – so much so it has developed a digital project around it.
The social enterprise has recorded interviews with local women who have been involved in the fashion and textiles industries as part of their Digital Stories project. The project includes audio interviews and original pictures which are on show on screens in both of the shops.
As a social enterprise all clothes, bags, shoes gloves, hats, belts, glasses and books are donated, and 100 per cent of any money raised goes back into the business. Any money left over after overhead costs have been paid is used to run classes to teach women to sew, fix, and remodel vintage clothes.
Vintage Vision also holds fashion fairs and shows, runs workshops with schools and colleges on vintage fashion and offers work experience to women who want to get back to work. The sewing classes teach how to restyle clothes, save money, and learn a new skill.
Founding members Bernadette Kelly and Amanda Peters think the reason vintage is so en vogue at the moment is partly due to financial reasons. They believe they are seeing more people coming in who want to buy good quality, reasonably-priced clothing rather than wasting money on mass-manufactured cheaper clothing from the high street.
Mrs Kelly said: “I’d say we have a lot of different types of customer, but it varies between the shops too. In Chepstow we have different kind of customer again, compared to the Abergavenny shop. People are more into vintage in Chepstow, and we get a lot more men in there too. Mainly stylish men in their 30s.
“I think a lot of people in Chepstow like vintage clothing, quality and style but had been starved of it before The other day someone came in and bought £170 worth of clothes.
“Sometimes people get confused as to what we are - they think we’re a charity shop. But when they come in and see these amazing handpicked vintage clothes, that’s when they seem to ‘get’ us.”
The next Vintage Vision fairs are on October 6 at the Shire Hall in Monmouth, October 12 at the Chepstow Street Fair and November 24 at the Market Hall in Abergavenny.
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