I’ve been going to vintage fairs for as long as I can remember although I’m sure we called them jumble sales when I was a kid, the content is definitely more refined now as lives up to the new name. I’m that person who arrives early on and does a lap, heart beating out of my chest in anticipation, scanning for rare items, and then relaxes for second go round after a coffee, taking my time and eyeing up every single trinket.
The Midcentury and Vintage fair hosted by the fantastic Duchy Vintage in the impeccably styled Bedruthan Hotel is a powerhouse of awesome in the Vintage calendar of Cornwall. I was completely thrilled to be in such stellar company amongst the absolute best of Cornwalls Vintage traders and makers, though a little forlorn that I wasn’t shopping like usual!
I’m a buyer of the brooches and handbags, the ephemera collector, the kitchenalia botherer and a midcentury furniture swooner, but I’ve never had a great deal of luck with clothing at vintage fairs. I’m short and pear shaped, so need to adjust most of what I buy (so frequently talk myself out of it because I don’t really have time (ahem)) but I adore looking at the rails of bygone fashions, the click and drag of the coat hangers as I rifle through the decades, checking labels and feeling fabrics, pulling on hems to admire the sweep.
What I don’t remember from my youth (a nineties teenager, in case you were wondering) is seeing reproduction at fairs, and though repro is as popular as ever online, I’ve never been completely sure where I fit into the party with the true vintage on offer at the fair. Something I have noticed recently is that the price point of vintage fashion seems completely polarised into mis-shaped bargains and historical treasure. Reproduction is so affordably inclusive now if you go to mass produced online retailers, but my clothes are hand made by me, taking hours of work and using fabric you may never see again, there’s only one owner for each frock and each frock is a one off, it can be tough to explain this to customers if they don’t stop to chat.
The shoppers at vintage fairs are often divided too, into those who consider the wares a little expensive, and those who actively give vintage its inflated value. It is true that something is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. An item I sold at the fair this month had four admirers who decided it was too expensive, then another girl fell in love with it and didn’t bat a winged eye at the swing tag before she took it home.
This in mind, I would say my very specific niche in this market place actually is well placed between the 60’s high street and 40’s couture, because all of it is interesting to the vintage fashion enthusiasts. Quite unexpectedly for me, it isn’t actually about the sales at the fair…its about inspiring and engaging. To build an audience, make friends and take on commissions.
Over the course of the two day fair I spoke to literally hundreds of interesting and encouraging people who were inspired to share stories and memories because of seeing something I had brought or made. Beautiful nostalgia of grandparents, childhood and family. Cheeky memories from older ladies remembering their youth and the happy recollections of a missed relative by the youngsters. Such a warm and comforting thing, rousing these feelings and sharing the vintage love.
It can be isolating working from home being the only person in your business; not only attending, but participating in the wondrous event that is The Vintage Fair, brings me so much joy and compounds my love of what I am doing, propelling me further down the path I have chosen, but with even more super cool Vintage friends
Thank you to everyone who came