I first went to Beyond Retro when I was 14 – new to exploring the vintage offerings of London, and still feeling like the trek to Brick Lane and beyond was some kind of special escapade. I went with my mum. It was a chilly, grey day, as far as I remember, and we pounded down Cheshire Street wondering just where this trove of clothes could be found. Then ahead, finally, we glimpsed that yellow sign with its anchor logo, signaling the vaguely nondescript looking entrance leading to a very bright Wonderland beyond.
I still have one of the acquisitions picked up that day – a gorgeous little mint-green tunic with gold buckles up the front. I’ve worn it on this blog numerous times. It featured in various early shoots with Flo and was once employed to recreate the colours of a Roget’s Thesaurus in outfit form. I also bought a grey shirt with white ruffles up to the neck, which is sadly now too small and has been relegated to the dressing up box. Over the years plenty of other purchases have filtered through my wardrobe. Some stayed. Others didn't.
I was reminded of that initial fresh, flush thrill though when I visited one of the Swedish branches of Beyond Retro – marveling all over again at all the different shapes and hushed stories hung up on rails. The quality was incredible, with a real smorgasbord of good fabrics and shades: tangerines, pinks, baby blues, lime greens, zinging scarlets. I recalled just how exciting it was some six years ago to spend an hour just browsing through beautiful things, eventually choosing one or two items to claim as mine. This time around though it was just one: a marvelous bright orange shift dress with a zip, deep pockets and embroidered detail.
It’s hard not to fall back on a limited number of ways to refer to huge vintage shops though (also including places like Armstrongs, Blitz and Rokit) - easy to call them treasure troves or Aladdin’s caves, and leave it at that. They’re apt descriptions though, with more of a sparkle of truth to their labels. There is definitely a sense of discovering some large hoard or stash – one that’s yours to sift, search and sort through. I’m a seeker and gatherer. I like to feel some small sense of achievement in sniffing out the garment that absolutely works just for me, on my body, with my taste and aesthetic. It’s a simple pleasure, but an oh-so-satisfying one.
It’s also about pleasure in the unexpected. I rarely enter a vintage shop in search of something specific. Instead it's about the frisson of not knowing what could be accompanying you as you leave. Sequins? A jumpsuit? A gorgeous floral dress? Who knows... anything is possible, depending on what’s stumbled across. For example, I had absolutely no idea that I’d be exiting Armstrongs with THE most glorious full-length seventies maxi with a red and green striped skirt, and a translucent black top. (I can’t wait to shoot it for the blog).
That general principle makes this particular skirt a little unusual though. It’s from Beyond Retro’s own label, which I love because it’s very sustainable – everything being repurposed from pre-existing clothes and fabrics. The clothes are produced in a factory in Western India that Beyond Retro actually owns, meaning they know exactly how their workers are treated and what they’re being paid (read more about all of it here). God, just imagine if more brands did that!
I was very kindly given this green panelled beauty after expressing my absolute adoration of the design. So unlike every other item I own from Beyond Retro, this one was entirely premeditated – having been eyed up (and tweeted about) in advance. I knew exactly what I was lusting after. I’ve worn it endlessly over the last few months. It goes with cropped jumpers and tied shirts and black button-up tops and suede jackets. It also reminds me of a skirt from Topshop I had aged 15 that I wore to my first LFW (one that sadly had to be sold on when I grew hips). I wore it at a point when my love of vintage was fully fledged – probably about a year after first discovering Beyond Retro. It’s all circular, really. And I always have loved suede..
Big thanks to Beyond Retro for the skirt. It's glorious. Here it's worn with a cashmere top from a charity shop, some vintage boots, a Bill Skinner bracelet, and a necklace that belongs to my mum.