A busy day today. It took me forever to get outside as I tried to keep on top of the deluge of e-mail! When I finally managed to slam the front door behind me, I caught the bus down to The Affordable Vintage Fair being held in the student union at Nottingham Trent University. I’d happened upon it the day before after picking up an eye-catching flyer in a boutique.
Judy Berger, a former stylist, started these fairs in 2005. She has a passion for bringing affordable retro fashion to a wider audience – and true to her word – the majority of garments being sold were much cheaper than the usual offering. There were lots of £1 and £5 bargain rails full of decent and wearable clobber designed to appeal to the student market. However, there were a few gems too at decent prices, as well as a good selection of vintage textiles, jewellery and other bits and pieces. It being Freshers' Week , the place was pretty busy with all those new recruits scouring the rails for stuff to give them the style edge.
Of the vendors, one in particular sparked my interest. Rachel and Jenna, both Nottingham Trent graduates themselves, set up their company three years ago. They called it “Kathleen and Lily” after their Grandmas who taught them how to sew. Rachel in particular inherited lots of hand-me-downs from her Granny, but didn’t want to wear them in the same way, and that’s how she dreamed up a business doing customised vintage. As well as running a little shop in the city, the girls go to vintage fairs up and down the country offering to alter purchases on the spot.
Do they think the current craze for Make Do And Mend is just a fashion?
“Three years ago it was really hard to market what we did and to get people to understand it.” says Rachel. “However, since the credit crunch, we’ve been really busy, and more people than ever want their clothes mended. Everyone wants to look unique, so customised clothing is becoming really popular. Our shopping bags, made from recycled fabric are selling well - people are thinking more about the environment.”
Interestingly, many of the students I talked to hadn’t heard of Make Do And Mend per se…but when I asked them whether they’d make, mend or customise their clothing, most of them said that they would. Interestingly, few would consider just chucking something out. A new type of Make Do And Mend is emerging it seems - which embraces customisation. True, it’s not the hard-core stuff of the 1940’s – you get the feeling that the toughest jobs won’t get done. But there is a sense of responsibility, a growing unease about materialism that’s driving these youngsters, as well as a desire to look different. Yes it’s something of a trend, but it also feels like values have shifted. We shall see!