Only total immersion will do
‘The copying of Amazing by Photograph is breath-taking in its deliberateness’, was used in court to describe the first of two accusations that Ed Sheeran has recently been served (and sued for). Nothing is a completely new idea, which in all other art forms seems to be a negative-apart from in fashion. In the fashion world this repetition is celebrated and London is an emblem of this. Vintage shops which stock retro wardrobes can be found across the city, as a shabby chic complement to the catwalk of the high street. Uncovering London’s Vintage clothes scene is a great adventure in its own right
No more new ideas anymore
But why is this notion that there are no more entirely new ideas, welcomed on the clothes rail? Fashion is circular. Despite the fact that style is a matter of personal taste, clothing trends move on rotation. What was old will one day be new again, and what is more, the ‘old’ will be fawned over by the ‘new’ because it is just that: ‘old’. ‘Retro’ and ‘vintage’ are two titan descriptors for clothes, and there will always be a few certain pieces that, regardless of the time around it, will carry a timeless cool: sheep skin jackets, denim mini dresses, leather jackets; both biker boy bulky and biker girl second skin style. What is more is that the old and new are not set apart, and the rich cultural history of London is the perfect partner to fashion’s trait of repeating on itself.
Finally, there is an entire area of London that cannot go unmentioned in regards the city’s celebration that ‘nothing is new’, which is, of course, Camden Town. Camden creaks with a style and culture of a different time anyway. The iconic and world famous market was in fact one of London’s first crafts and antiques markets. It was born from just 16 stalls, clustered around Punk Rocker favourite ‘Dingwalls Dance Hall’, and by the mid-80s, had been crowned with the accolade of being the starting mark for ‘many of Britain’s top designers started out with stalls’, by the Daily Express. Whilst Camden is identified as a ‘craft market’, vintage clothing is a second part of the market’s persona. The shops of Camden offer a different shade to the pallet of ‘retro’ that Blitz and Rokit cover. An electric eccentricity beats through the market, like the capillary system of an old rocker. Perhaps this is because it sprawls over several different shops as opposed to existing inside just one. ‘The Arc’ is an elegant collection of 1940’s, 50’s women’s wear; for the male gaze ‘Cambery’ invites you to pour over their selection of all things dapper, alongside 50’s wardrobe ‘Teddy Boy’, ‘Modfather’ hosts racks of mod style outfits, and ‘Funky Town’ will ensure, ironically, that you’re look is always fresh.
There are several vintage shops in the city that get it exactly right. The first on the list is Brick Lane’s Blitz. Aptly titled with a name that combines the powerful effect of a good outfit, as well as a suggesting a link with London’s history, Blitz is a huge warehouse. The stock is unsurpassed-last summer they had a whole rack of discounted Ralph Lauren dresses for £10 each, all different patterns and colours, but all with an effortless coolness to them that ‘vintage’ clothes promise. Such label mentioning is probably the most ‘main stream’ that Blitz gets, there really is everything here and it is good advice for any shopper whose wardrobe pays homage to the fashions of previous eras, to go to Blitz as soon as possible. There is a ‘section’, not just a rail, of denim jackets. There are rows of cropped t-shirts; a corner of the shop designated to leather jackets. Any veteran vintage shopper knows that there can be hard work needed, as you’re not buying new stock: you’re buying pre-worn clothes, that have already had their day, yet this is the majesty of Blitz; they put on a first class show with some second class acts. And if this doesn’t satisfy you, there is also Blitz’s own coffee bar-‘Penny Blood’s Black Book’, dressed with film posters, furniture that the Ronnettes’ might use to fill their own music video, and a true collection of glossy ‘coffee table’ books.
Second to Blitz, there is Rokit, found in 4 outlets: 2 in Brick Lane, a Camden branch as well as Covent Garden. The term ‘second’ here is used in a pragmatic way for this list; not to suggest it cannot match Blitz’s quality. Rokit is smaller, but no less potent. The Covent Garden branch definitely adds to the shops inebriating quality, as the shop floor is a set lower down than street level by about 6 steps-so on entrance you sink in, and confirms you are in a different world to the characteristic gloss of the “Oh so lovely” Covent Garden. Rokit never lets you down. Whilst the larger size of Blitz is a benefit, equally, the smaller size of Rokit is a good thing. There is no sense of feeling overwhelmed by what might otherwise be deemed as a collection of too colourful and musky clothes. Complete with plaid shirts to delicate dresses that straddle the line between ‘lingerie’ and the ultimate party dress, the selection in Rokit is versatile, and yet packs a punch. Vintage collections can often be inflated by, basically, ‘a load of tat’, however this particular chain never seems to give into this threat. There is also always a good sound track playing in the shop, and if you’re not tempted in by this, the creativity of the window mannequins will consistently ignite your curiosity.