It is the story of the vintage fabric that really draws me in. I rescued a piece of purple floral bark cloth fabric from a 1960’s VW campervan. After a quick refresh, it is ready for a designer to refashion into a new design. I only wish every piece I source could tell the journey it had been on before arriving at my shop. vintage fabrics contain a unique mix of colour and print making it very unlikely to be found elsewhere. Vintage textiles capture social history, I can instantly tell the era of a piece of fabric from its design.’ Comments Sarah Richards, Founder of Olive Road London Ltd.
Refashioning vintage fabrics prevents them from adding to the growing landfill problem. The global fashion industry produced more greenhouse emissions than the aviation and maritime shipping industries combined. The trend for fast fashion has resulted in 87% of all textiles ending in landfill. Each length of fabric is individually sourced and refreshed by Sarah. Saving designers and makers time and enabling them to create an ethical product with a unique design.
For further information, please contact:
Sarah Richards, founder and Director of Olive Road London Ltd.
Tel: 07774 255134
Stand F32 at the Knitting & Stitching Show, 11 to 14th October 2018, Alexandra Palace.
Notes to editors
Olive Road London Ltd is an independent business established in 2017. Director Sarah Richards was awarded a grant by Tower Hamlets council in conjunction with NWES for a small business grant enabling her to exhibit at The Knitting & Stitching Show, October 2018.
Sarah Richards has over 10 years experience working in the Retail Fashion industry for major high street brands as a Buyer and Executive Assistant. This experienced influenced Sarah to become involved in the emerging sustainable fashion sector. She runs a weekly ‘Fast Fashion Therapy’ sewing club in East London with sustainable textiles expert Eleanor Tull. She has a certificate from the University of Exeter and Fashion Revolution after completing their sustainable fashion course.
London resident, Sarah Richards is awarded a small business grant by Tower Hamlets to assist her in the campaign against the fast fashion industry. ‘I wanted to do something tangible to work against the fast fashion trend by teaching people to sew and mend their own clothes. I founded a vintage fabric business to show people that pre-loved fabrics offer an individual and unique style and helps to prevent adding to the textile landfill issue.’ Comments Sarah Richards, Founder of Olive Road London Ltd.
‘I attended a free four day business course provided by NWES on behalf of Tower Hamlets. Lana, the trainer, was incredibly knowledgeable and shared her own experience of establishing a business. I met with a mentor who helped me build an achievable business plan. It was pretty daunting to present my idea to a panel, Dragons Den style. I was thrilled to be awarded the grant. Half the funds have been spent on equipment for sewing workshops and the other half for a stand and The Knitting & Stitching Show in October to showcase my fabric business’.
Refashioning vintage fabrics prevents them from being thrown into landfill. The global fashion industry produces more greenhouse emissions than the aviation and maritime shipping industries combined. The trend for fast fashion has resulted in 87% of all textiles ending in landfill. Each length of fabric is individually rescued by Sarah, refreshed ready for designers an makers to bring it back to life, creating an ethical product.
(stand no F32 at Knitting & Stitching Show, 11 to 14 October 2018, Alexandra Palace)
Notes to editors
Olive Road London Ltd.
Sarah Richards has over 10 years experience working in the Retail Fashion industry for major high street brands as a Buyer and Executive Assistant. This experience influenced Sarah to become involved in the emerging sustainable fashion sector. She runs a weekly ‘Fast Fashion Therapy’ club in East London with sustainable textiles expert Eleanor Tull. Teaching people to mend and re-model their clothes preventing them from being sent to landfill.
Walking down the fresh vegetable aisle of the supermarket, I’ll often reject some green beans air freighted from Kenya in favour of Kale grown in Kent. I like to buy products with the least air miles as possible. Supermarkets helpfully display where their fresh produce is grown. Ask a fashion retailer the same question and the answer will not be as straight forward.
