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Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair

In this wonderful world of professional vintage, we’re familiar with the cycle of festivals and markets, of seasons and shows, but there’s one fair that has its own distinct charm. The September Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair at the Old Finsbury Town Hall, launched in 2009 and just five minutes from Angel Tube, is one of the most intently awaited events of the year by both trade and customers. And here’s why.

One good reason is that it’s the first fair of the season leading up to Christmas (the one before it is back in May). While there isn’t exactly a haze of mulled wine or the sound of carol singers, there’s a definite feel of buyers imagining their shops filled with racks of exquisite gift items come the festive season. And we all know that there’s noting like vintage to make the annual gift unwrapping super special.

A Van der Brit surrealist evening bag on show at Clerkenwell in Sepember

A Van der Brit surrealist evening bag on show at Clerkenwell in Sepember

As it was held on 13th September this year (just a week before the acclaimed London Fashion Week), the capital was already stuffed with designers, journalists, stylists, fashion buyers, bloggers and fashion lovers from all around the globe. You can be sure that some of these ridiculously glamorous people dropped in on us at the Clerkenwell Fashion Fair. In fact, on the Sunday it was rumoured that the team from Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson were in the house. The fair has become a seamless part of the London fashion scene.

It’s also a quality vintage product. You’d be hard pressed to find a brighter collection of curated labels and selected pieces. Like my fellow traders, we only bring in the best items from our collection and fashion wanderings. It’s the choicest and best pickings from our fashion hunting and gathering, that nerve-wrenching and yet exhilarating process of sourcing the wonderful pieces that will go towards assembling our final collections. Sale or no sale, we feel a tangible emotional connection with each piece. For real.

And of course right now we’re starting to prepare for the next fair on Sunday 25th October. It’s the beauty of never being able to predict who will come through the doors and it’s that allure which only stellar vintage can bring.

Like to come along to the next fair? Here are the details.

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With all the buckets of rain and stormy skies, you may be forgiven for thinking it’s been September for weeks in the UK. But now it actually is. Take a look at the sky. It’s probably raining right now if you’re anywhere near where we are.

Time to wrap ourselves in 1970’s glamour and lusciousness as the days begin to close in and that chill snakes round colder streets. A chance to spend autumn and winter recalling the decade of contrasts, of conflict, of strikes and yet endless hot summers. Let Van der Brit transport you back to that lost decade as we handpick and up-style an exquisite vintage outfit to reflect zeitgeist old and new.

So we present our lovely Frank Usher dress (fresh from the 1970s, naturally). It’s a piece crafted from a polyester fabric that gives a lightly knitted effect, shimmering in its delicate  aqua green colour . Look how it is so  beautifully cut, particularly the sleeves. The overall look is one of femininity and sophistication; strong shades of autumn (but, to be honest, the UK seasons can be autumnal all year long!).

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The Frank Usher label opened for business in London in 1946.

We’ve decided to pair it with a mix of vintage and contemporary accessories to develop the richness of its period and on-trend flavour. The Seventies is still a big fashion thing holding strong for autumn/winter 2015-16. We’re seeing it come through again and again on catwalks and high street.

We’ve used a gorgeous warm brown fox collar  (wrap it around your neck like a scarf)  and a fedora-style hat in a deep red  wine colour. We love the  powerful contrast (the Yin and Yang) of the very feminine dress against the ultra masculine fedora hat.  Those colours, next to the gorgeous aqua green, are very  2015 autumn.

The Steve Madden boots are also a modern take on the Seventies in a lovely tan colour.  The small crossover dark tan 1970’s bag is matched with period layered gold and green necklaces.  Green is an amazing colour if you have brunette, black, blonde or red hair and is also the colour of the heart in the chakras. The warm gold is also great for all hair types and is a very forgiving metal colour. We’re talking the deep shades of autumn here, the richness of fallen leaves.

Wear your lipstick  and nail vanish in a hue that is close to the hat colour to complete the look perfectly. Hair could be loose under the hat or in a chignon but with strand of hair framing your face under the hat.

And would the Frank Usher label approve? We hope so. While the fashion house took its inspiration from the bigger labels, it built its following on affordable prices and attention to detail. Perfect for the strife-torn Seventies in London (a decade when the label was at its peak) and for these current times of austerity. Re-make, develop, respect the past but take on the current trend. And that’s the ethos of Van der Brit’s vintage fashion style. 

Interested in our gorgeous Frank Usher dress or exploring other unique vintage pieces? We’re here.


