Thursday, 3 July 2014

Chapter 23: Vintage Circus and a Star Turn ...

Photo: courtesy of Broken Down Doll
Hat:  Jess Collett, Milliner

It's the first day of the school holidays for my son (yes, already!), though not for the girls.  He's just walked into the kitchen asking for my help fixing together a crown he is making. He has designed, cut, and decorated it, and now it is time to put it all together.  Boy is it fiddly.  Crowns, top hats for fancy dress parades at school, party head-gear, I've tried my hand at the lot, with limited success. Strictly limited.  So I take my hat off to anyone that does this for a living, and for me, head and shoulders above the rest is the milliner Jess Collett - check out her website here:  Jess Collett Milliner.

Over the past couple of years I've worn Jess's fedora on the school run, her panama hat on South Beach, Miami, her cocktail hat as a guest of The Grand Budapest Hotel, her vintage combs to Glyndebourne, and regularly steal back her star clips in a myriad of colours from the nests of my little pair of magpies.  

Jess Collett's studio, an Aladdin's cave of textiles, colour and inspiration, is on the corner of All Saint's Road, just across from Book and Kitchen, an oasis in the desert of independent bookshops, and around the corner from Portobello Market, the hub of vintage. 

Vintage and circus are natural bedfellows, complementing the Vivienne Westwood School of Thought. The whole idea of stepping out of the mainstream to create your own original, is an empowering one. Circus on the fringes provides a space to rescue skills passed down through families and generations, and breathe new life into them. Take for example the invention of the Cyr Wheel in 2003, built on age-old principles.  The Cyr wheel is a stunning discipline founded by Daniel Cyr, who also created the fabulous Cirque Eloize.  Their last pulsating show at Sadlers' Wells was ID and focussed on the idea of tribes and identity in the City. BMX's and street beat, skipping ropes and chair-stacking balancers. Building on old foundations, with new interpretations.

In fashion terms, vintage for me is about retrieving and recycling gems from bygone eras (or giving the illusion of so doing) that resists the contemporary mainstream trend to use and discard.   So I was delighted to see the photo on Instagram of Jess's hat as part of a fabulous shoot announcing the Broken Down Doll Boutique's Festival of Fabulous, held at Phoenix the best friend to any bird with a broken wing (see Chapter 16: Bird with a Broken Wing)  looking for new feathers.  The phoenix rising, indeed.

So roll up, roll up for

 "statement sequins, superhero worthy capes and classic cocktail wear"

It starts TODAY! and is on until 13th July at Phoenix on 67 Golborne Rd, W10.   With an added twist of a hibiscus marguerita tonight and next Thursday 6-9pm, The Pied Piper of Vintage is calling ...

And speaking of finding your way, I have just heard about all the benches cropping up over London dressed as books.   My favourite, the one I will search for first (clues welcome!) is the one celebrating Monica Ali.  Who knows where it will lead, but sometimes life is a case of just following the Yellow Brick Lane ...

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