I’m terribly behind on a Who Made my Clothes? Fashion Revolution course in collaboration with Exeter University and Future Learn. The course is designed to convert students into fashion activists. Starting with three garments in our wardrobe, we were asked what are our emotions behind them? why did we chose them? What do they mean to us? Then the more difficult task of finding where they were made. The label states the country of manufacture but is that the true story? The country listed on the care label might only be the place the garment was finished, including stitching in the care label. There are many processes involved in making a garment from producing the fibre through to being handed to us in a carrier bag over a shop counter. Considering each step certainly puts clothes shopping on a whim into context.
I contacted the brands of my three garments to ask #whomademyclothes? including the fabric. I didn’t receive a response from Levis or Topshop but Collectif suggested I emailed them. Their reply to my email was ‘We get fabric from our print supplier who get the greige from their Mills all based in China but we have no further information regarding this‘. They were able to tell me that the fabric was printed in China and the skirt also manufactured there. I wasn’t surprised by Collectif’s answer. I had read the comments of the students further ahead on the course than me and the majority had also been unsuccessful in finding out the true location of their garments, many not receiving a reply. A Fashion Revolution report from 2015 shares the statistics to support my findings
I worked as a junior buyer for a large retailer many years ago. Selecting a product for the range was similar to being part of a long complicated property chain with the customer being the first time buyer and the buyer being the Estate Agent. A buying team works with designers on the look of a range and individual garments. The buyer then briefs a manufacturing agent on the spec of the item, the quantity of the order and negotiates the cost price. The agent may own factories themselves but equally they outsource to other factories and this factory may outsource it to another. You can see how the supply chain becomes complicated.
As a junior buyer I was concerned with the destination of the final manufacturing process as this affected the price. Global governments set quotas on imports and exports depending on where products were made e.g. if a garment was finished in Hong Kong, it would be cheaper than buying it direct from China (I worked as a Junior Buyer pre-1999, this system was abolished in 2005). I might have known where the finished woven, dyed and printed fabric was from but I wouldn’t have known how it got to that state and certainly not where the fibre was grown. Sadly it seems that nothing has changed in the past twenty years and the fashion industry still has a long way to go before it becomes a circular transparent industry. Full transparency would mean that the brand can let the customer know the origin of every stage of the manufacturing process.
Back to the mystery of my cotton skirt! China is the biggest distributor of cotton fibre production. My skirt was made in 2016 and the above chart shows that two years ago China produced 5% more cotton than it’s closest competitor the USA. Can I safely assume my skirt was produce in China from fibre to finished skirt? According to a recent article from the Business of Fashion ‘Chinese firms like Kerr have come circle by moving their yarn and textile mills to American states, like South Carolina, where cotton is relatively affordable’. This New York Times article explains ‘From 2000 to 2014, Chinese companies invested $46 billion on new projects and acquisitions in the United States, much of it in the last five years’. The article goes on to explain that the US Government issues subsidies to US cotton growers resulting in it being cheaper to grow cotton in the US and ship it to China for processing than it is to grow it in China.
‘Rising costs in China are causing a shift of some types of manufacturing to lower-cost countries like Bangladesh, India and Vietnam. In many cases, the exodus has been led by the Chinese themselves who have aggressively moved to set up manufacturing bases elsewhere.’
The New York Times, 2015
The issue for me isn’t the nationality of the owners of the factories, it is about traceability. Fashion Revolution encourage us to investigate the human story; who were the people who picked the cotton? spun the yarn? wove the fabric? – Were they paid a living wage? Were they given enough breaks and not expected to work 12 hours without stopping? Did they have enough protection from the chemicals most cotton farmers use to grow the fibre? Was there child labour involved? Did they experience sexual harassment? How can a fashion brand answer these questions and endorse corporate and social responsibility if they don’t know where the fabric has come from or can’t be assured which factory is making their garments?
As a customer and a previous employee within the fashion retail industry I encourage everyone to ask these questions. If we put pressure on our favourite brands, buyers put pressure on their manufacturers and agents, eventually the industry will become transparent. Without us asking these questions, the industry will carry on for another twenty years without changing and the lives of textile industry workers will be negatively affected.
To find out how you can get involved, go to the Fashion Revolution website. Fashion Revolution was set up in 2013 in response to the Rana Plaza disaster where 1138 People lost their lives whilst working within the textile industry. For six years they have been campaigning for better working conditions for textile industry workers. Their week long campaign, #whomademyclothes runs every April to mark the anniversary of the disaster. This is the second year of the Future Learn course and there is still time to join, Find out more here.
