Friday, 28 January 2011

Wardrobe-swapping with Hazel Holtham

Greetings loved ones,

On the eve of our vintage fairs in Durham, Newcastle and Leeds this weekend, we get away from the grindstone to catch up with Rag&Bow founder and all-round cool cat, Hazel Holtham. Fresh from a stint with Supermarket Sarah and a collection in Selfridges, our Bethnal Green partner and retro pioneer tells all...

Q: Hi Hazel! Looking at your CV, you've had quite the colourful life - from writer to manager to retro nomad at Rag&Bow. How do your roots and history help navigate your wardrobe?

A: 'My Mum is basically my fashion history, her wardrobe is a perfect time capsule of amazing dresses and accessories collected and handmade from the late 60's to the 70's. As a child, we were never allowed into this cavern of colour so I used to sneak in to peak. I was literally in awe of all these amazing clothes. On many occasions I have worn an outfit only for my mum to produce an unseen picture from her youth wearing an identical look; it's amazingly spooky! Strangely I have always loved clothes from the past but only adopted vintage pieces into my wardrobe in my late teens whilst studying at the London College of Fashion. There was definitely an unspoken style rivalry which seemed to subliminally happen on a daily basis!'

Q: One of the aspects I admire about Rag&Bow is the fact that 90s fashion is incorporated [something which would ruffle the feathers of many vintage and even retro purveyors but not us - viva Tie Dye!] Was this a decision that came naturally to you, managing a frontman synonymous with the 90s [Keith from the Prodigy] or did it take some thought?

A: 'The stance that I take is style over fashion; I am not a purist in terms of vintage decades having to be replicated from head to foot. I want people to feel that they can incorporate vintage pieces into their everyday style. I'm also not a traditionalist when it come to decades, if we find an amazing piece then we're not going to dismiss it from our collection due to its age. The demand is there from our customers for items that encapsulate that 90's look and it's their opinion which matter to us most. When I worked for Keith, he actually wore vintage pieces such as striped, 1930s, boating jackets picked up from inspiring menswear shop, Old Hat, on Fulham Hight Street. If you look at 1990s fashion, many pieces worn by musician's were vintage; from the thrift shop style adopted by Seattle grunge bands to UK acts such as Blur accidentally adopting a certain, vintage, geek-chic due to being penniless arts students at Goldsmiths's and buying their clothes from second hand stalls at Deptford market.'

Q: Talk to me about the infamous Rag&Bow house parties - is there a big demand for vintage home styling and are the only ones applicable those with cash to spare?

A: 'We started our house parties due to our ethos of giving customers something new and original. We were the first vintage brand to start providing this service. Our initial market research showed that many people love vintage pieces but were often intimidated to go rifling through rack's of clothes in a massive vintage shop or even step into smaller boutiques. As we started in the height of the recession we wanted to be an affordable brand so it was a conscience decision not to have a permanent shop [allowing us keep our price points low] The house parties are a way of getting our items to customers in a very accessible and affordable way. Our items are perfect for people with a small shopping budget but the quality and individuality of our collections are also loved by those with a larger one. Customers are very comfortable with trying items on in the comfort of their own home with a Rag&Bow stylist on hand to help them pick out items to suit their body shape and individual style. Time Out recently said our events aren't "just a sale but a vintage experience" which is why the service has become so popular. Its a barometer of people wanting a bespoke shopping experience at their convenience without a huge price tag.'

Q: Judging by your personal style, your homepage [Judy's loves it by the way] and of course, your Supermarket Sarah wall, your style is very DIY. If you could pick five items to represent your style and personality, what would they be?

A: 'My first item would be a signed illustration by Celia Birtwell given to me by a friend whilst working with Celia on her collection for Top Shop. I have been obsessed with the artistic relationship between Ossie Clark and Celia since a young teenager. When I received this I screamed like someone meeting Justin Bieber! The second item would be my limited print by the late but absolutely great Corinne Day. It is of a naked Kate Moss in a tin hat bought to raise funds to treat Corinne's brain tumour. It is a constant reminder not to take this fashion business too seriously and to remember what is really important in life. My 3rd item would be my amazing Christian Dior, monogrammed,1950s clutch bag. When I worked in television production I shot an interview with Paul Simonon from The Clash in a now defunct vintage shop in London. I spotted this bag and the owner sold it to me at a huge discount, it was my first designer vintage piece but more importantly it's similar to one that Carries Bradshaw wore in SATC (sad but true)! The 4th item is a beautifully crafted Alaia jacket I bought in a charity shop for £16 purely for the ludicrous bargain that it was. The last but absolutely not least item is one of my mum's 70's flowerprint maxi dresses that I managed to recently prise from her tight grasp.'

