Friday, 31 August 2018

June Victor: 'I learn about things by going to museums, touching fabric, going to auctions, reading books...'

June Victor at her Stand (SO40-43)

June Victor is a world renowned antiques dealer specialising in textiles and home furnishings. She has a wide collection that includes table linen, lace, dress textiles and furnishings, trimmings and beading, costume jewellery, vintage clothing, hats and ladies’ accessories spanning over 200 years of  British and European design.  Her knowledge has been honed through years of experience in the antiques trade and her family’s background in couture and design. She has been a dealer at both Grays and Alfies for almost thirty years. I have read that June Victor can spot a genuine 1950's scalloped edged, taffeta ballet length designer evening dress at a hundred paces...

 We were fascinated to know how June started and evolved in the word of vintage textiles, so we asked her about her life and Vintage Modes..

June, would you please tells us something about your background?

I came from a background of people that were interested in textiles. My grandmother had a couple of dress shops in the 1920s, on Shaftesbury Avenue, selling beaded dresses and hats. Two of my aunts were dress designers. They used to buy sample beaded dresses in France and reproduced what they saw for the London market. My aunt made cocktail dresses and wedding dresses in the 50s, 60s and 70s under the name of Laura Phillips in Margaret Street.

How did you fit into this?

I worked in the family business mostly in administration and management. In fact I started life as a secretary, but it wasn’t really my thing. Then I got a taste for buying in jumble sales, as they were then, and I started selling. I had a small stall in a market in Brighton in the local Hall, and I was quite successful. I used to run around Sussex buying things. In those days you could buy lovely things. No car, just buses and trains.

What do you look for when you buy?

It changes over the years and I have a lot of stock. There’s more people in the business now and it’s more competitive. I used to do all the markets, and I am doing a lot of work with theatre, opera and film production. But I never did any dressmaking myself. I don’t know how to sew. My aunt had a natural talent, she could make a dress out of nothing. To give you an example, one day her mother went out to the shops and when she came back she found that my aunt had made a dress with a piece of fabric she had found. She did it without a pattern and she was only fourteen years old. She was incredibly skilled. It’s a marvellous talent. I recognise the differences in beadwork but I mostly buy Victorian beadwork which is a different technique to the beaded dresses of the early twentieth century.

Given your vast knowledge, what element makes up your mind what you actually buy?

I have to think about my customers. A lot of them come from theatre, opera and film production. Different people with different aesthetic requirements and different briefs come to me. And you just can’t buy enough trimmings. I am always looking to buy more trimmings and beading of different styles or period. Hats are quite popular at the moment. But I buy a lot on personal likes and dislikes. Even if something looks like it would sell, I don’t buy it because I won’t have the enthusiasm to sell it.

Would you choose one item for us that you are particularly fond of?

This Edwardian bedspread in ecru colour is especially nice. It’s probably from France or Belgium. It has filet lace with cherubs and flower motifs and is interspersed with fine silk net.

Edwardian Bedspread
Close up of the filet lace with cherubs and flower motifs and is interspersed with fine silk net.

Victorian Indian Table Cloth on Silk Shantung unused with gold thread work decoration.
1980's Canadian Couture Cocktail Dress with lace stain bow lace bodice. Estrid Toronto.
1930's Satin Black background embroidered with silk flowers and gilt chain
Late Victorian Crazy Patchwork Silk Quilt Cover
The above image is a close up of the makers name and date finished 1890.
Circa 1910, Royal Blue all-over fringed in blue beads tassel bag.
Black Lace Stilettos with gold rim heels.

Interviewed 16th August 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Gillian Horsup: 'The items I buy have to be distinctive'

Gillian Horsup in her stand 

Gillian Horsup has been buying and selling vintage jewellery and accessories in London and the UK for 35 years. Before moving to Alfies Antique Market this summer: she previously shared a stand with Lola of Unicorn in the Mews at Grays Antiques.  Gillian, Lola and the rest of The Vintage Modes collective are now based on the Second Floor of  Alfies Antiques Market.

We asked her about how she first started in the vintage world...

A view at Gillian's stand 

Gillian please tell us how did you start trading in vintage pieces?

I have been trading for 35 years. I started in the vintage world by collecting myself. I lived in the East end of London and used to go to jumble sales as there were lots around my area. I slowly got interested in all sorts of antiques and in particular Art Deco pieces, mostly jewellery. I had a young family and I've done various jobs- I worked in teaching and as a secretary. At the same time I started doing fairs. I don’t know how I did it. But I did it. I’ve been everywhere. I’ve done Covent Garden Market, Greenwich Market, and I had a shop for years in Camden Passage. When that closed down I moved to Grays Mews and was then trading with Unicorn from Bond street.

Could you tell us what has changed in the vintage world throughout this time?

