Meet the team behind Manchester Vintage
- Credit: Archant
Turning a hobby into a business is all the fashion but for Charlotte Mitchell it wasn’t without its challenges, writes Roger Borrell
Open a drawer in Charlotte Mitchell’s house and you might find it stuffed with wedding dresses. Open the wardrobes and you will probably discover row upon row of frocks.
Charlotte isn’t one of those women who feature on Channel 4 documentaries about people with magnificent obsessions. She just loves vintage.
‘I think I loved vintage long before it became fashionable,’ says the Ramsbottom-born mum of one. ‘I always wore clothes that at the time might have been considered a bit odd.
‘I remember buying my first vintage dress in my teens from a charity shop. It’s a long halter-neck dress from the 1960s and it cost 20p.
‘I still love it – I even wore it during a fashion shoot. It’s the one vintage dress that I would never sell, never give away.’
However, selling other items of vintage has become a big part of Charlotte’s life. The 35-year-old, who now lives in Helmshore, took severance from her job with the Sure Start children and family service and decided to turn her hobby into a business.
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She found a kindred spirit in Sharon Noble, who she became friends with while they worked for a Manchester charity. Together, they set up Manchester Vintage, initially selling from market stalls and then growing into a business running vintage markets.
‘We started off badly by going on a massive vintage shopping spree which was big mistake,’ laughs Charlotte. ‘We had too much stock we didn’t have room to store it. We ended up having to give a lot of it away.’
Their first big event was a vintage market at Ramsbottom Civic Hall and it proved to be an instant success with 650 fans attending. ‘We realised that to run it properly we needed to stop selling and start managing the event so we could provide stallholders with a proper service.’
However, it wasn’t entirely straightforward. They were told they needed a market licence and they would have to go through some tending rigmarole. ‘We had an online petition which was supported by 1,000 people and now we are legal,’ she said.
Since then, the markets have spread further afield to Prestwich and Rawtenstall. Are there signs of the vintage bubble bursting? ‘No, it’s just changing,’ said Charlotte. ‘There was a big boom in 40s and 50s clothing but I think younger people are now getting into clothes from the 80s and 90s. For them, that is vintage. They like an eclectic mix of things and they go for funky rather than twee.
‘During the markets we are holding fashion shows, having music and we might start afternoon teas. I don’t think this is ever going to make me a millionaire, but it’s more fun than what I was doing and it allows me to have a better work-life balance.’
The vintage market at Ramsbottom Civic Hall is on the first Sunday of each month. For more information, go to www.manchester-vintage.co.uk