Howís things there?
Minus ten and all the snow and everythingÖ
Itís the last thing we need really.
Yes, Iím starting to get a bit stir crazy now. Iím
just treating it as time out really.
Can you tell me your background and can you
explain your passion for the thirties, forties and
Yes, where do I start?.. My nine to five job is in
marketing and Iíve run my own marketing company for
eleven years. And, until recently, I had six staff and a
big agency and all that sort of thing. I just decided
that Iíd got fed up with the rat run Ė it wasnít
so much the rat race as the whole corporate thing. The
workings of people and working with big corporations.
So, to cut a long story short, we did a lot of web work
and I actually developed my own software. I remember
thinking ďWhy am I working really hard to make money
for other people?Ē Because thatís what marketing is.
Basically, Iíve always had an interest in vintage and
I bought my first vintage outfit when I was fifteen. I
always had an obsession from as early as I can remember
with historical costume, Agatha Christie programmes and
all those thirties and forties stories and films, tales
from my grandma and looking at all the pictures. My
eldest daughter is following in my footsteps. Sheís
drawing pictures all the time. So I started working in a
vintage shop as a Saturday girl. And that love never
went away but it kind of got overtaken by other things
Ė children and what have you. I became obsessed with
finding items because after I had children my shape
changed and I couldnít fit into a lot of vintage stuff
I had. Thatís why I started looking into reproduction
vintage, because I started getting heavily into
rockabilly and jiving and my husband and I were going
out a lot. And that, combining with the penny finally
dropping to realise that there wasnít a place to get a
really good mix of reproduction clothing, was why I
These days we are a different shape to just a couple of
Thatís it, we really have changed shape. Womenís
bodies have actually got longer, I believe. Their waist
to shoulder has changed and not only that their normal
body shape has changed as well. And the problem is, you
might find a vintage dress you absolutely adore, and
this happened to me quite a few times. I was buying
stuff and I thought ďOh, Iíll get into it
eventually.Ē (Digger laughs) And it never quite
happened and youíve only got one shot, havenít you?
Yes, and if it is original vintage you canít tamper
with it too much.
No you canít because you take away the value. So
because I didnít find anything, and I quite like the
burlesque scene Ė Iím not as into it as I much as I
used to be but I saw Missy Malone and some of the top
burlesque dancers and I love their vintage glamour. For
me Foxy epitomises the grown up glamour that burlesque
has. But also being involved in that scene I got
involved in all the other stuff like the Haworth Forties
Weekend and getting into re-enactment. The other thing
is - during my student years, I did a lot of historical
re-enactment. And I know itís not thirties, forties and
fifties, but itís a similar obsession if you like. I
did the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War Ė the
British Sealed Knot.
We have quite a few re-enactment people on our site.
Yes, well I remember a really big re-enactment event at
Kirby Hall just near Corby.
Just down the road from me.
It was a mixture of all the different eras
and I remember being absolutely blown away by the
They do it very well and you could almost be there back
in time. I was similarly impressed when I saw some at
Duxford. Did your daughter inherit this or has she been
influenced by you in some subtle, or maybe not so subtle
Because, until recently, my working life was very
dominant I didnít really push it. She was aware of the
dresses and stuff but it wasnít really something I
talked about a lot with her. Then she was just obsessed
with drawing and she came in and started to help me put outfits together saying ďThat should go with
that.Ē And I just thought ďHmm, okay letís
cultivate this.Ē And sheís definitelyÖ
Got the gene?
Yes. I think one reason I started Foxy was because of
lots of things that happened.
Yes, youíve mentioned quite a few of them and I think
sometimes they come together to make something happen.
It took me until my mid-forties before I knew what I
really wanted to do and had achieved all the skills and
the environment to make it happen.
Itís so interesting isnít it? Because like my
daughter, I was always interested in clothes, but I ended
up going into a different thing entirely. And as you get
older you realise youíve just got to go for it. A lot
of the people that make it in the world - itís not
always about talent, itís about having the guts to go
out there and do it.
Yes, 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. Can you
tell us about the business itself and what itís
Well, the irony is that Foxy is going to be one year old
tomorrow. We launched at a fashion show on 3rd
December 2009 with a party and high-brow burlesque.
