In with the old

One of Glasgow’s best-loved vintage shops is trying to revolutionise the second-hand shopping experience. Eve Barlow peeks into the refurbished Watermelon.

Scuttling through Glasgow’s West End to meet Gavin O’Brien, owner of the recently refurbished vintage institution Watermelon, I wonder, what on earth am I looking for? Past experience of fusty second-hand hovels hadn’t prepared me for Watermelon’s new look: a creatively designed window leading into a shop space more chic boutique than junk trunk.

The growing fashion for vintage clothing over the past couple of decades is all about giving old gems a new, fresh(er) start, so, O’Brien reasoned, why not take a fresh approach to shopping for them too? Watermelon has been renovated in an attempt to entice in shoppers unfamiliar with the rummaging process. The clearout has brought new life and natural light into the shop, making it easier to find your dream prom dress or velvet blazer.

‘Initially we thought it was cool to have it very dark, but it’s not practical. It just feels so much bigger now,’ says O’Brien. ‘We knocked a wall down and now have a display area and a changing area. We’ve got more space to build new rails and show more stock.’ From the still-modest floor space shoppers can browse the rails upon rails of vintage gems lining the walls, high up to the bright ceiling, suspended from which are an off-beat chandelier and, er, a bicycle. Of course. It’s all been done in an effort to make shopping here more accessible to high-street browsers wary of the unfamiliar. ‘Some people look shocked at first, but we ask if they want a hand. We’re trying to avoid that awkward atmosphere. We want to separate everything and point people in the right direction.’

Sign-posted rails may sound like the idiot’s guide to vintage shopping, but O’Brien is quick to point out that attracting new clientele doesn’t mean they’ve gone mainstream. ‘We’re not trying to make it too sharp,’ he says, gesturing to the creatively cluttered shop floor, where labeled accessories are bundled into old-fashioned suitcases, pairs of shoes adorn cabinets and assorted coloured berets are neatly collated... on the walls. ‘It’s still a vintage thing’.

Watermelon are wise to their appeal to scenesters fleeing Topshop and have tailored the ambience accordingly. An alternative soundtrack replaces the conventional kitschy 60s compilation albums on loop. ‘This sort of music is almost mainstream now, isn’t it?’ says O’Brian. ‘It all goes hand in hand. If you’ve got cool abstract music, people appreciate it and ask what it is. We should get commission from Fopp!’ It’s no surprise to hear model-of-the-moment Agyness Deyn is a returning customer, popping in whenever she visits the city.

Most importantly, I notice, Watermelon has been purged of that dreaded vintage smell of moth-eaten hosiery and decades-old sweat. O’Brien is delighted. ‘Come back in ten years,’ he warns. ‘It’ll be stinking!’ I doubt it.

Watermelon, 603 Great Western Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 3900, www.myspace.com/watermelon_clothing

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