Thursday, 26 March 2015

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty At The V&A Museum

The much acclaimed Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibiting at the V&A Museum from March 14th to the 2nd August 2015 celebrates the extraordinary talent of one of the most creative and innovative designers of recent times. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is the first and largest display of the late designer's work to be showcased in Europe. Spanning from his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection.

London was McQueen’s world. He grew up in the city’s East End and having left school at 15 years old he seized the chance to become an apprentice tailor at the world famous Savile Row in Mayfair. In 1990 he was accepted onto the prestigious MA Fashion course at Central Saint Martins. He drew inspiration from everything around him including the emerging Brit Art scene, London’s rich history, and its illustrious architecture and museums. 

“London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration,” Alexander McQueen, January 2000.

Spray painted dress, No. 13, S/S 1999

Duck feather dress, The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009/10
Nature was the most prominent influence upon Alexander McQueen with collections often including fashions that took their forms and raw materials from the natural world. With his mixture of technology, craft and showmanship McQueen frequently played upon the transformative powers of clothing.  

Jacket, Alexander McQueen, It's a Jungle out there, Autumn/Winter 1997-8

Python skin Armadillo boot, S/S 2010

If you are as much of a fan as we are of the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty display, and avant garde is your thing, be sure to visit us at Alfies to see the wide range of unique and original items available from our dealers. Here are some of our favourites:

1950s black velvet and appliqué textile feather hat, offered by Tony Durante

1950s Italian Murano red and gold glass fish offered by Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

This 1940s brown hat is made of felt and feather.Offered by Velvet Atelier

1920s lame dress with 3D lame leafs and grapes offered by Velvet Atelier

18ct garnet Victorian buckle in original box. Offered by Kieron Reilly

19th century icon of a Russian Saint on gold background, offered by Diplomat Treasures International

1940s large chocolate brown envelope crocodile clutch bag. Offered by Tony Durante

Thursday, 19 March 2015

BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair

From 18 March until 24 March, The Duke of York Square in London will be occupied by the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair, a showcase for members of BADA representing the UK's leading specialists in the fine and decorative arts.

A diverse range of important furniture, objets d’art, paintings and jewellery will be on display, with just under a hundred of the most renowned art and antiques dealers in the country (including dealers from our sister company Grays) showcasing their stock, encompassing both antique and contemporary items. The BADA Fair is sure to have something for everyone.

If you can't make it to the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair, rest assured that at Alfies our dealers stock a wide range of quality items all year round. Here are our favourite picks:

One of a pair of Antique Victorian balloon back armchairs, offered by Attic London

1970s cup & saucer, William Morris design made for the V & A, offered by Gloria Sinclair

Hunting scene landscape, 19th century. Oil on board, offered by Peran Dachinger's Fine Art

Gilt ormolu wall sconces (one of a pair), originally candle holders, c1860s, offered by Good Time Antiques
Small Worcester pickle dish c1765, offered by Janes Antiques

A Gothic style Paris Veilleuse c1820, offered by Nadine Okker

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fashion on the Ration

Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum looks at how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing in 1940s Britain. Often in new and unexpected ways. The exhibition starts 5 March.

Despite the hardships of WWII, fashion in the 1940s was creative and innovative. 'Make do and Mend' was a pamphlet full of useful tips issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII, it encouraged housewives to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing.

Make do and Mend pamphlet

The rationing of the 1940s enforced an era of required minimalism. The shortage of fabric created the popularity of the two piece suit known as a Victory or Utility suit which took on a sleek, military look. Women could mix and match skirts, blouses, and jackets for a new outfit everyday. Even after the war the suits remained popular due to its comfort and practicality.

The Victory suit

Even during the war years, hats were very fanciful. The hat continued to play an important role in women's fashion. It may have been even more important than usual, as many of the materials that went into the making of hats were not rationed although it was commonplace to add a corsage made of fresh flowers or feathers to snazz it up. Many women also owned corsages made of artificial flowers or gathered netting to accessorise a dress.

Leg make-up

The shortage of silk stockings resulted in leg make up becoming a popular choice.  To recreate the look of stockings, a line was drawn along the length of both back legs. If a lady had no money for decent leg cosmetics, she would resort to staining her legs with ‘tea’.

While London was bombed, people also feared a gas attack. Harvey Nichols offered gas protection suits of pure oiled silk in a variety of colors. Many women owned utility jumpsuits which one could put on quickly when the sirens blew. The jumpsuit, a new innovation, was warm and comfortable and featured pockets for papers and valuables.


During this time, there existed a particularly visually rich tradition of propaganda scarves, created for the benefit of an army. Jacqmar of London propaganda scarves were created from remnants of silk fabrics that were used to make gowns. These scarves, depicting militaristic iconography, patriotic flags and maps, were then sold to profit the war effort, simultaneously creating a new class of fashion and very loaded 'conversation’ prints. 

London Wall, designed by Arnold Lever and produced by Jacqmar. Arguably, one of the most iconic propaganda textile images of the Second World War. Offered by Tin Tin Collectables.

The thrifty nature of the 1940s even extended to wedding dresses! The method of creating wedding dresses from parachute silk was customary. A number of dresses made from parachute silk can be viewed at the Imperial War Museum. The dress pictured below was made for (the then) theatre actress, Miss Jean Neville. Be sure to view the stunning intricacy of this dress in person, Fashion on the Ration is on until 31 August.

White silk full-length dress with tie belt made from parachute material. Image taken from IWM website.