Think you know a whole bunch of stuff about Portobello Road? With a vintage shop and stall slap bang in the middle of it, we thought we did. At the stall every Friday (just past the Westway flyover) and in the shop on a Saturday (Admiral Vernon, Unit 42 -141 Portobello Road), we don’t so much soak up the market vibe but suck it in. It’s an energy that becomes addictive, particularly if you’re unhealthily into all things vintage-and-wearable like us. But it’s only when you actually do a bit of digging that you uncover that little bit extra about undercover Portobello. So, here, dear Reader, I present a selection of random trivia that you most likely never knew Britiain’s most famous market.

The Portobello Film Festival is held every August.

The Portobello Film Festival is held every August.

1. If you go down to Portobello Road, you’re sure of a big surprise. But it won’t be ‘every bear that ever there was’ but one named Paddington. The iconic children’s book character Paddington Bear frequents the market in Michael Bond’s books and in the 2014 film. Of course, that’s Portobello by way of darkest Peru.

2. The Electric Cinema, that landmark building situated in Portobello, was besieged by an angry mob during World War I who thought its German-born manager was signalling to Zeppelin pilots from the roof, after nearby Arundel Gardens was bombed.

3. Remember that 1999 rom-com Notting Hill? The song playing when Hugh Grant walks down Portobello Road is “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers.

4. ‘Best time to visit the market? Ask an insider like us! About 10am on either a Friday or Saturday. You can have a gentle stroll around before the crowds really gather. You will still catch that essential Portobello buzz but with a little less hassle.

5. If you find a copy of the Spells of Astoroth, keep hold of it. It’s the elusive book the children, Miss Eglantine Price and Professor Emelius Brown are searching for in Portobello Road in the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Magic.

We specialise in wearable vintage with a contemporary feel.

We specialise in wearable vintage with a contemporary feel.

Got any questions about the market? Ask a friendly vintage seller like us! We’re specialists in wearable, individual vintage pieces and know the area inside out. We’re massive Portobello Market fans and love the inspiration it gives us every Friday at our stall and Saturday in our shop (Admiral Vernon, Unit 42 -141 Portobello Road). You can also come and see us on September 13 at the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair.


Are you an S&Mer who worships at the feet of a shiny, vertiginous stiletto, a costume historian whose heart skips more than one beat at the thought of a rough old Medieval sandal or a fashionata stockpiling countless Jimmy Choos? Chances are that you’re not actually any of these but that you do have something akin to a love affair with shoes, particularly if you’re a woman. If so, you’ll have that in common with the hundreds of people queueing between glass cases at the newly opened Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London this summer.

And if shoes are indeed your thing (and, let’s face it, it’s always about more than practicalities when faced with covering our own precious pieds), there is everything to like and lust after at this feast of footgear spanning two floors and 200 pairs.

'How beautiful are thy feet with shoes', Song of Solomon

‘How beautiful are thy feet with shoes’, Song of Solomon

French shoe designer Roger Vivier (credited with creating the ruinous stiletto heel) once said, ‘‘To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give reality to one’s dreams.’ And these shoes are more fantasy than functional. They exist in a parallel world where noone has to walk to the supermarket, hop on a bus or stand at the sink . Or if they did, like Naomi Campbell in Vivienne Westwood’s scary shiny blue platforms (also displayed), they’d quickly come an elegant cropper.

So, let’s hear it for the 14” men’s platform boots which were apparently worn to clubs in the 1970s to ‘kick the shit out of other men’. Nice. Then there is a pair of Queen Victoria’s narrow gold and silk slippers, so dainty that they must date from that pre-accession period when she wasn’t allowed to walk up the stairs without her mother. The infant-proportioned monstrosities from China’s foot binding history are baldly shocking.


The show displays personal shoe collections including Robert’s who has amassed 800 pairs of Adidas trainers.

To peruse the footwear here is to discover a story about the outer reaches of femininity and masculinity. It’s about the sheer magic power of shoes to mould and transform, to entice and seduce, to make your day go with more of a swing. It’s not about walking but walking with style.

You can catch Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A, South Kensington, until 31 January 2016. It was extremely busy when we visited but should calm down as the weeks go on.


‘It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within.’ Alexander McQueen’s words are pasted in silent procession through the walls, tunnels and dark corners of this major V&A retrospective, but it’s the grandly fragile pieces themselves that tell the real story.

Dealing with a body of work that overwhelms with its dichotomy of majesty and frailty, of victim and dominatrix, the curators of Savage Beauty present a view of the designer, who died in 2010 at the age of 40, in which the clothes symbolise the meaning of life. Or at least of his short but creatively immense life.

Wandering from room to room is like walking backstage through a period film set. There is little to read, to set the context of a Britain moving through our Young British Artists and New Labour, to the invasion of Iraq and the London bombings, but clothes on mannequins stand as intricately dressed witnesses to a creative talent that helped shape the style of a generation. And so we appropriately read, ‘I don’t want to be a purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting so that when I’m dead and gone people will know that the Twenty-First Century was started by Alexander McQueen.’

McQueen: 'Whatever else I’ve done, I’ve never tried to be something that I’m not.'

McQueen: ‘Whatever else I’ve done, I’ve never tried to be something that I’m not.’

And there is no denying the beauty of the clothes themselves as they tower impossibly high and brilliant in thematic halls of golden mirrors, grainy black and white footage, twirling podiums and ambient bird song. They are female armour, marriage dresses and ripped ball gowns. Clothes and accessories are famously formed of leather, wood, glass, prosthetics, feathers and shells. Dresses to be sprayed, ripped, drowned and flaunted. Catwalk performances are shown, as in the focal point of the exhibition (the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’), as tiny, edgy, S&M arthouse films on multiple TV screens. The hats, frocks and shoes in this room form a bizarre collection of fetish objects subverting the usual British living room mantlepiece.

Clothes like these don’t come through twice in a lifetime. And this darkly entertaining exhibition is most likely our only chance to experience them in our own.

Savage Beauty, a retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s work from 1992 to 2010, is on at the V&A, South Kensington, London, until 2 August 2015.

Thrifty Hunter article Nov 14

Click here to read the article


Like all women I absolutely love fashion and adore the playful light-hearted fun I get from putting a look together. But, I have a confession. What I really love the most are accessories. I learnt from an early stage that detail is everything. And accessories are the icing on the cake.

The power of a well- chosen accessory can be mind blowing and great, great fun. From our hair to our make-up; adding the perfect pair of shoes, handbag, jewellery, hat, scarf, shawl, gloves, vintage furs – the list goes on – can turn us all into a Holly Golightly.

I particularly love mixing new with old; it creates, in my opinion, a glamorous eclectic mix of elegance and individualism. Accessories create a unique signature, individual to the person.  And don’t be afraid of mixing era’s, because that’s the mark of a truly inspired look. Try pairing a lovely 1970s necklace with this 1930s beaded handbag (see above) for a virtuoso appearance.

Accessorising lets you easily change the overall look of any of your outfits. It can be inspirational, exciting and stimulating. I love the fun of trying to find just the ‘right’ accessory. And it’s a great way of reviving an old outfit.

I always say that one can’t ever have too many accessories to play with, but then you’d expect me to say that of course!


I have to confess that I’ve long been a fan of Roberta di Camerino, a designer who started out in 1945. She had a significant impact on Italian fashion. However, she’s a bit of a hidden secret.  But if fashion is your thing, then she should be in your sights, because she’s back on trend.

If you need convincing, consider this – only last year I decided to auction this fabulous Trompe L’Oeil 1970’s dress from my private collection. And amazingly it’s now featured in the current Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition, ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014’.

But even though she’s featured in this exhibition, you can still find her pieces. I recently sourced this gorgeous 1970’s maxi dress directly from Italy. It’s a rare find, which I’m pleased to feature in my boutique stall in Portobello. And I expect it to sell it very quickly, such is the demand for her designs.

What makes Roberta a favourite of mine? Her designs have always represented glamour, elegance and style – something that’s a Van der Brit signature.

She took designing bags to a new level in the mid 1940’s. Roberta was the first designer to start the ‘status bag’ trend with famous people. Grace Kelly, Farrah Fawcett, Elizabeth Taylor, and more recently Madonna, have all been seen with her opulent bags.

Roberta’s designs have always symbolised luxury and style. From designing bags she expanded into clothing and accessories and went on to win the Neiman Marcus ‘Oscar of Fashion’ Award, The Compasso D’Oro  just to name a few and   in the 1980’s she had her first exhibition in New York at The Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1975 she opened a large boutique in Fifth Avenue, New York.

She was a fashion icon in her time, but the thing that impresses me is that most of her clothing and bags are still highly current and contemporary. If you’re lucky enough to have a piece of her clothing today you can mix and match with modern trends and still be up-to-date, but with a highly unique twist. Which is, after all, what Van der Brit is about – helping you get that unique look while teaming up the vintage with the contemporary.