Q: Was your collaboration with Judy's a stroke of luck and what waits in store for our London fair goers this time round?

A: 'I met Judy when I appeared on BBC's Twiggy's Frock Exchange as a vintage expert, Judy was at the studio and we got chatting as I was a big fan of and realised we had about 50 things in common. We kept in touch and the London fair seemed like a natural collaboration to work on due to my past production/fashion credentials and knowledge of London. It was definitely a huge 'Sliding Doors' moment! We are really excited that we've established a home at the amazing York Hall, it lends itself amazingly to the fair and its huge space allows us give people exciting concepts such as the much applauded men's shopping area. The exclusivity of our London traders really excites me personally, as a vintage enthusiast as well as event organiser. Many of the traders don't trade anywhere else in London so for me it's such a unique experience to be able to get my hands onamazing finds without venturing onto the M6. I am really excited about the addition of Rebel Pinup, who are replicating their Leeds salon at York Hall complete with furniture! Owner Craig Christon worked on The Kings Speech with Colin Firth so we are really looking forward to such a experienced salon producing our vintage makeovers.'

Q: Finally, to end on something fun, if you could swap wardrobes with anyone throughout history, who would it be and why?

A: 'It would have to be Elizabeth Ponsonby, one of the 1920's 'Bright Young People' who was famous for simply partying like a 20th century Kim Kardashian! I'm obsessed with that period but she was one of the most indefinably glamorous and extravagant people from that group. She attended ludicrously themed fancy dress parties in outfits such as silk swimming costumes which caused shock equivalent to Jodie Marsh wearing two belts as a top!'

Despite juggling Rag&Bow, her Selfridges concession and organising February's Bethnal Green Affordable Vintage Fair [which reeled in over 2000 revellers last year] with Judy and the team, Hazel remains one of the most level-headed and mind-blowingly stylish gals in the game. To get a bigger glimpse of all things Holtham, check out the Rag&Bow homepage or take a look at Bethnal Green's Affordable Vintage Fair to get the skinny on what's going on. In the meantime, we can't wait to see what else she pulls out of the bag. Roam on, retro warrior!

That's all for now folks - remember, if you're in the North East or the Leeds hood this weekend, get down to the fairs - it's going to be a ball!

Retro lovins,


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Hasbeens Heartbreak....followed by extreme joy!

Hello all, before I begin I'd like to apologise for my absence from the blog for a while, I have been extremely busy with my day job, university and the lack of a camera is preventing me from sharing my amazing recent carboot/charity shop finds (hopefully later this week!)! So I thought I'd begin by telling you a sorry tale about a pair of beautiful boots (it does have a happy ending though, I promise.). Ever since the lovey Judy introduced me to the wonder of Swedish Hasbeens I have been on a mission to own some. A few small things stood in my way; they come from Sweeden, they don't sell them in Ikea and they are way out of my price range! So image my joy when I came across these beauties, reduced from a whopping £265 to a shockingly amazing £70 on

When they came they were everything I expected, well made, beautiful and very very comfortable. However there was one small problem, unfortunately I have very sausagy legs and when I put them on, my legs just looked terrible! They were the wrong height and I knew if I kept them they'd just sit in my cupboard unloved and unworn. So with a heavy heart I returned them.

So I carried on my search for the perfect boots and after much searching, I managed to bag myself a pair of these gorgeous Jodphur books from asos for £120 (£150 minus the 20% student discount at the moment):

They are so beautiful I love them, and although not quite the bargain the others were, they will get worn.