Read my top tips on reducing fast fashion and textile waste on Pebble Magazine
Want to know how to fix your vintage and charity shop finds? Or mend your favourite pair of jeans? Come along to my new Sew & Mend Club in East London.
As a vintage fashion fan I know how frustrating it can be spending hours rummaging though rails at a vintage fair, finding that perfect vintage dress but discovering it is a bit snug, too long or the sleeves cut the arms in just the wrong place. The club will help you to alter your unique outfit.
Did you know that 87% of all textiles end up in landfill? We can help reduce this waste by sewing and mending our clothes or re-using the fabric for another project. My jeans always fray between the thighs, a simple trick to reinforce them before the hole appears extends their life.
The vintage dress below was missing all of it’s buttons when I bought it from a kilo vintage fair. I have a stash of vintage buttons to make an outfit look as good as new such as these floral buttons.
Jeans can be tricky to take up the hems and keep their professional finish but with this little trick they look brand new.
Designed as a collaborative group rather than a formal teaching environment, the idea is to inspire you to alter and mend your favourite clothes. The club starts on 23rd July and takes place every other Monday evening (6:30 to 8:30pm). It costs £5.50 per session with access to sewing machines and sewing equipment, plus a stash of fabrics and trims for patches and upcycling. I’ll be on hand to help with basic sewing skills and advice. We all approach sewing techniques differently and you will be encouraged to share your ideas and sewing knowledge with others. All levels welcome from beginners to experts. The club offers a friendly environment with two hours to dedicate to sewing. Get those sewing jobs finished that you never get round to.
Spaces are limited to 10 people per session, pre-booking is recommended and available here. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. If you live close to Bow (E3), I also co-ordinate a local sewing group the opposite Mondays to the Bethnal Green dates, more details here. Look forward to seeing you soon!
Shhhh….I’m having a secret summer sale at Olive Road London!
One day only!
For one evening only I’ll be reducing my vintage fashion edit to vintage bargains. Not available on my online vintage shop. Only at Pop Up Vintage Fairs London annual vintage fair at The famous Wilton’s Music Hall. 12 July, 4:30 to 9:30pm. Live music, cocktails and vintage shopping in historic surroundings. So much fun for a Thursday evening! Sign up for the Olive Road London Newsletter for a chance to win free entry for you and a friend. (Only one pass available, closing date midnight 9 July 2018).
“Our approach to craftivism focuses on handicrafts that use slow, repetitive hand actions so that we can also use the act of crafting to meditate and think critically…”
I’ve been re-reading Sarah Corbett’s ‘How to be a Craftivist’ book and the above quote made me sit up and think. When I sew, the purpose has always been a tangible product at the end and if I haven’t finished it within 7 hours then it goes in the ‘to be finished basket’. Or too often, worn held up with safety pins until I finally get round to fixing a waist band. All the years I have been sewing it has never been about the actual process.
Last month I was busy stitching and embroidering bunting for The Women’s Hall Exhibition about the East London Federation of Suffragettes in Tower Hamlets. I researched campaigns that Sylvia Pankhurst and her team were fighting for, many of which are still valid today. The words ‘Equal Pay’ and ‘Fight Racism’ were brought to life through soft chain stitch in purple, green and red. I enjoyed having a reason to sit still, be productive and think about the amazing activism that these women under took 100 years ago.
With the scary serendipity (has Facebook actually entered my mind?) a post from my local sewing studio, Fabrications, popped into my news feed advertising an embroidery class. I reflected on the bunting I had made and decided it was time to learn more than a basic chain stitch. I find it difficult to sit still and almost impossible to meditate so perhaps embroidery would bring some calmness into my busy mind?
We were asked to bring with us a piece of clothing to upcycle using embroidery. Not feeling confident with my abilities, I didn’t want to start stitching a favourite top but the sunny day brought me some luck and I picked up this bright red silk shirt from Broadway Vintage, right outside Fabrications. My size and only £5.