If the 1940s is your favourite decade for fashion, make sure you plan a trip to Alfies, we have vintage clothing dealers who stock pieces from this era. Here's a small selection of what you might find:

Large brown 1940s clutch bag with lucite clasp, offered by Tony Durante

Lipstick shape ladies pocket lighter, offered by Tony Durante

Crepe silk dress in burgundy floral print, c1940. Offered by Tin Tin Collectables

Brown 1940s wool felt Cocktail tilt hat, offered by Carole Collier

1940s Ring with ruby and diamond, offered by Connie Speight

Friday, 27 February 2015

A Beautiful Selection At Adire African Textiles

At Alfies we have a large and varied selection of wonderful antiques, collectables and vintage textiles. We are proud to be the home to dealer Duncan Clarke's gallery, Adire African Textiles on our first floor, which has an exquisite selection of vintage hand woven African textiles reflecting the textile traditions of sub-Saharan Africa.  

Vintage African Textiles

There are a large variety of different styles and techniques used to produce African textiles. From the traditional indigo dyed vintage cotton fabrics, made in various parts of West Africa, to beautiful brightly coloured Ewe kente cloths, to rarer and more obscure styles such as the embroidered Akunitan cloths, meaning 'cloth of the great', and worn only by senior chiefs and kings. 

A selection of vintage African textiles

Adire translates as tie and dye and is the name given to indigo dyed cloth produced by Yoruba women of south western Nigeria, who use a variety of resist dye techniques to produce locally woven hand spun cotton cloths, much like those that are still produced in Mali today.

Indigo was the foundation of many textile traditions throughout West Africa. Long before the introduction of synthetic dyes, the art to transform everyday white cotton into beautiful deep blue cloths was a mysterious and highly valuable skill which was passed on by specialist dyers from generation to generation. 

Adire hand woven cloth from south western Nigeria. Circa 1960
Ewe kente cloths are greatly valued by collectors of African textiles due to the advanced skill used to make them and the variety of styles they display.

Selection of beautiful hand woven vintage cloths

Ewe Kente cloth with figurative motifs framed by pairs of weft faced blocks. Circa 1930s to 1940s

Akunitan cloths worn only by senior chiefs and kings display spectacular designs and creativity. They include intricate motifs depicting proverbs and royal imagery such as this superb Akunitan cloth below which is embroidered with a peacock, tortoise, fish, chameleon, lion, elephant, porcupine, crocodile, and an umbrella with guns. All are motifs representing proverbs and ideas about Asante power and chiefly regalia.

Circa 1960.

Adinkra cloths from Ghana are unique fabrics, hand printed with black dye patterns using stamps made from calabash.

Large man's adinkra with stamped motifs on a white background. Circa 1960s.

Vintage West African cloth strips.

13-25 Church Street
NW8 8DT London 
T: 07710791497
For more information visit 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

London Fashion Week: Stay ahead of the trends at Alfies

Unless you've been hibernating for the past fortnight you'll know that London Fashion Week is upon us for another season, showcasing over 250 designers to a global audience of influential media and retailers. Most of the fashion squad will be congregating at Somerset House as usual, and key trends for the season seem to be the 1970s, texture and fringing, monochrome and floral. Ahead of the action - which runs from tomorrow Friday, 20 February until Tuesday, 24 February 2015 - we look at the trends for SS15 and some #LFW inspired pieces available here at Alfies.


Pair of Black & White 1950s Table Lamps. From The Moderns.

1930s Cream Vellum Suitcase. From Tin Tin Collectables.

1970s/1980s German Phillips Wall Clock. From Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary.


1970s Dress by Lee Bender at BUS STOP. From Tin Tin Collectables.

Decorative pansy design brooch 1930s to 1940s. From Moe Heidarieh.

Floral Design Brooch from the 1930s/1940s. From Moe Heidarieh.

Best of the 1970s

1978 Ant chairs designed by Arne Jacobsen. From Francesca Martire.

1970s glass bead necklace. From Velvet Atelier.

1970s helmet color television. From Thirteen Interiors.

18c Gold and Pearl earrings and ring set. From Gareth Brooks.

1970s David Rowland 40/4 Stackable Chairs. From Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary.

1970s Dress by Sharons Shoppe. From Tin Tin Collectables.

Friday, 13 February 2015

A Vintage Valentine's at Alfies

Saint Valentine's Day, also known as Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine sees card shop sales booming and men all over the world rushing out to late night garages for a bunch of less-than-fresh roses. 
14th February first became a celebration during the Roman Empire and was started by one of the earlier Christian saints named Valentinus. Popular legend says that Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell. Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church.
Geoffrey Chaucer first linked the date with romantic love in the Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Then, during 18th-century England, the day evolved into an occasion when lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). 
Nowadays Valentine's Day symbols are hearts, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
It's certainly a time of year where everyone gets soppy again. Still, your Valentine's gift needn't be a cliché! Alfies offers a variety of weird and wonderful items that would make the perfect gift this St Valentine's Day. Here's a selection of the staff at Alfies' favourites:

Welsh Love spoon - these spoons used to be carved in one piece by the boys for their sweetheart, offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

Pair of 1950s earrings. Offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

Early Victorian or late Georgian cut steel hair comb set on a tortoiseshell comb. Offered by Gareth Brooks

1940s Italian micro-mosaic pendant with tiny pieces of glass intricately arranged into mosaics. Offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

1960s Disney Valentine's cards, from Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

9ct Gold Victorian Cufflinks. Offered by Gareth Brooks

Metal & celluloid ornament - usually called No Trump and used by Bridge players
in the 1930s - offered by 
Paola & Iaia - The Originals

A selection of Limoges heart boxes, offered by Hayman & Hayman.

Finish off your gift shopping with a heart shaped scone in Alfies' Roof Top Kitchen. Aww!

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