Vintage clothes in Glasgow and Edinburgh
- Anne McMeekin
- 20 September 2007
Something old, something new
Anne McMeekin visits Raw Vintage in Glasgow where the owners specialise in reinventing the past
Throwing out old clothes can be an emotional task and parting with that ripped pair of jeans you wore every day when you were 19 can be hard, but with a little imagination and some creative stitching, rips, tears and pinching waistlines need no longer spell the end for your favourite clothes.
At Raw Vintage, Glasgow’s premiere location for vintage shopping south of the Clyde, vintage clothes are tailor made to you, keeping their unique charm without being long in the sleeve.
‘It all started when I was at uni,’ says Lisa Carr, founder of Recycle and Wear clothing and owner of Raw Vintage. ‘My friends noticed that I designed and made my own clothes and would ask me to play around with some of their clothes too.’
So she got the idea of bringing some vintage style to the southside: ‘There was just nothing here before. People were fed up trooping over to the West End and straight away customers started coming in to browse. Initially they were curious southsiders passing by but now people are visiting from all over.’
It’s not just the clothes that are recycled here either – the shop interior was kitted out by Lisa’s husband and dad, who constructed its main frame from old scaffolding boards reclaimed from salvage yards, while items are displayed on antique furniture.
The store stocks vintage gear sourced from all over the world including suppliers from Italy and America, but the shopping experience in no way ends there. ‘We want to encourage people to look at what they’ve got and revamp it,’ explains Carr, ‘but we also alter items in store. We all know how hard it can be sometimes to fit into vintage dresses so we’re here to help out there too. Even if the piece does fit, sometimes you want it in a shorter length or with a different sleeve. It’s been a really popular service and it’s been great to see customers really thinking about what they want and coming up with their own ideas.’
Alongside this, customers can also request items made from scratch, perhaps following the design of a dress in store but with different fabric, costing anywhere between £75 and £200 while customising a garment starts from as little as £10.
The store also stocks clothes collections from local Glasgow designers, as well as prints, frames, retro coasters and even bags made from 50s tea towels. ‘Supporting local talent is really important to us,’ says Carr. ‘When I returned from working in Manchester I couldn’t believe how much the city was thriving. As the company grows, we hope to source and support more new designers from around Glasgow.’
But vintage clothing is Carr’s passion and she’s keen to help customers navigate their way through what can be a minefield of ill-fitting dresses and itchy jumpers.
‘Vintage clothes can be hard to wear,’ she says. ‘We want people to feel comfortable in their clothes and hopefully through the alteration and customisation service that’s what we’re doing.’
This ethos carries through to the store’s more intimate events such as in-store clothes parties. Customers are allowed their run of the shop and, with a glass of wine in hand, can try on clothes and receive style advice from the Raw Vintage experts.
‘People are seeing vintage style clothes on the catwalk and on celebrities and they want to wear something similar,’ Carr explains. ‘But I think ultimately people are also fed up buying these clothes from high street stores then seeing ten other people wearing the same item. They want to buy one-offs and that’s something you can’t get on the high street.’
A number of recent catwalk shows have been inspired by vintage styles and this, together with an increasing desire to stand out from the crowd, helps explain the current boom in the vintage clothing industry, according to Carr. ‘It’s refreshing to see someone who’s being individual with their own sense of style without trying too hard,’ she says. ‘Style is really just about being comfortable in your clothes rather than following trends.’
So what about that old pair of jeans? ‘We want to offer an outlet for people to recycle their clothes and look at them in a new way,’ says Carr. ‘If nothing else, it just makes good sense to give new life to old clothes instead of throwing them out.’
