To celebrate the Saltaire Vintage Fair, Stephanie Smith joins rose & Brown’s founder for our exclusive fashion shoot.
Caroline Brown aims to lead astray. She’s on a mission to pipe people into her wonderful world of vintage, a land touched by time, filled with beautiful, sometimes bizarre, creations made with devotion in decades gone by.
After becoming a finalist in a local enterprise competition to fill an empty shop, she founded her Rose & Brown vintage empire in 2007 in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, and was able to feed her passion for discovering intriguing one-off pieces, mainly fashion and homewares.
“We became known for being a shop where you could rummage for mad or lovely little old vintage treasures, or you could delight in genuine vintage fashion,” she says. Looking for Art Deco velvet capes, 1950s satin prom dresses, bright 60s jewellery, 70s maxi dresses? These are the sort of treasures that Rose & Brown specialises in.
Caroline, who has a first class degree in Interior Design from Huddersfield University, organised the first Saltaire Vintage Home &Fashion Fair in December 2007 at the Victoria Hall in the World Heritage village, and they have been taking place five or six times a year ever since, with vintage dealers travelling from far and wide to take part. As we meet to stage this shoot, Caroline is busy preparing for the next event, which is on March 29.
“Saltaire suits the vintage fairs perfectly,” she says. “It already feels like it is magically caught out of time, with the rows of compact Victorian houses, hardly touched, externally at least, since they were built, andwith the chimney of the mill looming over the village. There is a real sense of history, a creative atmosphere and a feeling of community, as in days gone by.”
Caroline also stages fairs and vintage fashion shows across Yorkshire, including at Whitby, where Rose & Brown’s Great Seaside Vintage Fair grows in popularity each year. Husband Julian came on board in late 2010 helping to run the shows and events that have become the main focus of the business since closing the shop last year.
The vintage market has changed, she says, in the seven years she’s been trading, probably due to the recession and the desire to spend wiselyand well – a purpose vintage fashion fulfils well. “The majority of customers are wanting to buy really wearable vintage,” she says.
“Seven years ago, the 1950s cocktail gowns and ‘60s evening dresses were so popular - they’re exquisitely beautiful and unlike anything on the High Street - but most of us don’t get many chances to wear them. There’s been a real shift to funky, more practical garments, such as ‘60s day dresses, blouses and skirts from the ‘60s and ‘70s, most of which are more affordable too.”
Caroline is a firm believer in mixing vintage and retro with modern pieces, for contemporary relevance. Incidentally, the term “vintage” means items more than 25 years old and less than 100 - so right now, that’s from 1989 back to 1914. “To me, retro is almost a sub-group of vintage, as it covers the ‘50s to the ‘90s,” she says. “Retro also seems to be used to label things which are vintage in style, but new, rather than genuinely old. The aim of our fairs is to present customers with genuine vintage stock, so that they know they are finding original one-off pieces.
“Vintage is a thing to treasure forever, and that makes it really good value - especially compared to mass market fashion, where garments are not made to last.”
The Vintage Home & Fashion Fair is on Saturday, March 29, 9.30am to 4pm, at Victoria Hall in Saltaire. Entry £3 door, £2 concessions, under 16s free. Information: 07985 181120 andwww.roseandbrownvintage.co.uk
All clothes and accessories from Rose & Brown Vintage and Saltaire Vintage Fair stallholders.
Styling: Caroline Brown, Stephanie Smith and Katy Flanagan.
Models: Lexi Lee and Hannah Muirhead
Hair & Make up: Katy Flanagan
Photographs: Tony Johnson
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• The Vintage Home & Fashion Fair is on Saturday, March 29, 9.30am to 4pm, at Victoria Hall in Saltaire. Entry £3 door, £2 concessions, under 16s free. Information: 07985 181120 and www.roseandbrownvintage.co.uk