On my internet travels searching for Hasbeens I realised I don't have to pay a fortune for these amazing shoes for two reasons. Reason number one is there are some amazing sales on at the moment, have a look at, they have some excellent reductions, plus an extra 20% for students at the moment. I also found these:

Reason number two was my most exciting discovery though! H&M have teamed up with Swedish Hasbeens and are releasing their own specialy designed range!!!!! They will be available in stores on April 20th (marked on my calendar!). There will be three different styles, my favourite being this:
and they will retail at 49.95 Euros (not sure of sterling price as it doesn't say!). For the full press release and details go here:

I almost wept with joy at the thought! If you can't wait until April for some bargain Hasbeens, Ebay is always my go to place. I bagged a pair of these last year for £30 including postage:
There are always a few pairs on and you never know you might grab a bargain.
For those of you who don't fret about price, check out the new Spring/Summer 2011 collection on the website:, there are some gorgeous new styles including flat Hepburn style pumps and 60s slingbacks. My personal favourites are these:
Perforated leather with a cute bow!!! What more could you ask for!
So thats all for now, I will be back asap with tales of light fittings, leather satchels and dress patterns from land of Charity shops!

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Black Swan of the family

Greetings loved ones,

As you read this, one imagines that you find yourselves al fresco, shivering in the British wintertime, in a queue that could give Kate Moss at Topshop or the 80's opening of 'The Empire Strikes Back' a run for its money. The queue I speak of is not for The Affordable Vintage Fair in Leeds, Durham and Newcastle [which take place next weekend. Expect a similar level of enthusiasm however - a camping stool and a thermos could be a must!] but a line at your local picture house, waiting to see Black Swan.

Yes, Aronofsky's tale of one tiny dancer's decent into darkness has the nation and the awards boards solidly gripped. In addition to an intoxicating storyline, stellar performances by golden girls Portman and Kunis and, er, enough explicit content to make even the most liberal amongst us turn a shade of red, another aspect has ruffled some feathers; the costumes. With scores popping the Pilates ball and turning to tutus, ballet has never been so right now - whether working out or out on the town, a pirhouette has never been so acceptable. Created by those Mulleavy sister whizzkids at Rodarte, here's an example of their costume sorcery...

And that's just the beginning. With various controversies and gripes coming from ballerinas and critics around the world, it seems that scandal has also seeped into the House of Rodarte. Nominated for an 'Excellence witihn Contemporary Film' award by the Costume Designers Guild [CDG], it has recently come to light that all credit will lie with costume designer Amy Westcott and not the sisters themselves. Whipping up the fever, once again the Black Swan causes some to see red.

In keeping with our vintage theme, we recently stumbled upon two gorgeous images of fifties creations by Jean Patou and Christian Dior. One light, one dark, the old-school oracle has spoken once more, predicting one of this year's most elegant and enjoyable micro trends; prima ballerina.

When shopping the fairs, look out for lace, ruching, feathers and the theatrical - there are some real bargains to be had. With a strong overlap between retro and the stage, many of our traders feature old-world creations like those above which are perfect for introducing a little bit of drama into your day [as well as being bang on-trend] Never knowing where a piece has been, where it has come from, what it has seen or which boards it has treaded - that's the thrill [frill?] of shopping vintage.

That's all for now folks - more musings next week.


Friday, 14 January 2011

Friday Fun with The Affordable Vintage Fair

Greetings loved ones,

As we slog on at Judy HQ and the rest of you soldier through your day, here's a little light relief to usher in the weekend courtesy of Parisian heavyweight 'L'Officiel' magazine, September 1957....

In addition to belted coats, cloche hats, wool dresses and all the other couture delights of a Paris gone by [which will, bit by bit, be winging their way onto the blog for your occular pleasure. At this moment in time, I just want to stack up the old editions into some sort of chronological fort, pulling each one out like vintage-mag jenga. If you want me, i'll be in my paper Bastille!] this particular ad tickled my funny bone...

Fresh from the Sator marketing boys, the fifties ad appears to be for, well....stripes [not the freshest of concepts, i concur, but let's roll with it...] Alongside our three, preened housewives, one cannot help but notice a jolly prisoner, all aloft on his toes and looking rather pleased with himself. What could our inmate be so smug about, standing there all shackled and immobile?