There aren't as many Antique Events on any more and the number of markets is shrinking. Alfies is great because it is a dedicated space. I’ve done various things but in the end I decided I wanted to be indoors. My family changed  and I didn’t want to carry things anymore-I still end up carrying. What has changed all those years is different shopping patterns but most startlingly is the venues. It’s difficult to find Art Deco events in the London area anymore because the venues are so expensive. People want variety and here we have a bit of everything-  glasses, compacts, ring boxes, fans, pins, hats, bags, jewellery from pearls to early plastic.

We are very intrigued to know how do you choose your stock?

I buy anything that catches my eye, and anything I like. We have such a variety of customers that I can’t restrict myself to a specific era or style. I used to specialise in Art Deco, but it doesn’t pay to be a specialist anymore. I look for items with good style and of good quality- I don’t like boring.

What do you consider boring?

I consider boring anything that I see lots of or that I do not notice at all. The items I buy have to be distinctive in their specific field and a little different. They have to stand out. They have to say hello to me.

Would you like to choose a piece for us that you're particularly fond of and tell us something about it?

My favourite items at the moment are Czech glass jewellery. I love items that people have taken care in the making of. You are dealing with objects created by skilled workers and skilled designers.

Interviewed 21st August 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou

We've photographed some of our favourite distinctive items now available in Gillian's shop...

Vintage green and gilt chains earrings

Gold Tone Diamante Snake Brooch
Lea Stein Half Colerette Brooch 

Gillian Horsup at Vintage Modes | Second Floor, S057/58 | | 02074998121| | Instagram @gillianhorsup | @gillianhorsupvintagejewellery 

Friday, 17 August 2018

Audrey Hepburn: Beyond the Screen

Audrey Hepburn, born 88 years ago today, remains a constant source of inspiration. An actress and humanitarian, Hepburn was renowned for her elegant and timeless style and gamine beauty.   ‘Audrey Hepburn: Beyond the Screen’ at the Proud Gallery revisits classic and timeless portraits celebrating Hepburn’s legacy on the 25th anniversary of her death. The Proud Gallery exhibition will display rare portraits of Hepburn, captured by a number of high profile twentieth-century photographers- Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson, Bob Willoughby, Eva Sereny, Mark Shaw and Douglas Kirkland.

From a photograph of a 24-year old Audrey on the set of Sabrina having her hair towel dried to a poised Audrey in a pale pink Givenchy - we’ve included some of the stand-out images below.

Audrey Hepburn Being Towel Dried, taken by Mark Shaw in 1953. Image courtesy of Proud Galleries

Audrey Hepburn at Studio Boulonge
Audrey Hepburn photographed in Paris by Douglas Kirkland, 1965. Image courtesy of Proud Galleries

Audrey Hepburn Wearing Givenchy
Audrey Hepburn, photographed in Italy by Norman Parkinson, 1955. Image courtesy of Proud Galleries

Audrey Hepburn’s acting career and influential fashions are widely documented, but lesser-known are the struggles of her early life. Born in 1929 to a Dutch baroness, Hepburn studied ballet throughout her formative years and had ambitions of becoming a professional dancer.  After the Nazis invaded the country, Hepburn and her mother struggled to survive under occupation. She helped the resistance movement by delivering messages and performing secret dance shows to raise money for the cause. Hepburn relocated to London after the war ended where she worked as a chorus girl in the West End. After after a steady stream of minor roles, she was eventually cast as the titular role in the Broadway production of Gigi.

Audrey Hepburn rose to fame after her starring role in the 1953 classic ‘Roman Holiday’- the tale of Hepburn’s European princess and Gregory Peck’s American reporter captured audience’s hearts and introduced the world to Hepburn’s gamine beauty.
Audrey’s next film Sabrina not only confirmed her status as one of Hollywood's finest but introduced her to the designer to whom she would become muse - Hubert de Givenchy. The two quickly struck up a friendship and their resulting working relationship went on to span 40-years ending only on Hepburn’s death in 1993. He dressed her for a total of seven films, including timeless films such as Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Givenchy also went on to design the actress' personal ensembles, including her wedding dress for her wedding to Italian psychiatrist, Andrea Dotti in 1969.

Just as Hepburn’s films became imminently rewatchable classics, so her style endures. 
Vintage fashion and jewellery is the perfect way to incorporate that classic Hepburn style into your wardrobe and there are plenty of special pieces to choose from here at Alfies. We’ve selected a few of our current favourites…

Proud Central Exhibition: Audrey Hepburn Beyond the Screen is on from 17 August to 20 September 2018. You can find out more here 

1950s Rhinestone Tiara. Available from Linda Bee
1970s Burberry Trench Coat. Available from June Victor
1960s Black French Couture Dress with bow. Available from June Victor
Faux Pearls . Available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
1950s Cat Eye Sunglasses. Available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
1960s Navy Patent Leather Handbag. Available from Dream Retro

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Bakelite glorious Bakelite

We live in a world of alternatives, and Bakelite was one of the first major alternatives developed in the world of materials. The material was originally created to replace shellac and celluloid, and by extension all objects replicated by early plastics such as ivory, bone, metal and jade.

