For some, it’s a lifestyle; for others, a way of adding a timeless twist to their look. Vintage clothing is the preferred choice for many style-conscious dressers, and not just to save money and the planet.
Uncovering pieces from the 1920s, through now to the 1980s, allows those who care about what they wear to stand out from the rest by putting together their own, truly unique ensembles. For the same price or less than a High Street dress, you can go to a vintage fair and find a genuine 1950s one, handmade from a sewing pattern of the day. Or you might discover a chic designer label, a couture piece made in Paris, maybe even a High Street dress from the Seventies, still in great shape and looking current, thanks to fashion’s obsession with revisiting itself.
But, as many vintage fashion lovers find, size can be an issue. We are taller and larger now than our grandparents and great-grandparents, and many of those lovely 1950s dresses measure up as a size 8, or a 6, or smaller, in today’s UK sizes.
Step forward The House of Foxy, an Elland-based fashion brand that takes the styles of yesteryear and updates them for the modern woman. Although they look like originals, and have the quality and finishing detail that sets vintage designs above and beyond most High Street offerings, these are new designs that capture the glamour of clothes from the 1920s through to the 1960s.
“I’m getting better at understanding how women shop and what they feel is missing in the High Street,” says Clare Quartermaine, The House of Foxy’s founder and chief designer.
“It’s giving a femininity. Obviously, we wouldn’t be able to have the freedoms then that we have now. It also gives ladies a way of standing out, because dressing well every day is not something that we think about any more.”
Clare, from Huddersfield, was running her own marketing and design business in 2009 when she started selling established vintage-revival style brands. In 2012, she launched an own-brand online collection under the name 20th Century Foxy, later changed to The House of Foxy. The company is based in a business unit on the outskirts of Elland, and Clare’s husband, Jonathan, gave up his job in engineering to work for Foxy, looking after finance and operations. They have three children, Erin, 13, 11-year-old Freya and Aidan, nine.
Clare and Jonathan enjoy jive and swing dancing – there are lots of classes and events in the Halifax, Brighouse, Elland area – and this is how the idea for the business began, when Clare realised there were people looking for, but not able to find or fit into, retro-style clothing.
All the design and business operations take place at the Elland studio and office, and the manufacturing happens at a dedicated factory in Scotland and other units in the UK.
There is a spin-off menswear collection with its own website, 20thcenturychap.com, featuring dapper waistcoats, Oxford bags, braced trousers and shirts with spear collars. There is also a plus-size So Foxy range within the House of Foxy brand, with sizes up to 24, and a diffusion range called Pretty Retro, made in Poland, created because Clare decided to tackle overseas copiers head on by making her own cheaper translations. This has its own website.
Fashion shoots are integral to The House of Foxy brand. For the spring/summer ‘18 collection, Clare headed to Manchester and the Grade II-listed Victoria Baths, which opened in 1906 and closed in 1993, but were saved and featured on the BBC’s Restoration programme in 2003. It is now an events venue, hosting weddings and vintage fairs.
“It was absolutely freezing,” says Clare. “We were very much spoiled for choice. You’ve got the Turkish baths and the green tiles. The colours for the spring collection are corals and greens and that very light celadon green.
Victoria Baths had three pools, two of them now covered and used as halls. The empty pool seen here in this shoot would have been the first class one.
“I went to a vintage homes fair there and I was told that it was used in a lot of films and in Peaky Blinders, in the last season, because it’s got all the tiling. The way they have tried to restore it is very much to keep a lot of the original tiles and floorings, rather than to gentrify it. It has all the original changing rooms and upstairs they have got a semi-derelict flat that the caretaker would have lived in, so you’ve got a lot of the original wallpapers.”
Clare has created a collection of beautiful, authentic-looking pieces, some featuring prints reproduced from some original fashion house designs for which she bought the royalties from an antique bookseller in North Yorkshire.
The vintage scene shows no signs of fading, she says. “I think a lot of women are very tired of the High Street and going into a shop and finding exactly the same thing in a another shop. They’re sick of quantity and want more quality, and we’re picking up a lot of these people.”
The House of Foxy designs are sold mainly online but there is a concession at Space in Harrogate and Clare is also now looking for a shop in York. The men’s label is having a rebrand to bring more of a tailored British heritage feel, as it features tweed suiting from Abraham Moon of Guiseley. Another womenswear label is in the pipeline, also with a heritage, English Rose theme, to feature plus fours, tweed jackets and tea dresses.
“We’re not running to a formula,” says Clare. “I don’t want to be restricted. I think the formula idea is why fashion has become so staid.
“People find us by accident or a vintage event, but they become obsessed quite quickly.”
Visit Thehouseoffoxy.com. The House of Foxy is at Haworth 1940s Weekend, May 19-20.
There’s more fashion and beauty on https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion and https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion