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North Devon is getting a taste for vintage style

PUBLISHED: 16:09 19 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:10 19 September 2014

Gorgeous old French stuff

Gorgeous old French stuff


North Devon has established itself as a vintage hotspot, attracting sellers and enthusiasts from across the South West, as DEBBIE MANNERS discovers

Alison BrooksAlison Brooks

Drop into any vintage fair, and you’ll find a huge cross section of visitors, from on-trend teenagers to young families and smiling grandmothers. Even the occasional chap too.

The vintage look has admirers from all walks of life, intrigued by the designs and intricate workmanship of yesteryear.

So why have we fallen in love with the past again? What has put us back in touch with the clothes and household items that our grandparents and great grandparents used?

“I think people love the prettiness of these things,” says Rosemary Hallett, whose company Once Upon a Time, organises the popular Vintage and Makers’ Markets held in South Molton. These markets have been attracting buyers and sellers from Cornwall to Dorset, with stalls being booked up as soon as they are available.

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“The young people love the ’50s dresses, with their big skirts, which look so feminine. And the older people enjoy looking at all these items that remind them of a time when life was a bit simpler, a bit less hurried. I think it’s about nostalgia really, even though times were pretty tough then as well.”

“Ladies clothes were so elegant, romantic and feminine,” adds Alison Brooks, a long established North Devon vintage dealer, whose company Vintage Grace specialises in ladies’ wear from the 1920s-50s.

“These clothes are often handmade and they all have their own story to tell. They just can’t be replicated in today’s mass market.”

Strictly speaking, ‘Vintage’ is associated with the post war era, while products from the 1970s and ’80s are known as ‘Retro’. But it is Vintage that has become the flavour of the moment, a powerful selling tool, pulling at the heart strings and weaving an emotional, and some might say rose-tinted, link with the last century. These nostalgic themes are now creeping into modern fashion trends, interior design and even the world of the movies.

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“The word ‘vintage’ is connected with a sense of glamour in a way that the word ‘antique’ is not,” suggests Neil Mckernan-Lewis, who used to run the Braunton flea markets. He’s a regular stallholder at vintage events across the region with his own French items, collected through his company Gorgeous Old French Stuff, sourced from markets in southern France.

“I think the reason that vintage is popular now is to do with the austere times in which we live. Money is short for many people, and they want a bargain, and vintage fairs are full of bargains. Many of the younger people coming to these fairs, in their 20s and 30s, are looking for unusual or individual items to put a personal mark on their homes. They want something different. They don’t remember these items from the ’40s and ’50s, they see them with fresh eyes.”

However, most of the items found in vintage markets are British. “They are beautifully designed, and made to last, particularly the clothes,” says Tony Rampton, who runs the regular Nostalgia Fairs at the Cedars Hotel in Barnstaple. After 30 years selling antique jewellery, ceramics and small items of furniture through his own business What Treasures, Tony now also specialises in men’s vintage clothing. “We were finding quite a few couples coming to our fairs, and the men seemed rather bored, so we thought we’d put some gents’ items into the sales, such as hacking jackets and tweeds, all nice quality, made from wool. They sold very well, particularly to teenagers, who really enjoy wearing these vintage jackets.”

It is the way the vintage look appeals to all ages that Tony particularly likes: “Vintage opens up to a completely different audience. Antiques tend to interest only the over 50s, but younger people love the vintage things, especially from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.”

It is the sense of excitement and anticipation that sets the vintage scene apart, according to Donna Flower, a regular seller at North Devon’s fairs with her vintage fabrics. “It is like treasure hunting, because you never know what you will find. That’s why people come.”

Vintage Fairs coming up in North Devon:

Sunday 12th October 2014. South Molton Flea Market, Pannier Market

Sunday 7th December 2014. The Landmark Veritably Vintage Fair, Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe. See the What’s On page.

Sunday 7th December 2014. Torrington’s Nostalgic Christmas Fayre, Torrington Square and Pannier Market.

Further information on facebook

Best selling items at Vintage Fairs

We asked vintage stallholders to tell us their best sellers:

Useful products like butter dishes or toast racks, serving bowls, things that can be used every day.

Anything with roses on, such as tea cups, fabric etc.

Tablecloths, particularly hand embroidered ones, things that took time to create.

Clothes, especially ladies’ dresses from the 40s and 50s.

Men’s tweed hacking jackets, which look great on teenagers!

Colourful costume jewellery.

Small ornaments and nick nacks.

Vintage fabrics, often remade into something new, like cushion covers.

Vintage inspired fabrics, with designs such as beach huts.

Kitchenalia , such as cooking utensils.

Gardenalia , such as garden tools, plant pots.

Military items.

Small pieces of furniture, particularly colourful tiled furniture.

Ladybird books with beautiful illustrations.

Toys, such as old pedal cars.

The Weird and Wonderful – always sells!


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