Milou, the creator of Moody Bright Designs, was taking today’s class. A skilled fine artist, she swapped her pens and paints for a needle and thread. ‘I’m passionate about the creative potential that embroidery has to offer, as a means of self-expression and as a way to refashion, mend and personalise your wardrobe‘ Milou says on her website.
Enthusiastic and encouraging us to embrace our mistakes, Milou’s energy was infectious. My fellow students and I ‘oohed’ in awe at the shirts and t-shirts Milou had embroidered using her artistic talents. We soon got to work in learning how to stitch basic running stitch, back stitch, split stitch and satin stitch and the more complicated whip back stitch. The afternoon session gave me chance to try out my own embroidery design. Using Milou’s folk flower examples, I drew a bouquet of wild flowers coming out of one of the pockets of my silk shirt. I didn’t even care that it was 26 degrees and sunny outside whilst I was sat in a classroom. I was enjoying every minute of concentrating on deciding which colour combination of thread to use and the repetition of each individual stitch.
Going back to Sarah Corbett’s ‘How to be a Craftivist’ she says ‘Using craft materials that are small, delicate and soft creates a comforting space, which helps us to ask ourselves and others uncomfortable questions about how to tackle injustice issues’. Embroidery fits that statement perfectly! I’ll admit that we mostly talked about other embroiderists that we liked to follow on Instagram and podcasts we enjoyed whilst we sew rather than putting the world to rights. But Milou did encourage us to use embroidery to recycle our clothes…
“I love buying second hand shirts from charity shops for all my projects. When we are upcycling, simple things become beautiful”
Moody Bright Designs
If you are like me and find it difficult to stay still, have a busy mind like a hamster on a wheel then I recommend taking up embroidery. Similar to knitting, you can take it wherever you go, sit in a calm environment contemplating life, join a local sewing bee and embroidery with friends or become a Craftivist and put the world to rights one stitch at a time.
Milou and Moody Bright Designs is back at Fabrications (Hackney, London) on 11th August. Book here.
The East London Federation of Suffragettes, led by Sylvia Pankhurst, were active in East London during 1914 to 1923, campaigning for universal suffrage and worker’s rights. Sylvia Pankhurst studied at the Royal College of Art and used her creative skills to design banners and flags for the ELFS protests and marches to Westminster. When Sylvia first arrived in Bow in 1912, she took over a shop in Bow Road, close to Bow Church and hand painted ‘Votes For Women’ in gold letters at the front of the shop.
The replica of the gold letters can be seen pride of place at the ‘Women’s Hall’ that has been recreated at the Tower Hamlets Local History and Archives to tell the story of the East London Federation of Suffragettes (see photo above)
One of the panels on display describes how badges in the ELFS colours – Red, White, Purple and Green – were awarded to members who had sold more than 1000 copies of their newspaper, the Women’s Dreadnought.
If your sewing skills are pretty nifty, why not have a go at embroidering some banners with political messages like the ones I made for the launch of the exhibition (photo above). I chose to stitch the campaigns the ELFS were fighting for 100 years ago that are still relevant today. Copy one of mine or chose your own and become a Craftivist.
Last night The East London Federation of Suffragettes were appropriately remembered at the launch of the newly recreated Women’s Hall at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. The lobby of the Grade II listed building, almost unrecognisable, had been transformed into a space to celebrate the home of Sylvia Pankhurst from 1914 to 1923 and tell the story of the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS).
Tamsin Bookey, Heritage Manager of the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives and the woman who instigated the project, describes the above photo of Sylvia Pankhurst as being ‘our inspiration for all of this’. The photograph is of Sylvia outside the WSPU’s first head quarters on Bow Road, underneath the words ‘Vote For Women’ that she hand painted in gold before she separated from her mother and set up her own branch of Suffragettes. ‘We wanted to draw attention to the activities of the ELFS that Sylvia Pankhurst founded in what was then the metropolitan area of Poplar.’ Tamsin explains. ‘We want to reflect and imagine on the cost price restaurants that they set up, the free milk for babies and the jobs they created at the toy factory that helped East Enders out of poverty during the first World War. When developing our exhibition, it was very important to bring out the story of those individual residents of this area who heard what Sylvia had to say and joined in. They started the babies clinics, sold The Dreadnought, and paid membership fees and signed up new members and chained themselves to each other to try and evade arrest. Their names are not very well known so we highlighted 14 of them’. Tamsin announces the publication of ‘The Women’s Hall Dreadnought’ that includes more in-depth stories that the volunteer team of researchers uncovered and listings of events throughout the summer.
