Step back in time in Norwich
- Credit: Archant
The vintage scene is not just influencing what we wear, what we do and how we look - it is also shaping the local economy
Norfolk-born Alexandra Atkinson began selling old pieces she had inherited at vintage fairs as a way of earning a living and gaining work experience in event management – but she soon realised her hobby could be a fantastic business.
Five years ago she set up her company Britain Does Vintage and now her specialist fairs are held nationwide – including two in Norfolk this May at the Stody Estate, near Holt, and at the Houghton Horse Trials.
“Across the country there are many small, independent vintage businesses - all selling amazing finds. We bring them together, add in live music, a vintage tearoom, beauty bar, classic cars where possible, dancing - you name it - all of which are local businesses. It’s great to hear that they then get bookings on the day from our customers wanting them for special occasions. There is a real vibe and atmosphere - which we feel translates into building the local economy.”
What is her advice for someone wishing to embrace the vintage look?
“The most asked-for look at our beauty bars is generally the 1950s. Subtle and classy, but finished with the red lip to give it that little edge. There are so many YouTube videos which can guide you. Then team it with a full skirt and cardigan, and you’re ready for any occasion - Sunday lunch, weddings, summer days out - you name it.”
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The Stody Boutique Festival on May 22 is set in the estates’ rhododendron and azalea gardens. As well as stalls, demonstrations, food and drink, classic cars and activities for children, there is a great programme of live music – including a set from Katrina Leskanich of Katrina and the Waves.
Britain Does Vintage at the Houghton International Horse Trials, May 26 to 19, will run throughout the equestrian event, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Norfolk-based Zoe Durrant runs Little Vintage Lover Fair, which organises pop-up events at small village halls, barns and stately homes.
“We spent most of our time on the Norfolk markets as my mother had a stall. I loved the banter and atmosphere, so when I moved to London at 19 and started modelling and hanging out at Portobello Market I was in my element.”
When she left London 14 years later, she brought that spirit back to Norfolk by organising her first Little Vintage Lover Fair.
“The vintage scene has been great for small businesses and the local economy as people are coming up with business ideas based on a vintage theme. People also want to go back to doing things the old fashioned way, whether making their own clothes, baking old fashioned recipes, hand making children’s toys or just typing a letter on an old typewriter. It takes us away from the fast pace of modern society, which we can thankfully do pretty easily in Norfolk.”
The next Little Vintage Lover Fair is at Mannington Hall, Saxthorpe on Sunday, May 8. The Heydon Summer event in is on Sunday, August 7.
Get the look…
It isn’t just what you wear - many people choose a hairstyle from a certain era, a style of make up or even body art - and there are now plenty of traditional barbers, creative hairstylists, make up experts and tattoo artists on our high streets.
Norwich vintage hairstylist Amy Taylor – known as Flamingo Amy - became enthralled by the 1950s after going to a music event in Hemsby.
“Feverishly I researched what to wear and how to do my hair. After that weekend it wasn’t only the look I was hooked on, but the music too. I started to become drawn to other 20th Century fashions too.
“My advice is start a mood board, Pinterest is my favourite, of looks you love. It’s important you choose things that make you feel confident. You don’t want to feel like you have fallen into a dressing up box. It could be as simple as a cool brooch or a neck scarf. Most ‘vintage’ hair is reasonably high maintenance for every day but I have always adored the headscarf, so to save spending a long time doing my hair when I need to get to work I wear one of these…I have a lot,” she laughs.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a massive advocate of Norwich. It is full of artistic people and small independent businesses which makes it unique. This has helped the scene thrive because it has created a base for people to start running businesses doing things they love and are interested in.”
When it comes to shopping for vintage fashion, Norwich is excellent and there are also little gems to be found out and about around the county.
Lulu Vintage and Finch, both on St Benedicts Street; pop up nightwear and accessories specialist Wake Up Little Susie and the many eclectic stalls on the back of Norwich market are just a few. Retreat Vintage in Norwich was opened by by Joline Freestone six years ago.
“Norfolk’s vintage scene is great - especially Norwich. We have an excellent student community and lots of interesting, diverse and individual people who have unique style.
“The cut, the fabric and the design of original peices is so good in comparison to modern clothes. You get much better quality for your money and no one else will have the same. My favourite eras are the sixties and seventies - the colours and rock n roll vibes from these eras produce some amazing pieces. I love crimplene dresses and psychedelic maxi dresses and high-waist skirts or jeans teamed with a crop top.”
Her advice for anyone wanting to buy a few vintage pieces is simple.
“Don’t go in with any expectations - just open your mind, be ready to explore all the rails; don’t judge anything without trying it on. Most importantly - it’s not fancy dress. It is clothes just like anything on the high street, only it is the original.”
Retreat Vintage, 26 Magdalen St, Norwich NR3 1HU.
It isn’t just fashion which has been shaped by the different eras - there are plenty of other vintage inspired businesses which have popped up around the county - from classic VW Campervan hire; back-to-basics campsites, wedding venues, homemade homewares and photographers.
The Big C Cancer Charity has also launched a mismatched crockery hire service, so you can raise money to help others while holding your own vintage event. (www.big-c.co.uk).
Then there is food and drink. Norfolk is awash with traditional locally made or brewed produce, as well as a wonderful selection of quirky cafes serving delicious afternoon teas, including Biddy’s in Norwich, Margo’s Lounge in Gorleston and the Folly Tearoom in Holt.