‎Bakelite was developed by the Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland in 1907 when he began to investigate the reactions of phenol and formaldehyde in his home laboratory. The first synthetic plastic, Bakelite was marketed as ‘The Material of a Thousand Uses’. The creation of a new synthetic plastic was a breakthrough due to the material’s electrical non-conductivity and heat resistance.

The Bakelite moulding process was both time and cost efficient as the mould could be removed from the process before cooling. The smooth polished surface that resulted meant that Bakelite objects required less finishing with millions of parts duplicated quickly and cheaply decreasing production time. Mouldings retain their shape and are resistant to heat, electricity, scratches, and solvents.

During World War I, Bakelite was used widely, particularly in electrical systems. Later on, as telephones and radios became common household consumer goods and the car industry developed, Bakelite was everywhere.

In its glory days of the 1930s and 1940s, it was an inexpensive alternative to high-end jewellery imitating natural materials such as jade and pearl. In the early 1920s, it became popular in the fashion world, when Coco Chanel used Bakelite bracelets in her costume jewellery collections. Elsa Schiaparelli also adopted Bakelite accessories as an alternative to naturally sourced materials and Breitling used Bakelite for presentation boxes for their watches.

By the 1930s, Bakelite was used in games like chess and dominoes and for poker chips. Easier and lighter than its alternatives and in a variety of colours and shapes, Bakelite offered designers a creative edge.  During World War II, Bakelite was still going strong. It was used in wartime equipment including pilot's goggles and field telephones, and even for patriotic wartime jewellery! In the 1950s it began to decline in popularity as cheaper and higher quality plastics became available.

Recently, it has assumed a cult status and objects are fashionable and collectable. Bakelite in its various styles and shapes is displayed in museums and sold by specialists and auctioneers. The appeal of Bakelite items is simultaneously nostalgic and contemporary- it represents an era of increasing affluence and modernisation, as consumers took advantage of previously out-of-reach fashion and consumer goods.

We’ve put together a selection of Bakelite items available at Alfies.

Bakelite jewellery - bangles, brooches, dress clips etc, available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

A selection of bakelite items at Paola & Iaia's stand

A selection of bakelite items at Paola & Iaia's stand

Art Deco bakelite table light, available from Thirteen Interiors
Pyramid 1929 Bakelite Telephone, available from Thirteen Interiors

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Royal Academy Show: Art Made and Exhibited Now

The Royal Academy is home to immense artistic activity and is steeped in history. The Great Spectacle and the Summer Exhibition are both on from 12 June to 19 August at the RA.

The 'Summer Exhibition' at the Royal Academy has exhibited every summer for the past two hundred and fifty years old. As the world has changed dramatically, so too has the art that makes it into the galleries of the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition. Paintings, sculpture, drawings and architectural designs by household names are displayed alongside work by first-time exhibitors. The Summer Exhibition is a high-profile platform for both established and lesser-known contemporary artists.

This year, Grayson Perry RA and his committee of fellow artists have handpicked over 1,300 artworks in an array of mediums. The exhibition extends across the RA's newly-expanded cultural campus, with prints on display in The Sackler Wing of Galleries and a “room of humour” in the new Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery featuring David Shrigley and Martin Parr. The art extravaganza even spills out into the streets of London’s West End with an installation of over 200 flags designed by Royal Academicians.

The Great Spectacle is staged to coincide with the Summer Exhibition of 2018 and is a survey of its history. The exhibition will remember important moments and celebrated figures in the Royal Academy's history. Graduates and teachers, Sir John Soane and J. M. W. Turner:  influential painters, Constable and Stubbs: friendly rivals,  Gainsborough and Reynolds: and unique pieces donated by collectors such as Taddeo Tondo, a marble relief by Michelangelo.

The RA Summer Exhibition and Great Spectacle allows us to retrace our artistic roots and through an array of mediums in an ever-changing art world. We don’t know what the future of art is but we can find a slice of art heritage in our galleries.

In celebration of the summer season at the Royal Academy, we've rounded up a selection of contemporary art available here at Alfies.

Wooden sculpture, c1960s, signed. Available from Robinson Antiques

Nike of Samothrace bronze sculpture, c1960s, available from Cupio Gallery

Large sculptural bronze vase, signed Nuro. 1980s. Available from The Moderns

Contemporary painting. Available from Thomas Fine Art  

Titled The Four Grey Ladies, 1982 water colour and gouache painting by R P Lister. Available from John Cserny Fine Arts

The Great Spectacle and the Summer Exhibition are both on from 12 June to 19 August at the RA.

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou
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