Because I have a marketing company, I thought I just
wanted to experiment Ė itís not going to cost me a
lot to set up because I have all the skills anyway. So
we set up the website, the brand Ė the name was
thought up by my husband.
No flack from the Americans about the name?
Not yet. I donít think we will do because weíre not
selling films Ė itís something completely different.
Because I had the skill set already it was not a huge
outlay and I managed to get my husband to do it. The
company evolved and now weíre selling well across the
world and not only that Iíve been collecting original
vintage patterns for years. And now Iím getting my
first dress done based on one of those patterns Ė
itís in production now. So thatís how itís
evolving and we want our own range on there as well. I
also do want to open a shop, but with the current
economic climate Iím just keeping my eye on the pulse
You're obviously online and have got some stock
Iím surrounded by stock. (Laughs)
But no physical presence as it were at the moment?
No, I do attend the odd show here and there and I
sponsor quite a lot of events but I havenít got a shop.
But I am thinking about it. Iím probably putting some
concession rails into a few places.
With the shop youíve got all the overheads to think
Itís the staff thing Iím not really keen on.
Yes, itís all the regulations these days.
Very difficult, yes.
I talk to people all of the time and they seem to be in
two camps. Some say theyíll never have a shop and
itís just too much hassle, preferring online only,
whereas others see having a shop as a must and an extra
string to their bow. Some are even looking at opening
Itís just the costings and youíve got to get it
right because itís a big commitment.
Yes, with rents and so on you start from behind each
Thatís it and that is why weíre looking at doing
some of our own designs based on old patterns and these
are going to be wholesale. Theyíre proper patterns,
not just made to look like the real thing, but they will
be made to fit the modern shape. And maybe a few bits
added here and there.
One client of mine up north has some sixties originals
that she obtained and she wants to find a home for them
so Iíll put you in touch. She is a costume and fancy
dress hire company. She has this issue of people trying
them on and sheís always worried that the seams will
burst for one last time. So if youíre interested?
Yes, absolutely. I get asked for all sorts. I was even
approached by some transvestite magazines.
Yes, I do get quite a few men purchasing and theyíre
not always for their wives.
I suppose you just have to be a bit discreet.
(Laughs) Thereís plenty of markets.
I can remember when I had Ďa proper jobí, sitting
with some friends outside a cafť in Baker Street on a
hot summerís day. And within the space of half an hour
three different transvestites walked past us. And the
thing was that none of them was remotely convincing as a
woman. Square chins, stubble, broad shoulders and so on.
Why do they do that?
I think itís something to do with being over the top.
Everything is extreme (Laughs) and thatís why some of
the frocks they wear, especially the fifties very
extreme look with the thin nipped-in waist , are so
extreme. Thatís the look theyíre trying to get all
A bit of a challenge?
Why is vintage and retro so poplar Ė it actually seems
to be more so even in the last couple of years?
I have a theory that thereís a subculture of people
that enjoy celebrating the past and whatever they
associate is to do with their memories.
We live for the moment as well though donít we?
No, but I mean I think itís the old-fashioned values
and old-fashioned glamour. But even right down to myself
when I was a student re-enacting the mediaeval times.
People are fascinated by history and I think the more
recent history of the thirties, forties and fifties is a
bit easier to grab hold of and we know a bit more about
it. Because of our families and what have you.
Youíre too young to remember any of it first hand
Yes, but the more recent revival is definitely to do
with the recession Ė no doubt about it. Itís this
kind of make-do-and-mend mentality. Because from the
marketing side of what I do Ė I write columns for the
local papers on marketing, and I have been talking quite
a lot about what we call heritage branding. For example,
if you go to Marks and Spencer they have all the old
labels on the jars.
I noticed that on the Sainsburyís Christmas biscuits
Yes, Persil have been doing the ďWe have been around a
long time, weíre reliable, weíre loyal, weíre
Itís so funny, isnít it? Because when you look at
these brands they belong to about three or four huge
multinational companies and they donít exist as
individual companies anymore.
Exactly, thatís it. I know but theyíre still sort of
claiming heritage. And I think thatís what it is,
itís to do with heritage. Actually my favourite era is
the thirties and I think it was such a time of social
change, effected by the previous years. The cut of
womenís clothes was most complicated of all of the 20th
century because of the way they cut the cloth. The
forties got a lot simpler.