In true ELFS spirit, a group of mothers interrupted Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs’ speech in a peaceful protest, standing in front of the platform where Mr Biggs stood holding up their banners, colourful letters spelling out ‘Save Our Nurseries’ in response to Tower Hamlets proposing to privatise the services on three specialist child day centres. The Mayor apologised for the outbreak ‘I don’t want this event event disrupted by a group of Labour Party Members who are campaigning. Very impolite of them to disrupt in this fashion’. A woman in the audience responded loudly ‘This is important, this is what it is all about, supporting women, it is what the ELFS would have been fighting for’. It seems that Mayor Biggs doesn’t know his history.
Dr Helen Pankhurst, CARE International’s Senior Advisor and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst described the activism at the launch as ‘amazing’ and later during her speech went on to say ‘There is a discomfort on what men’s role is and that is important. Men have to feel uncomfortable in this world. Us women know that feeling so well, so it is important that as we go forward we negotiate that and men’s viability and engagement’.
Dr Pankhurst reflected on her family history ‘The story of ELFS is a link between their local story and the national one, you often don’t hear about them. Sylvia chose the East End of London because she thought it was an area where masses had an interest around women’s rights but also where they could move and demonstrate in Westminster. Sylvia as a character links to the family of the Suffragettes, and yet locally she was known as ‘our Sylvia’ and yet expelled by her mother [Emmeline] and sister [Christabel].’
Sarah Jackson, co-author of East London Suffragettes and founding member of the East End Women’s museum said she had been working to ‘try and tell the story of this group of Suffragettes for several years, building on the works of Rosemary Taylor and Stepney books amongst others. We are honouring the working class women who made up this movement. We are honoured to have some descendants of those women in the room with us. This exhibition will allow us to uncover more stories and more connections to fill in the gaps about this remarkable organisation and their story.’ Sarah was also ‘delighted that there is a protest here tonight. The ELFS tried one campaign tactic and it didn’t work, what they did was listen to their community, they changed their strategy so it was meeting the needs of working class women and recognising that the vote wasn’t everything. A key part of women’s liberation is figuring out who is holding the baby?’
As a research volunteer on the project, I’ve been working with the Volunteer Manager, Lauren Sweeney. Last night Lauren said she was ‘overwhelmed by the women and men who have helped. It showed how much people cared about women’s history. they uncovered stories that even the experts in the room hadn’t heard of.’
The original Women’s Hall was at 400 Old Ford Road, close to Victoria Park. Sylvia Pankhurst was looking for a suitable space to hold meetings as well as a place to live. In her autobiography, The Suffragette Movement, Sylvia describes the beginnings of the Women’s Hall in 1914:
‘I had successfully ventured out one morning of dense fog, to see an empty house in the Old Ford Road. It had been in turn a school and a factory, and had a hall capable of seating about three hundred people at the rear, connected with the house by a smaller hall with a flat roof. We decided to take it as part of the headquarters of the East London Federation, reserving a part of it as a home for Norah Smyth, myself and the Paynes. The others were already installed on my return. The landlord would give nothing for decoration, but Norah Smyth painted and papered the house, and the Rebels’ S.P.U painted the hall under the leadership of Willie Lansbury, and made the seats which our women stained, bringing them up to the flat roof, where we housed our colours on an enormous pole. It was delightful to me to be out there under the sky with them. We were able now to organise a lending library, a choir, lectures, concerts, a ‘Junior Suffragettes’ Club’ and so on. The place became a hive of activity and the first house of call for everyone in distress. When a girl in grievous trouble was found fainting in Victoria Park, it was here that the park-keeper brought her.’
