Before one can even begin to sell anything, he or she must have amassed a collection over the course of time. Did you reach a moment where you said to yourself, I’ve got too much stuff, I need to sell some? I had about 45 personal jackets and I thought this is ridiculous so I better sell a few of them. I had a lot of vintage horse-hide leather jackets and lots of Levis stuff, that’s what I started collecting. I collected that stuff because I liked it, and I still like it but I soon realised that 45 jackets was too many…or too many for me. So I decided to go and sell a few.
How long ago was that? About 10 years ago now – just over maybe. I’d dabbled in markets before, I used to fly-pitch at Portobello Road back in the day. That was in the 80’s and there was a real good buzz down there – it wasn’t until later that I started off at Spitalfields on a Friday.
Before Spitalfields had its makeover? Yes, when it was still damp, dingy and leaking…and great. It’s hard to imagine it now in fact.
But your dedication to vintage American clothing came about before that right? I take it you travelled out there to look for the clothes before you were selling them? Yeah I just flew out to the States. I had no contacts in the trade but I did have a couple of good friends who lived out there. They were kind enough to put me up and I just flew out, got myself a yellow pages, found a list of thrift stores and started calling them one by one. That’s how it was.
So you unearthed the gold mines before the masses got there? It must have been easier to find stuff then? Oh yeah definitely, thrift stores were still full of good stuff back then. Your chances of finding anything in a thrift store these days is virtually zero. The demand for vintage is so great right now and the Americans have picked up on that as well. What’s happened is that they have picked up on their own heritage. Prior to the interest from Japan and Europe they had no interest whatsoever in their own heritage.
How has that affected you? Do you have to buy stuff at a higher rate now? Yeah, I’ve gone higher end I guess…and more selective. I’m not necessarily buying less though. I’ve still got a lot of gear.
It’s just as well you’ve now got a shop to put them in. How did that come about? Well it’s always seemed like a natural progression to me to start off with a market stall and eventually go on to open a shop. I’ve been biding my time and now was the time to move really. This space became available so I thought I’d grab it. I’d done a little pop-up store in Clerkenwell last year. It was a cool venue and I like the area but at the weekend it’s completely dead, which is a shame because it’s a lovely area.
I guess that might change in time. I remember it wasn’t too long ago that where we are sitting now was a no go zone at the weekend too. True enough…not just at the weekend too. It took a while for Brick Lane and Spitalfields to become the destination it is now. I sell a lot of inspirational pieces to designers and stuff. I’d say that has been happening only over the last 3 years with this current explosion in everything vintage. Before that it was just private customers.
Do you still have elusive pieces or desired pieces that you are still searching for? Oh very much so…you get more educated in vintage. You find out more, the more you desire and the more you covet, the more you discover. So the holy grail for me at the moment would be a blue, centre zip deck jacket from the late 1930’s… they are as rare a hen’s teeth mate. But I did manage to find one once…unfortunately it was in the wrong size but it did make somebody else very happy.
Do you find that happens a lot? Yes definitely…I almost do personal shopping for people in a way. I find a specific item that’s very high end and I know I can place that with the right person. I’ve established a lot of customers over the years that know exactly what they want…it’s just about finding it for them.