Monsieur prisoner is probably so chuffed because his ensemble is finally 'de rigeur;' weaving the whole tapestry together, a cheeky French tagline reads 'a the charm of stripes.' There's our answer - throw out those pastels ladies, prison chic is in. As, er, literal as it is, the ladies look happy enough [and mr. prisoner looks down right delighted] and juvi-worthy verticals are still with us fifty years later - one only has to look at thje hubbub caused over music muse Rihanna's blazer choice in the 'What's my name' video...

Testament to the constant loop-de-loop that is fashion, vintage couture magazines such as Vogue and l'Officiel are great ways to train your eye to look for the one-off articles when shopping the fairs and are offer great styling inspiration when ploughing through the Highstreet [keep your eyes out for seventies editions if you want a little help on how to wear this season's biggest trend.] As for the penchant for stripes, the ladies above certainly look like they 'feel like the olny girls in the world' [even if it is Green mile chic. Let's hope that Li-Lo's orange jumpsuit can't be found back in the vintage archives. Shuudderr]

That's all for now folks, check back next week for tips on vintage jewellery and we go all Black Swan glamourous.

Old-school lovin,'


Thursday, 6 January 2011

'No necks, legs or shoulders please - we're British'

Greetings loved ones!

First of all, Happy New Year from all at Judy HQ!! Wherever you were, whoever you were with, we hope that it was [at least partially] a memorable affair! Now that the stockings are down, the trees are packed away [such a sad day in any household - we wish there was a place we could keep them up all year round - call it 'Treehab. Or 'A and Tree'] and the Baileys is banished, we're gearing up for 20-11. Are you excited?? Because we're excited!

Adding Cardiff, St. Andrews and Southampton to our repertoire, The Affordable Vintage Fair is coming at you from all sides! For a full list of dates, check back to our
homepage and keep your peepers on Facebook. With more traders, accessory-buffs and vintage whizkids on the bill, we really are fit to burst!

The New Year always gives me the jitters. Not just through too much sugar, unattainable resolutions and the thought of alarm bells pre-9am [eurgh] but good jitters, a sign that my fashion sense is tingling. Several months ago [think back through four inches of Halloween make-up and forty inches of snow] the industry's bigwigs mapped-out what we would be wearing come Spring/Summer 2011. 'Board shorts? Coral? Straw Hats?' you may have mocked from the comfort of your Maxis, Arans and all things taupe. Nevertheless, time ticks on and as we head towards the fashionable equinox [cruise lines are already in stores, tantalising those with looks for warmer climes] the Spring ad campaigns are out on the loose. Take a look for yourselves...

Bronzed beauties, shimmering cadillacs, svelte silhouettes against blistering landscapes - and who said that S/S 11 was all about 'optimism,' purity and ease [to be fair, it was Alexander Wang and the New Yorker's line is true to his word.] Still, the prospect of getting those heads, shoulders, knees and toes out this close to the New Year makes my inner Brit, well, a bit sick. Perhaps that's why the campaign that grabbed me the most was Emma Hill's Mulberry ad...

Set within what could be a war-torn tea room [and not unlike some of our abodes this time of year] the shoot is almost 'Upstairs, Downstairs' meets 'Through the Looking Glass.' Inspired by both 'The Secret Garden' and 'Watership Down' one can't help but note the nod to vintage - the rural beauties kicking back in trenches and tie booties, 'working' the land like the ladies on the Home Front during forties Britannia. Not a cacti in sight, there's something comforting in the multi-purpose trench, the practical satchel-style bags, something that has stood the test of time. Mild, but nonetheless mesmerizing, springtime in Britain.

For all those who are yet reticent to give up their neutrals and capes for beach balls and cobalts, [and let's face it - we're British. We probably won't see an actual Summer until 2012] check out this wonderful picture from Vogue, March 1987. Amonst an ocean of gloves on one hand and shoulder pads [good GOD, i love the eighties!] was this Calvin Klein diamond in the rough...

Demure make-up, flowing and neutral work-ware and the crowning achievement, a chequed belted trench. Simple but effective, and the staple of any wardrobe worth its salt. Check out our upcoming vintage fairs in Newcastle, Durham, Leeds and the Midlands to bag, nay, invest in one of these bad boys for effortless style come rain or shine.

That's all for now folks - back to the grindstone. More little lovechidren from Madame Scanner and myself next week.

Stay chic Brit kids - it's gonna be a good one.