Claire Bingham makes beautiful coats. Each one is cut by her to a pattern taken from a vintage coat she has owned and loved herself. Every stitch has been put in place by Claire, and the buttons carefully chosen at vintage fairs she has visited. Each piece is a work of art, made with love and dedication. Claire, however, did not train as a tailor, or indeed in fashion design, she has rather come to this by following a path of creativity and her attachment to vintage style.

‘I work in the world of interior design and journalism,’ she says. ‘Everything I have done in my career has been connected to art and design, and one thing has led to another – I'm surrounded by beautiful things, and fashion has always been a fascination.

‘I always felt I was born into the wrong era. I was a teen in the late '80s, but my dad had an old record player, and we’d listen to all his music and I just always have had an affinity for the 1950s. As a teen, I’d make “magazines” – taking photos of my friends in Top Shop – and my nan Peggy and I would make things together. My nan was a seamstress in Huddersfield, making band uniforms and kilts, producing beautiful work and that’s what I grew up surrounded by. My mum is of that generation that was taught how to knit, how to sew – but I’ve always been less patient, I just wanted to make things, creating and following the flow. I went to art school and studied illustration and after graduating worked at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, and that’s how I got into interiors.’

Great British Life: The Jan coat, inspired by a silk ensemble found in a London vintage shopThe Jan coat, inspired by a silk ensemble found in a London vintage shop (Image: Claire Bingham)

From here, Claire moved to work for an antiques business before joining Elle Decoration, as homes editor.

‘Working with Elle Decoration was a really nice introduction to publishing, which I have remained doing for the last 25 years – finding beautiful homes all over the world and writing about them.’

Going freelance, Claire has written for international magazines and newspapers including the Observer Magazine, House and Garden, Architectural Digest, Casa Vogue and many more, living in Italy and then in Australia, with her now husband Marc. The couple worked in Sydney for some years before heading home in 2007, where Claire joined an advertising agency in Manchester, settling initially in Didsbury.

Great British Life: Every detail is carefully chosen, with the buttons from vintage stores and fairsEvery detail is carefully chosen, with the buttons from vintage stores and fairs (Image: Claire Bingham)

‘We wanted to buy locally and looked at many locations and fell for Macclesfield. I love the feel of it – there's a hint of Yorkshire in the landscape, great schools, a real sense of community. The freelance life can be lonely, so having a network of similar people around you is helpful. It’s now me, Marc and our daughter Josephine, the Jo from Peggy Jo.’

Claire’s first coat for Peggy Jo, Stevie, was inspired by a 1950s duster coat found in a vintage store in Covent Garden.

‘I’ve always worn vintage, I loved to dress up and go to work feeling ready to go out for cocktails, but I don’t do that anymore – my life has changed and what I wear has changed too. But I still love coats and I've worn my silk vintage coat for 20 years. It’s just disintegrated, so I wanted to learn how to create a pattern from existing garments and make myself a new one.

Great British Life: Claire in Stevie, inspired by her first, much-loved, vintage coatClaire in Stevie, inspired by her first, much-loved, vintage coat (Image: Claire Bingham)

‘Macclesfield has a great community of creative women and one of my connections is Brita Hersch, who runs a tailoring academy. I joined Brita’s course, learned what I needed and made the coat myself. It started me thinking about creating a clothing label, but I couldn’t work out how I might want that to look. I loved vintage and I loved fashion, and that was missing from what I was already doing.

‘Then, just after lockdown, and just after the release of Mrs Harris Goes to Paris (a must-watch film for fashionistas), I was in London on a press trip and called in at one of my favourite vintage shops, Black Out II. There was a coat in there very similar to my first, duster-style with massive buttons, and it came with a matching shift dress – I bought it immediately. I thought the design was amazing as it just suits everybody, and I felt so good in it. I felt a need to make that, as well – and that is the Jan coat. The original is in silk, and I thought, “what would it be like in lambswool, or for spring could you do it in a trench coat material?”. It got something going.’

At the same time, in a moment of serendipity, Claire did a freelance house shoot and the fashion stylist appointed to dress the homeowner had brought along some pieces by Wirral-based designer Johanna Sands. Claire learned that Johanna does occasional limited-edition drops.

Great British Life: Every coat is a limited editionEvery coat is a limited edition (Image: Claire Bingham)

‘She doesn’t have a shop, just sells online and via social media, when she has pieces to sell. I like to do things at my own pace, so this offered a solution where I could dip my toe in without investing heavily into launching my own clothing label. This felt really comfortable and now I am looking at ways to take more small steps.’

One of these ideas is to work with brides planning cooler-weather weddings, who might want an elegant coat to complement their dress.

‘The beauty of coats is you can keep wearing them long after the wedding day is past,’ says Claire. ‘It’s ideal for mothers of the bride, or groom. I’m testing this idea by attending a small wedding fair in Macclesfield this month.

Great British Life: Stevie, in one of interior designer Susi Bellamy's velvetsStevie, in one of interior designer Susi Bellamy's velvets (Image: Claire Bingham)

‘What feels missing from selling purely online, or via social media, is the customer being able to see and feel the quality and be able to try them on, so I shall be running some little pop-ups, too. Mini ateliers, where I can demonstrate how I make the coats, and hopefully take orders.’

In February, Claire united her love of interior design and fashion with a collaboration with interiors textiles designer Susi Bellamy, choosing two designs from her velvets range.

‘I photographed Susi’s home when she launched her business and love her fabrics,’ Claire says. ‘but I usually source fabric from sustainable sources, such as Shufflebottoms in Macclesfield, which has a great selection of ‘waste’ or remnants – leftovers from a collection, cancelled orders, etc. This, of course, is why each of my coats is a one-off. I also source all my buttons from vintage fairs – Manchester Vintage Fair is a good one, and vintage fairs are great for fabrics, too. I am always looking out for new fabrics, and each one behaves differently, so each time I make a coat I am learning again.’

Great British Life: Buttons and bows - and inspiration from grandma PeggyButtons and bows - and inspiration from grandma Peggy (Image: Claire Bingham)

Claire does everything herself, having considered, and then dismissed the idea of bringing in a seamstress.

‘It is about the labour for me,’ she says. ‘It’s all part of the process. I didn’t go into this to have someone else do it. I spend a lot of time choosing the fabrics, selecting the buttons. When you invest in a coat, you’re truly getting something that is a one-off and will last and last.

‘Ladies can buy one of the coats I have made already, or they can commission one of their own – they can come and see me and then we can tweak to make sleeves longer, for example, or choose a different collar style. It takes two to three weeks for a custom-made coat, and I think giving my clients that degree of choice is lovely; when you’re shopping at the premium end, it makes it even more special when you know the backstory such as where the fabric and the buttons came from, and to have it made only for you.

‘I loved my first vintage coat and wore it always – things are to be used, not treated as museum pieces – and now making new ones I get to continue to wear the style I love, and it makes me happy.’

Capes start at £480 and coats at £520,

Great British Life: Claire says the joy comes mostly from the making, and making every stitch herselfClaire says the joy comes mostly from the making, and making every stitch herself (Image: Claire Bingham)