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Sewing Clubs at Olive Road London

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 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!

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Vintage Shopping in New York

Planning a shopping trip to New York? Vintage shopping fan and Journalist Victoria Briggs shares with us her favourite New York vintage shops during one of her frequent visits to the city….

Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

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.

Beacon’s Closet

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).

Brooklyn Flea

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.

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Olive Road at Pop Up Vintage Fair this Saturday

You can find Olive Road this Saturday at Pop Up Vintage Fairs at the fabulous Walthamstow Assembly Hall, Forest Road, London E17 4JF. We will be there 12 to 5pm. I picked up lots of exciting of new (old) pieces on my recent trip to Melbourne and will be selling them this Saturday. Here is a sneak peak of some of the pieces you can find on our stall. See you there!

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Fantastic Evening at Wilton’s Music Hall with Pop Up Vintage London

Thanks to everyone who came along to this summer’s Pop Up Vintage Fair at the historical Wilton’s Music Hall in East London and helped make it one of the best vintage fairs yet! The rain was pouring down as I drove along narrow Cable Street with my tiny car (Bella) keeping me and my boxes of vintage clothing dry.  Goosebumps crept over my skin as I entered the dusty pink doors of the old music hall balancing a clothing rail and my dressmakers dummy. The walls of the World’s oldest surviving music hall is full of ghosts that seem to come alive as traders bump into each other in the bricked hallways and dusty stairs, arms piled high with vintage dresses, jackets, scarves and even Japanese Kimonos. My stall was on the balcony this year, a different position to the past two years I have traded at Wilton’s and it was the perfect place to survey the scene. Traders expertly transforming blank spaces into their vintage pop up shops, My Favourite Things with curlers in their hair and their voices filling the domed ceiling as they performed their sound check. The 300 year old music hall was starting to come alive and its spirits fill the atmosphere with past escapades.

From the moment the doors opened, the crowds poured in. True vintage fans were the early birds, parading around the fair in their finest vintage clothes and hairstyles, foraging for more inspiration. The queue outside started to snake around the corner as crowds turned up for the vintage shopping a cocktail in the bar and to experience the historical atmosphere of the now famous East End Music Hall.

As the vintage fans poured into the hall, My Favourite Things sang in harmony old tunes such as ‘Hit The Road Jack’ and ‘Summertime’, tunes that I can imagine were sung here before WWII, after which the hall became a missionary church. The venue was sensitively restored in 2015 to make the building safe, winning two RIBA awards for the project. The walls haven’t been covered up with new smooth plaster but have been left peeling away in soft dusky colours, conserving the layers of history in it’s walls. If you haven’t had the chance to view the grade 2 listed music hall yet, there are a wide range of events to chose from or join a guided tour of the building on a Monday evening.

Thanks to Pop Up Vintage London (top photo belongs to them) for working tirelessly to create such a popular and well organised event. Olive Road’s next stall is with Pop Up Vintage at another historic venue, St Stephen’s Church in Hampstead on the 1st October.  See you there!

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Clerkenwell Vintage Fair Celebrate their Eighth Year

Olive Road talks to fair organiser Savitri Coleman to discover the secret to the fair’s success and her top tips for vintage shopping.

Weekends were made for shopping. I don’t mean heading to a shopping mall, wandering around aimlessly seeing the same styles in the same stores but with different names. I mean a relaxed day out, chatting with your friend, hunting through rails and antique suitcases with excited anticipation on what you might find. Then when your feet start to ache, the luxury of being able to stop for a coffee or cocktail and listen to live music. My day at the The Clerkenwell Vintage Fair last month was one of those perfect shopping days. A stones throw from Columbia Market in their new home, the Shoreditch Courthouse Hotel, the fair celebrated their eighth birthday with live band The Volstead Orchestra playing in the jewel coloured cocktail bar of the hotel. I was meeting with the fair’s founder and organiser Savitri Coleman to discover the secret of eight successful years of the popular vintage fair. Whilst I was waiting for Savitri to finish with a customer, I spotted a dapper looking couple enjoying the music. Moira and Chris and were on holiday from New York, they had spent most of their trip in Glasgow visiting family and had booked a trip to London, choosing to stay at the Courthouse Hotel so they could be near today’s vintage fair. 