Out of necessity.
Yes. It got simpler because of the war and restrictions
on cloth and what have you. And the fifties was very
princess-like and was a reaction to the forties. But the
thirties Ė even socially and culturally the changes
that were going on and peopleís quality of life and
politically. There was massive cultural change and I
think itís overlooked because of the war.
I find it fascinating, certainly from a sales point of
view. Actually I was looking at old photographs and I
found this old book I had hidden in the cupboard that I
hadnít looked at for ages. And I was looking through
it. It was a fashion book, taken in the thirties, but it
could have been taken last week it was that modern.
Thatís weird when you see that isnít it?
I hadnít thought about the thirties in that way,
because they talk about the roaring twenties and the
changes that the first World War had on people so they
were reacting and partying as if there were no
tomorrow. And also the breakdown of the old class system
with servants and so on. It would never be the same
again. And then the deco thing happened in the thirties
and that was fantastic and covered every aspect of
Art, design, culture and all the literature that was
written during that period. Lots of things are
overlooked because of the war. George Orwell was writing
then as well wasnít he?
Yes. The nineties and the noughties seem relatively
really bland to me and I wonder if weíll look back on
them in the same way in forty of fifty years? Iím not
too sure we will.
No I donít really look at the nineties with any
No, itís all just technological change isnít it? The
Yes, it was the rise of the digital age and I do think
that with having all this political change of leaders
people are starting to wake up again. People were very
drunk on materialism and there was far too much of that.
The students are actually protesting.
I know. Wow!
Weíre gong back to 1968. Itís amazing isnít it?
What advice would you give to somebody who is starting
to collect on the thirties, forties and fifties?
What advice would I give? Well obviously weíre not
selling pure vintage clothes Ėthe things that you do
find difficult to get that are reproduction are hats and
accessories. Forties hats are very difficult to make now
because they have to be moulded over certain shapes and
itís far too expensive for people to do. In fact, Iím
actually buying some vintage hats and taking them to a hat maker
in the Czech Republic to see if they can reproduce them.
I donít think thereís a huge market and that people
will be prepared to pay for them.
Iím living in the town that used to be the home of the
Empireís shoe and boot trade Ė Northampton, and just
down the road was the home of all the hatters Ė Luton,
and now both have hardly any of those industries left.
Itís all gone now apart from one or two specialist factories.
They wonít ever be interested in doing more runs or
things like that Ė theyíd want a high return and
itís very difficult. I donít have any particular
advice Ė yes, do your research but what I would say is
that I would have always got a couple of really classic
pieces and invested in them Ė invest a bit more money
in those pieces because they will never lose their value
and if anything theyíll gain in value. Iíd definitely
go with accessories because they tend to be a better
mix. The problem with vintage is that people see
something with a stain or a rip and they get it anyway.
But because itís in that state they will probably
never wear it. And also beware of eighties. Because the
person that doesnít know much about vintage might buy
it thinking itís original forties Ė of course the eighties
went through a period of emulating the forties after
punk with the New Romantics. You see a lot of stalls
passing off eighties stuff as forties. It is about
research but also buy something you like and are going
What are the best sellers and the best investments?
Because my stuff is reproduction and not vintage my best
sellers are always the fifties classic pencil black
numbers Ė the safe things really.
The Princess Grace and Audrey Hepburn and Dior numbers?
type of look. I have a very wide market actually. I have
people who just want something thatís going to look
knockout and different to their friends at the Christmas
party, then through to people who are really hard core vintage
Youíre not doing anything for blokes?
Weíre not and I think itís a big issue for blokes.
Itís difficult to get things for blokes, because my husband
is a bit of a chap and itís very difficult to find
Thereís people like Savvy Row and The 1940s and 50s
What about customer feedback?
With it being reproduction, theyíre not always replica
vintage and I have a couple of brands that are
vintage-inspired using modern fabrics and modern techniques.
Iím very particular about the brands that I get but I
also like to mix in with people that I find just making
little bits here and there. I see that as a service so I
have a range of forties snoods and I just ask a little lady
down the road to make them for me. She loves being
involved and she does them to an original vintage pattern.
But then Iíll order some reproduction vintage clothes,
which are very much reproduction, from New Orleans.
Wow, you've got some contacts.
