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Vintage trends for a thoroughly modern sell

How retro-inspired clothing is making a move forward.

Yesterday I went to the spring 14 edition of alternative London trade show The London Edge. The show, as we know, has been divided for some time between the action sports and streetwear show The Ledge, which takes place upstairs at the National Hall in Olympia, and the London Edge which takes place on the ground level.

Opinions were heavily divided between brands above and below. The streetwear/sports brands at the Ledge were quick to confirm that buyer presence was lower than expected, while alternative labels below asserted that trading had been strong. A spokesman for one brand, who did not wish to be named, told me that the Ledge has relied upon the London Edge since it joined the show five seasons ago, latching on to the success of the London Edge over its 13 season run. However, he said, the ‘alternative’ market for which the London Edge caters is dying.

But this was not the story I heard downstairs, at least from one distinctive brand group – women’s retro apparel.

When we speak of ‘retro’ apparel, I don’t mean vintage. We know that the vintage market has found a lot of success in recent years; you only have to look at any town centre to find a Beyond Retro or a Pop Boutique, plus the fashionable rockabilly girls who frequent it. But beyond vintage, the prominence of labels styled in the likeness of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s is also noticeable.

Of the brands I spoke to at the London Edge, it was the vintage style dress brands that appeared to be having the best time. New brand The Seamstress of Bloomsbury praised the show, as did 13-year-old retro apparel label Collectif.

Collectif has several of its own stores, alongside accounts with indies across the UK, while The Seamstress of Bloomsbury has already picked up a concession at Topshop in Oxford Circus. Both demonstrate that the appeal of retro-style clothing is tangible in the current marketplace and beyond those two, the London Edge was packed with other names such as Bettie Page, Daisy Dapper and Lindy Bop, all of whom professed that trade had been strong.

As we’ve frequently reported in Drapers, it’s not uncommon to see vintage influences repeated season-on-season in womenswear brands. Our recent ‘hero’ Wolf and Whistle has taken the trend into vintage-style workwear, with nipped in waists on blazers and flared skirts on dresses. The label has stockists including John Lewis and Dorothy Perkins.

The demand for a fun, quirky vintage-style dress is always going to be present, whether for warm summer days or Christmas parties, while celebrities such as Florence Welch, Kate Moss and Alexa Chung have cemented the trend.

I was surprised by the quality of retro-inspired apparel making itself known at the London Edge. When I think of alternative, I think of the heavy-metal leather jackets, studs and chains that adorn some of the hard rock brands at the show, but the soft crepe de chine dresses on display at the Seamstress of Bloomsbury wouldn’t have looked out of place among many of the young fashion brands at Pure.

Perhaps it’s time to consider thinking a little more outside the box when it comes to finding new womenswear labels. It certainly seems that the likes of Topshop may already be one step ahead of the game.

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