Not long after I’ve said goodbye to Chris and Moira, Savitri flurries in wearing a long cream and red printed vintage maxi dress, the print being based on filigree jewellery from Portugal with matching drop earrings and cork wedges. Savitri is excited as she has just helped a bride find her perfect vintage wedding dress at the fair. She explains that personal shopping with customers around the fair is what she enjoys the most but she doesn’t always get the time on the day as she organises the fair on her own. Savitri leads me down a large wooden staircase into the hotel’s chambers which has been transformed into a sea of bright graphic prints, long delicate bias cut dresses, feathers on hats, tiny buttons on gloves and boxy shaped jackets glittered with sequins. I spotted a colbolt silk paisley scarf priced at £5 and a chocolate silk Dior dress coat at £175. As I delved deeper I discovered a WWII nurse’s woollen cape, 1950’s swimsuits and sundresses covered in cartoon style prints and an Edwardian Lawn lace dress, in the photograph below from Cabinet 49.

As Savitri guides me around the busy room I ask her why she thinks the fair has been so successful for the past eight years.         ‘We offer an eclectic mix of good quality vintage at affordable prices. We are the go-to fair for fashion designers looking for inspiration. Designers can find interesting prints, embroidery, embellishment and tailoring from different era’s to draw ideas from for future collections. Stylists can pick up quirky one-off pieces for fashion shoots and celebrity red carpet dresses whilst seasoned vintage lovers come along to source pieces from their trusted vintage dealer and a fun filled day out. There is a price point for every pocket’. She goes on to tell me that she set up the fair in May 2009 as the recession was hitting vintage traders and many stores had started to close down. ‘I wanted to offer a good quality vintage event to support traders who had lost their shops and were paying extortionate fees for stands at other fairs. I wanted to create a fashion led event and make it a shopping experience with vibrant live music, a diverse range of vintage apparel and a specialist alterations team’. The alterations team is unique to the Clerkenwell Vintage Fair as they can alter items whilst you wait in the bar with a cocktail or carry on shopping. ‘Our alterations team understand fashion from different periods so you are rest assured your garment is in good hands and will fit perfectly whilst ensuring the shape of the garment still speaks of the era. A mistake that is commonly made in dry cleaners or local menders’

Squeezing our way through a cluster of customers eagerly searching each rail for that perfect vintage item I ask Savitri why she thinks vintage style is still popular ‘When you wear vintage, your individuality shines through. TV shows such as Sex and the City certainly whet peoples appetite for vintage and more recently Downtown Abbey have also inspired people to put vintage pieces back in their wardrobe’.  I wonder when Savitri first started her passion for vintage shopping. ‘I was raised on second hand clothes. We would traul charity shops and car boots at the weekends and had to make-do-and-mend anything that had fallen apart. I would turn up to school discos in a range of items from my mum’s wardrobe and pieces I had swapped with friends and everyone would always comment on how cool it looked. During the 1980’s I used to shop at Kensington Market and hang out at Mud club with the likes of Boy George, Marilyn and Philip Salon. It was all about being different, anti-establishment views and individuality. We would spend all week getting our ‘look’ together for one night. Hours of painstakingly customizing pieces to stand out from the crowd.’

