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Header Image: Lulu Vintage Clothing
Last week – at the Oxfam Fashion Fighting Poverty show at London Fashion Week – designer Bella Freud said that the issue of sustainability in fashion was now “so much more than just the tribute comment”.
In 2017, we sent 235m items of clothing to landfill in the UK alone (Enviro Audit Committee submissions 2018), and according to the United Nations Environment programme, the fashion industry is also the second-biggest consumer of water – producing 20 percent of wastewater while also generating more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Blimey.
The fashion industry is making changes to combat the harmful effects that this kind of production has on the environment, but there’s changes to our shopping habits that we can make too. Shopping vintage and second hand is just one of the ways to reduce our footprint on the planet – and my goodness it can be a joy (and a bargain). We take a look at just some of Norwich’s best places to pick up some rare finds and rad knitwear.
No joke, when I was in this shop taking pictures, the lady in front of me picked up a Chanel Boutique coat for about £20. Excellent work on her part, but I was even more impressed that the guy behind the counter knew all about the coat, it’s provenance, and what sounded like the detailed retail strategy for the fashion house and its subsidiary in the latter 3 decades of the 20th century. Good work, that man.
This is a charity shop that’s built for vintage. The rails are stocked with clothes from all kinds of eras, as well as shelves full of shoes, jewellery, and bags. Expect some oddities too: old telephones, cassettes and homewares, for example (although the shop is mainly for clothes). Not only does your purchase keep one item of clothing in circulation, but all proceeds go to Sue Ryder care: a charity that provides palliative and neurological support in specialist centres and in people’s homes.
If you love second hand furniture, this is your playground. Loose’s is two floors in Norwich’s north city (Magdalen Street), and houses 60 shops under one roof. They have the more enormous range of stock, which covers antiques, furniture, vintage clothing, jewellery, kitchenalia (I’m not even 100% what that is without googling it), artwork, a whole load of Ercol – you name it. Plus, you’ll find things that predate the 21st century; there’s an enormous mirror in there at the moment that’s Victorian.
Looses is also the place to find the weird and wonderful. Today when I visited, there was a life-size mechanical shire horse nodding his head subduedly, as a couple of model pigeons rested gently on his fuzzy back. You’ll find him right next to the cafe, which is a great place for a coffee and a sausage roll as you go about treasure hunting.
This converted chapel now houses a warren of antiques and collectables, most of which is within the impressive nave and arranged theatrically on the steps of the altar. The building itself is quite the spectacle: the height of the ceiling and beautiful stained glass window are the first things that strike you when you first walk in, which makes for a very unique shopping experience.
The entrance of the church, as well as the nave, is full of all kinds of curiosities, including furniture, old signage, taxidermy and art pieces. Moving through the church and up the altar steps, head left for vintage clothing, and turn right into the basement for smaller homewares (and the occasional ‘reduced’ section!).
Norwich’s market is iconic. With a history dating back to the Anglo Saxon period, this is the largest outdoor market in the UK, and today remains the beating heart of the city. As well as a spectacular street food offer that’s gaining national attention, Norwich market is also the place to pick up groceries, gifts, household items, fabrics, bamboo toothbrushes, houseplants, hoover nozzles – you name it. But two of our particular favourite stalls are Taxi Vintage and Lovering and Co, both located at the top of the market on the side of City Hall. Both sell a wide array of vintage clothing and accessories, for reasonable prices – this is surely the place to pick up a real bargain, and something really unusual. Both stalls are also really good if you’re looking for a kind of fit that you might not get with modern, high street clothes. We love the tapered wool trousers at Lovering and Co (tried some on a few weeks ago; close, but no cigar), and the amazing selection of shirts at Taxi. Also, it’s just nice to be outside isn’t it? There is nothing like shopping on the market, and both stalls are equipped with changing rooms (and heaters in the colder months).
Another gem on Magdalen Street, Retreat Vintage also has a shop on Etsy if online shopping is more your bag. Selling a huge range of ready-to-wear items in excellent condition, Retreat are really good at selling pieces that fit in seamlessly with your everyday wardrobe, so if buying vintage is a new thing for you, this might be a good start. The shop itself is full of personality, and a brilliant destination if you like the thrill of treasure hunting and finding something unique. Online, their offer is easy to navigate, with items clearly labelled (plus, you’re able to filter them by garment type/price etc, which is always handy). As well as vintage dresses, skirts, tops etc, if you’re into band tees, this place is the one. 5 star reviews too, so you can definitely shop with confidence.
This place was first drawn to my attention when a friend of mine text me to say she’d picked up a 1970s Dior dress from here for £60. And it’s beautiful. Super elegant, perfect condition, and completely timeless.
What’s special about this place is its intimate boutique feel; it’s very friendly and welcoming, and feels like a really special experience the minute you step through the doors. The clothes are arranged beautifully making it easy to browse, and find what you’re looking for without rummaging for ages. Plus, clothes are stocked by season so that you aren’t overwhelmed with choice, and things that you’re probably not looking for.
In here you’ll find a range of garments, including the best selection of vintage nightwear probably anywhere ever (a special mention for the frothy orange 50’s babydoll number). It’s the dresses though that are the big draw. In particular, if you’ve got a special occasion on the horizon, I can’t think of anywhere better to go. You’ll find floor length figure hugging gowns to super casual 60s mini dresses, and everything in between (what’s better is you can pretty much guarantee that nobody else will have the same outfit as you). Plus, they occasionally stock wedding dresses, so if you’re currently on the hunt then you might find the special something that you’re looking for here….
Aladdin’s Cave is a great destination in the north of the city, with two floors stuffed full of furniture, glass, pottery, china, clothes, porcelain… literally everything and anything. This is also a great place to head for 20th century pieces, too. If you’re after some unusual bits for your home, then this is also a winner – they had some reclaimed church pews in stock this summer, which would have served wonderfully as a kitchen or hallway bench.
The clothes rails are equally a treasure trove. During my visit last week, there was an amazing 80’s foil bomber jacket at the front of a full rail of vintage jackets and coats, which are located on the bottom floor. Also on the bottom floor was the biggest collection of comics I’ve ever seen, which you’ll find alongside other childhood memorabilia, including Lledo toys and old movie merchandise. Plus, if you are interested in vintage edition books, then you need to visit the back of the shop where you’ll find shelves stacked with unusual titles and retro covers. Upstairs you’ll find furniture, including everything from complete dining sets, to plant stands to antique signage. The kind of place you can spend hours in.
The exterior of Gothic House