The site of the original hall is a patch of grass in the shadow of a 1960’s tower block and until recently the only sign of the historic work that took place there was a small blue plaque on the side of a pub that stands next to 400 Old Ford Road. Alternative Arts Director, Maggie Pinhorn commended the Lord Morpeth for commissioning artist Jerome Davenport to paint a large mural of Sylvia (photo above) to commemorate the work of the ELFS. Maggie announced ‘On the open green site where the women’s hall once stood, the public works group will be creating a herb garden following the plan of the original cost price kitchen, which took place inside the Women’s Hall.’
I’m proud to live in Bow, a small part of London but a place so rich in history. I wanted to get involved with the Women’s Hall project from the start and signed up to be a research volunteer. I spent many hours in the reading room above the newly recreated Women’s Hall with many of my fellow volunteer researchers delving into the history of the individual ELFS members. I wanted to find out more about the immediate area between Roman Road and Old Ford Road. Why did Sylvia choose this address? Who were the people she was trying to help? Why were their situations so desperate? What events took place there?
I spent hours engrossed whilst I sifted through cuttings files, searching through seemingly irrelevant photos until little nuggets of information were found; a photo of people walking the same streets as me but 104 years ago, a description of the congregation of nearby church St Paul, the exact address of the Gunmakers Arms that became the Mother’s Arms and realising that it is now a children’s playground and not where the commemorative plaque hangs upon a concrete wall. I can no longer walk along the stretch between the Hertford Union canal bridge and St Stephen’s Road without thinking that I am walking in the footsteps of the East London Federation of Suffragettes.
All of us are here as we are interested in history as what it tells us about the present and what we have to continue to do.
Dr Helen Pankhurst
The most significant lesson this project has taught me is other than universal suffrage, many of the other issues the ELFS were campaigning for are still worth fighting for today.
The Women’s Hall is open from today until 20th October 2018 at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, 277 Bancroft Road, London E1 4DQ. Thank you to all the Local History Library & Archive staff for their valuable advice and patience as I requested box after box of cuttings from the archives.
Entrance is free as are the events that are taking place all summer. Here are a couple that I am involved in:
11am – 1pm Drop-in, all ages toy making workshop with artist Judith Hope
12.30 – 2.30pm Pay-what-you-can-cafe in the recreated ‘cost price restaurant’
1 – 1.30pm Guided tour of the exhibition.
2 – 3pm ‘Forgotten Suffragettes’ talk by Esther Freeman.
3.15 – 4pm Research volunteers’ showcase
Workshop: Sew an ELFS Posy with Sarah Richards
Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation of Suffragettes were known to use their creativity to highlight their campaigns. Come along to our free drop-in workshop at The Women’s Hall led by Sarah Richards and learn how to make a posy in ELFS colours using upcycled fabrics. No sewing experience necessary and all materials provided.
Thursday 28 June, 6:00 – 7:30, drop-in
Walk: Battling Belles of Bow with Rachel Kolsky
Led by Sylvia Pankhurst who chose East London as the starting point for her campaign for women’s suffrage, East End women were key to the success of the Suffragette movement. Seeing the plight of the working women and mothers, she also established a nursery, a series of restaurants and a toy factory in Bow. Join Rachel Kolsky, prizewinning tour guide and author of Women’s London and follow in Sylvia’s footsteps.
Booking essential – please email email@example.com
Saturday 7 July, 2:30 – 4:30
Lots of events are taking place over the summer, including an August takeover by the local Somali cultural organisation, Numbi Arts. Find the full listings on www.womenshall.org.uk. When you visit the hall, please take a donation for the Bow Food Bank.
The Women’s Hall is a partnership between Tower Hamelts, Idea Stores, Alternative Arts, Four Courners, East End Women’s Museum and thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Hello! Please fill out the short form in this link and I’ll email you with news on vintage shopping, making and upcycling workshops, exhibition reviews and any history projects I am working on. I promise I won’t share your data with anyone else and it will be kept safely via Mailchimp who are GDPR compliant. I’ll be in touch around six times a year. Thanks! Sarah x
Every Saturday and Sunday, behind the Lincoln Tunnel, a small army of vendors take over a block in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, and set up stalls selling vintage clothes, collectables, vinyl records, jewellery and household items that your granny probably owned. How Hell’s Kitchen got its name is open to debate. One theory has it that the once tough, working class neighbourhood was so crime-ridden that the other name it goes by, Clinton, didn’t really do it justice. Another theory is that the area was once the site of several, less than sanitary abattoirs, the smell of which inspired residents to label it anew. Whatever its origins, the modern day Hell’s Kitchen is located close to the city’s theatre district, bounded by 34th Street to the south, 59th Street to the north, and west of Eighth Avenue. While gentrification has transformed the neighbourhood in recent years, the streets around the Lincoln Tunnel are among the grittiest in Midtown Manhattan. The Market occupies a block closed to traffic at the weekends. Admission is free and entry is at 39th Street and 9th Avenue—a little out of the way, but its outlying location is reflected in the prices. Go towards the end of the day (the market closes at 5pm) when vendors are more inclined to give you bargains. I bought an as-new silk shirt, a 60s psychedelic dress and an 80s tea dress, all for $20.
A regular in ‘top shops in NYC’ listicles, and with good reason. For vintage lovers and style-hunters alike, it’s an Aladdin’s Cave of second-hand designer labels, retro prints, quirky one-offs and perennial classics. Confession time: I’ve got a low-level addiction to Beacon’s Closet stores (and there are four of them, praise be: three in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan). It’s the first place I head for in New York after checking into a hotel, pretty much. When I’m not in Beacon’s, I’m thinking about being back in Beacon’s. When I am in Beacon’s, I have to set myself a spending limit so I don’t blow the bank. Fortunately, stock sells at a reasonable price. Last visit, I bought a vintage, pure wool Bonwit Teller coat (the original Bonwit Teller store on Fifth Avenue was demolished in 1980 to make way for Trump Tower), along with a cute tee and a Paul Smith shirt for my other half: total $55. Because clothes rails are crammed and shoes come stacked high, it helps if you like to rummage. To avoid crowds, as well as the sharp elbows of New Yorkers, shop early (stores open 11am-8pm) and towards the beginning of the week—evenings and weekends are busy. Beacon’s also buys clothes. Take along vintage or seasonal pieces and receive 35% cash or 55% in-store credit on items selected (ID is required—a passport is fine).
Proud of it’s legendary status, it is the city’s largest flea market, selling vintage and designer wear, antiques and collectibles, with street food stalls to boot. It’s been around for a decade and moved locations as it’s grown. Every Sunday, at the time of writing, the market is held al fresco in Dumbo—a fashionable neighbourhood located between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. It’s a prime spot, with great views of Manhattan just across the East River, and prices that reflect its popularity with tourists. Don’t go to Brooklyn Flea if you’re looking for a bargain. Do go if you want a good day out and don’t mind paying a bit extra for the whole experience. According to Time Out NY, the place also ranks as one of the city’s ‘essential pick-up spots’, so if you don’t score a bargain, there may be other advantages to mingling with the crowd. Best value finds while I was there included vintage sunglasses selling at $15 a pair, and the food stalls, which are cheap, fresh and excellent. While there are some beautiful vintage pieces to be had (selling anywhere between $75-$225), the market also has its fair share of overpriced tat, so be discerning (the worst offender I found was a 70s string bag, worn-out and discoloured, and on sale for $40). Get to Brooklyn Flea from Manhattan by walking over the Brooklyn Bridge—Dumbo is the first neighbourhood you hit over on the Brooklyn side—or else take the Coney Island-bound F train to York Street. Word of warning: if you don’t want to end up on a thousand Instagram feeds, avoid the hoards of snappers as you come out of the subway. For nervous types, there are trains thundering across the Manhattan Bridge, directly over head, all the time you’re browsing, so it gets pretty loud.
Victoria will be bringing along some of her New York vintage finds to the next Olive Road vintage stall at Pop Up Vintage Fairs in East London’s Wilton’s Music Hall on 12th July 2018.
Find us at the Knitting & Stitching Show 11 to 14 October, North London Dismiss