Savitri’s Top Ten Tips for Vintage Shopping

  1. If you’re shopping for vintage for you it’s really useful to know what era suits you and your body shape. This will save a lot of time at fairs when browsing so you know which periods are just not you and even if the print or fabric is fabulous it just won’t do you any justice.
  2. Keep an open mind when shopping for vintage at fairs or markets as you are unlikely to find exactly what you are looking for but you will find other interesting things.
  3. Try on garments and photograph yourself in them so you can see how you really look rather than how you think you look in a mirror.
  4. If an item fits then it’s meant to be. If you love it – buy it. You won’t find it again
  5. Google vintage fairs and markets to find out what fairs are on and when.
  6. Instagram is a good resource to search for vintage traders and vintage apparel
  7. Check the width of hems to know whether it is a 50’s dress instead of 80’s. Some 1980’s copies are great and sometimes they have used 50’s fabric but the hems are usually really thin and overlocked.
  8. If you are unsure of the price or worth of a vintage garment you can always get a second opinion by speaking to other traders or contacting auction houses to see what similar pieces have sold for.
  9. Earlier pieces like 20’s and 30’s can be expensive as they are harder to come by in good condition especially beaded or with embellishment (Check under the arms on chiffon dresses for tares, check the seams are in tact or you won’t have much ware out of it and lastly for moth holes)
  10. Lastly always get a receipt so if you have any queries you can always contact the trader

Half way round the fair, Savitri is called to reception as a customer wants to shop at the fair with a small dog. She hugs me goodbye and rushes off whilst I wonder how she manages to run around all day in those high wedge heels and still look a picture of vintage glamour. The Clerkenwell Vintage Fair is back at the Courtyard hotel on the 25th June 2017, you can win two tickets for free entry to their summer fair by signing up for the Olive Road newsletter or commenting on the Facebook post in this link. Good Luck!  

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Vintage Stories: India via New York

I caught up with Karen from Vintage Love Affair at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair earlier this year. This turquoise jewelled coloured dress caught my eye and I asked her where she bought it. She told me that around 13 years ago she went on her first trip to New York and was given $100 to spend. She was in downtown Manhattan and her eye caught the striking colour of the dress hanging in a shop window. She asked the shop assistant how much it was and it came to the same amount of dollars burning a hole in her pocket. It is 100% silk and made in India and yet found in New York. Karen decided to let it go and is now selling it on to make room for more of her vintage clothes in her wardrobe. 

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Spring Vintage Fairs & Markets

Spring time is the perfect time to update your wardrobe with some vintage pieces. The weather can switch from cold and windy to warm and bright in the space of minutes, so wearing layers is the trick to keeping cool and warm in the same day. I start with a top or t-shirt followed by a cardigan and then a lightweight jacket. I prefer vintage jackets as they give an outfit a statement and I’m really into capes at the moment. I haven’t managed to find the right one yet but I’m on the look out. Jackets or capes are the ideal item to buy at a vintage fair as the fit doesn’t have to be exact. If the jacket is a bit small, wear it open with a big scarf, or if it is too big you can wear with a belt and take the sleeves up. The fabric is what you should be looking out for; a textured tweed in your favourite colours or a fun print. You can pick up a well tailored jacket that costs less than a mass produced high street version. So head to a vintage fair this spring to find a statement jacket that will cheer up dull days and keep you warm or look good on  your arm when the sun is out. Here is a list of where to shop in the South East of the UK this Spring (click on the pictures for the links to each fair’s Facebook page)

12th March, So Last Century, Beckenham, Kent
Photo credit: So Last Century
 18th March, Tunbridge Wells Vintage Fair, Kent
Photo credit: Squirrel Vintage
19th March, Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, Balham, South London

25th March, Pop Up Vintage Fairs, Mercato Metropolitano
Elephant & Castle, South London

Photo credit: Pop Up Vintage Fairs



26th March, Clerkenwell Vintage Fair, East London
Photo credit: Clerkenwell Vintage Fairs
2nd April, Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, Bethnal Green, East London
Photo credit: Olive Road (Jo from Retro Bambi)
 9th April, Pop Up Vintage Fairs, St Stephen’s, Hampstead, North London
Photo credit: Pop Up Vintage Fairs


23rd April, Frock Me, Chelsea, West London
Photo Credit: Frock Me Vintage