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Monday, 22 August 2011

VINTAGE Festival, Southbank Centre

Vintage clothes and accessories have always excited me... it is something about their history and heritage, the distinctive beauty as just a visual object, but mostly it is the uniqueness of the item that lures me. There is normally only one, and so owning that singular piece makes you feel very special. I always used to wait till family holidays in the South of France to find and buy vintage treasures - the flea markets there were much richer in stock, and priced more reasonably that London rip offs. Recently though, all vintage is expensive, as the phenomenon for used and old items gains massive popularity and consequently the prices soar. Surely it doesn’t make sense to buy an old designer handbag for more than a brand new one costs?

Bearing in mind this popularity for all things retro it is surprising that a vintage festival had not been done long before 2011. Most music festivals have the odd stall bargaining off a few out of shape cotton dresses... but never has vintage been the focus, until now thanks to Southbank Centre’s VINTAGE Festival - the exciting vision of Wayne Hemingway and his wife Geraldine.

The event took place over three days and showcased an eccentric variety of fashion, music, performances and activities. There was particular care taken to ensure every important fashion era was represented. Located in the Royal Festival Hall and flooding onto the Southbank this event was quite a visual spectacle. Typically just as an indoors festival arrives the English weather brightens up.

I particularly loved the Vintage Marketplace, an area of the event that was open to the non-ticket holding public. Rows and rows of stalls glittered with clothes, jewellery, sunglasses, shoes, hand bags, even furniture, all either vintage or reworked retro inspired. It was a heavenly playground for me to look round, I happily could have stayed here all evening. Once I had a few (too many) purchases in my hands my friends dragged me away to see the other attractions. In case you were wondering I bought: a bright pink pair of plastic TART sunglasses, (dead stock so beautifully made and perfectly in tact), a 60’s union jack print shift dress (so I could pretend to be a Spice Girl at home), a wonderfully wacky Versace mini yellow waistcoat, and finally, a not-so-practical neon pink 60’s hat, a bit worn but so unique and pretty I couldn’t resist it!

Inside was a sight to behold, vintage queens were out displaying their wildest outfits, with mad and massive hairstyles and striking accessories adorning their bodies. Each of the many floors was crammed with appropriately decorated stalls and activity areas where guests could take part in the party. Make-up and hair stylists were transforming 21st Century girls into vintage goddesses in the vintage makeover section, I was tempted to have a go, but the queue was neverending.

The musical REVUE was taking place in the main auditorium, each night a different genre of vintage music was being played. I went on Friday, which was allocated to Electric Phuture, an interesting performance, though not my favourite kind of music. Saturday was dedicated to Soul, and Sunday named as a Hit Parade – celebrating British hits from the past seven decades.

It was wonderful to see such a diverse range of guests at VINTAGE, all so passionate about the theme: the older folk enjoying the dancing lessons and kitsch tea rooms, while teens could dress up and dance away beneath the disco ball upstairs. This festival was more imaginative and nostalgic than I ever thought it could be... You did have to be a dedicated vintage lover to attend though, as ticket prices don’t come cheap costing £60 per day.


  1. Lovely pictures. I only found out there was a market open to all when a seller I follow in twitter, tweeted the fact. Shame as I probably would have popped along and done some shopping.