Yes, I think that people like that Iíve done the
research for them so I go out and I really find the
right items. Iíve also got a lady making reproduction jewellery
for me at the moment.
Have you got shoes?
Iíve got shoes, Iíve got dance shoes and party
shoes. Itís just that my market ranges from the
enthusiasts to people who just want something a bit
different. Then thereís the Rockabilly and other
groups. But customer feedback has always been extremely
positive because I like to make sure that every item is
carefully wrapped in gold tissue paper and sent out when
we promise to so that it gets there on time and we try
to communicate as much as possible. But also people just
like to phone up to talk about the items, because
obviously they canít try them on. They like to talk
about sizes and I think that personal service is very important.
Thatís another answer to the question earlier on
because I can remember when my mum used to do the
shopping and sheíd stop off at the butchers, the
bakers, the greengrocers and so on and spend half a day
doing it going to individual shops.
And having a good chat.
Wherever you are in the country now it all looks the
same, the familiar handful of chain stores and the
supermarkets and itís all the same.
Yes, and I think thereís a great number of us that are
getting a bit tired of that. A bit tired of being told
what we should like and thatís the other part of why there's
a resurgence and I think itís a reaction to the
sameness. I think thereís always going to be an
underbelly of people who want to do their own thing.
Whatís your difference?
I think itís the diverse range of products that we
have and Iím always looking for new sources and
suppliers. We serve people and understand these people
who live and breathe vintage. We know what they want but
we also understand the woman on the street who is
getting tired of high street fashion.
What do you enjoy most about what youíre doing?
I love choosing the frocks! (Both laugh)
Itís a big excuse to be dressing up.
But also I manage all of our photo shoots so theyíre
always based on a theme. The last one was Ladies Of The
Night (Laughs) but the one before that was Never Too
Busy To Be Beautiful and it was all about the forties
lady working at home in the war and waiting for her
fellah to come back. I always use a couple of burlesque models,
but I also use people I bump into and if I think
ďGosh, she looks nice.Ē I say to them ďWould you like to
come and do it for a frock?Ē And they always say yes.
They always say yes? Thatís good, isnít it?
Yes. I always try to mix the people that I use but I
also do all of the creative direction so I really enjoy
sorting all that out. I must admit, I have quite a few
frocks of my own now.
Of course you do.
I donít take any of them, itís only certain ones.
What about the future?
I can see where the gaps in the market are so certainly
a plus size range for ladies because they just canít
get vintage clothes for a certain size Ė they just
The big players are missing a trick arenít they?
Yes, yes. So thatís in the pipeline at the moment and
I think weíre going for a forties tea dress and a fifties
Donít you think itís so incredible that there are so
many people making a living out of retro and vintage?
Yes. I know, but I donít think itís going to go away
and I donít think itís peaked yet, do you?
No. Even in the time that Iíve been doing this itís
just amazing the number of companies who I keep finding
on The Internet. Itís great finding all this retro
stuff thatís available if you know where to look.
Itís so diverse.
There's a company Iím sure youíve heard of called
The Marvellous Tea Dance Company, and theyíre based in
Leeds. They have quite a few events. Now Iím not
big into drinking but I can go to their events in the afternoon
with my daughter, I can go for tea and eat cake and
dance and thereís something civilised about it. Our
culture has developed into this lager lout drinking culture
and there is something else Ė it doesnít have to be
There are some things we do well in this country, like
music and fashion and popular culture, but there are
some things we do badly and the Europeans do very well.
Weíve got lots of strengths but one weakness youíve
Yes, our attitude towards work and play.
Yes, the Europeans are family-orientated and have a big
family lunch or dinner, a rest in the afternoon and they
donít feel the need to drink to excess.
Itís very nice that with the vintage theme comes these
tea parties Ė I didnít get to Goodwood Vintage
sadly. I really want to go next time because itís such
a good event and itís safe.
The only problem for you would be where to set up
because they have different decades represented. I did
hear from a lot of my clients that they didnít mage to
see the rest of the show because they were stuck in
their stall within a decade, as it were, in their own part of
the event. That is part of the problem. You would have
to be in three different places... Well, many thanks
Clare. Keep warm and best of luck with all your plans.
It's been lovely speaking to you and keep in touch
I will. And you. Take care.
You too. Bye.