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,


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