Raw Vintage, 3 Abbot Street, Glasgow, 07866 153 595, www.re-cycleandwear.co.uk, is holding its first birthday party on Sat 29 Sep, 1–5pm
Other places to shop
Vintage clothes shopping can be a challenge – all that sweaty polyester, all those sequinned blouses . . . For antique comfort, try investigating these Lycra-free safe havens:
Brigitte (41 King St, 0141 552 9564) stocks vintage clothes for people who don’t like vintage clothes. Nice prices dangle from the designer treasures but there’s not a whiff of granny inside. Round the corner, Mr Bens (101 King St, 0141 553 1936) has one too many swirly 70s patterns but the best selection of second-hand boots around. Head to The Glory Hole (41 Ruthven Lane, 0141 357 5662) for an ever-changing selection of bags at bargain prices while Starry Starry Night (19 Dowanside Lane, 0141 337 1837) is where to unearth real vintage finds from a bygone era.
In Edinburgh, Armstrongs (81-83 Grassmarket, 0131 220 5557; 64-66 Clerk St, 0131 667 6056) stocks everything from 18th-century military jackets to spandex leggings. For added feel-good factor Barnados Vintage (116 West Bow, 0131 225 4751) is a boutique charity shop with a quirky edge. Godiva (9 West Port, 0131 221 9212) offers a bespoke alteration service on vintage items alongside collections from ECA graduates, while Herman Brown (151 West Port, 0131 228 2589) displays clothes like antiques with an eclectic collection of Day-Glo 80s leggings and classy 70s dresses. Job done.
Paul Dale has had a thing about shopping for vintage clothes for as long as he can remember. He explains why
Old clothes, like old movies, have always held a special draw for me. I can remember being very taken by my grandfather’s wide-fitting beige Daks trousers, sock suspenders and penny loafers when I was a child, and being proud to hang out with my father when he wore his Harris Tweed blazer, broad-collared Louis Philippe shirts and a battered pair of flared Levis. It was perhaps through these and many other memories of a happy 1970s childhood that I formulated my style.
It is perhaps best described as somewhere between 70s porn baron/filmmaker and an Oxbridge don who’s been restyled by Howard Kirk, the eponymous History Man of Malcolm Bradbury’s 1975 novel. In short I like big collars, checks, flares, Italian shoes, jewellery, broad brimmed hats and Sammy/Tootal silk scarves. With repeated visits to charity shops and vintage clothing emporiums, it is a fairly easy look to collate though it does occasionally take courage to wear.
It is through family hand-me-downs and charity shops that I have created the main body of my wardrobe, but there are a few retro clothing shops that I have to visit in any given city. In Edinburgh, where I live, I love Armstrongs, The Rusty Zip and Barnardo’s Vintage. In Glasgow, I love Watermelon. In London, Camden market is great for scarves, denim and Stasi tracksuits (even fops have to exercise sometimes), while the inexpensive and eclectic 162 Holloway Road is fantastic for viscose photo-print shirts and 60s boot-cut cashmere mix trousers so tight they make you weep. In New York, it has to be the eccentric and reassuringly expensive Allan and Suzi’s or Screaming Mimi’s down on Lafayette, which sources a lot of its remarkable stock from recently wrapped film productions.
As with most men, my biggest fashion investment has been a suit. Some years ago I read an interview with Leonard Cohen and Joe Cocker, who were pictured in designer suits with a quote from Cohen underneath: ‘When you are this ugly you should only wear suits.’
Being a prematurely grey-haired man with a propensity for weight gain, it was something I could relate to. Shortly afterwards I found myself in a vintage clothing shop in Gorgie in Edinburgh, which is sadly no longer there. There I found a light blue with dark blue check original Drummond suit (pictured above), a label beloved of the early Mods. It was made up of equal parts wool, terylene polyester and mohair. It fitted like a glove and I had to have it. It cost £25, which was a small fortune to me back then, but it is the one suit that has never let me down. It’s the one that always fits and flatters my Weeble like body.
As I get older I find I have to really make an effort for people to look at me in the street. We are talking cravats and big hats here. Maybe they just think I am some weirdo who has spent too long riffling through his grandfather’s wardrobe. That’s OK with me, as I can only dream of looking half as good as the dandies and well turned out men of yesteryear.