(Voicemail message answers, then a human voice)
Ah! Hello Moira. I was just leaving a voicemail
message. I hate voicemail, donít you? Youíve
been spared me leaving you a message! My sister
laughs at my voice messages because I sound as
though Iím having a conversation and usually
run out of tape!
(Laughs) Iíd forgotten we were doing this now
and I didnít recognise the number.
You thought I was a telesales call?
Yes. Thatís why I waited for the machine to
Whatís your background and the background to
Chic and Unique?
I worked for an insurance company, Scottish
Life, for sixteen years. And for the last three
years I was a team leader in the complaints
department. Then the company was bought over by
Royal London and I was made redundant.
Thereís quite a big financial presence where
you are in Edinburgh isnít there?
Yes. I didnít know what to do with myself so
(Laughs) I thought ďI know, Iíll start a
Well done you. Do you think that now youíve
had a taste of freedom and working for yourself
that you couldnít now go back to working for a
I donít know. I think if I had to, I would,
because I was in situations at Scottish Life
where they moved me around and it was one step
forward, two back, but I managed. So I think
once I got back into it I would be okay.
What about the office politics?
Thatís the thing that I hate about it because
Iím not political at all and I donít cow-tow
to it. That was part of the problem Ė the
senior managers liked me but the middle managers
Your story sounds almost like mine Moira.
And my sister was also Head of Finance at the
time so I knew I was a wee bit covered. (Laughs)
That helped. (Both laugh) It must have been
quite a stressful role as well, being the boss
of the complaints team?
Yes it was but we had a really good team and we
had a lot of fun as well because the work was so
stressful. Of course, youíve got people
ranting on the phone.
Did you do that thing like they do at Aviva
where they dress up in fancy dress and have to
use specific Ďnon-sequiturí words and phrase
when talking to customers?
No, we werenít a call centre. Ours were more
the written complaints. I did a lot for the
Chief Executive. So we got them when people were
nice and angry and weíd totally mucked up
You made this brave move, so what happened? Had
you been collecting already? You must have had a
passion for this to start with?
Well, my father used to buy my mother a lot of Art
Deco jewellery in the fifties because there was
no tax on second-hand jewellery.
It was probably quite affordable in those days
Well, to a degree, yes. It was only new
jewellery that was taxed so it was cheaper to
buy second-hand jewellery and also Art Deco
pieces were classed as a little old-fashioned.
So always, as a child, I was around about Deco
items. They used to buy from a shop called
Hamilton and Inches in Edinburgh, which is THE
premier jewellers in Scotland. As a child I used
to go up there and the manager would show me
around and show me all the jewellery and taught
me about how to tell a good stone from a poor
stone. Good pearls from bad pearls and all this
sort of thing. So I always had an interest in
jewellery . But I couldnít afford the real
thing. So I went into costume. And I did have a
bit of a collection, but I had to put a lot of
that back in as stock when I started the shop.
So you had to get rid of all of your own stuff?
Well, quite a lot of it. I kept one or two bits
(Both laugh) Of course you did. So how soon did
you realise that this gamble was going to pay
I do still have days where I think ďWhat was
going on in my tiny brain that I thought this
was a good idea?!Ē
Youíre in a good location there in Edinburgh.
And being in the Internet age that gives you a
lot of potential. Not just relying on
passing trade, as it were. How much are you
pushing the Internet presence?
Iím trying to push more and more and Iím
having a new site developed at the moment which
is going to be similar to the old one but itís
got moving pictures and things like that.
Because, Ideally, I would like to focus on The
Internet and just have cabinets in antique
centres and places like that.
Thatís a good route because a client of mine
who does vintage clothing does the same thing
and it works very well for her.
Ideally that would be the way to go.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking
about collecting costume jewellery?
You can either go for things you like and love
and want to wear or go for the really
collectable names like Haskell, Boucher, Dior.
But mainly you have to love it.
I suppose if you go for the collectable names
then you pay a premium as well?
You do indeed unless youíre very lucky. And
also you have to know what youíre looking for
and also that it is the genuine article.
When you see the jewellery experts on The
Antiques Roadshow, do you sometimes think
ďHmm, Iím not quite sure about that bit of
advice or that valuation?Ē Do you cast a
critical eye or do you think that most of the
time theyíre pretty much spot on?
Sometimes I do think ďHmm.Ē Because
originally they all pooh-poohed costume
jewellery and said it wasnít worth anything.
Actually, it is, itís just that you donít
understand that field or itís not a recognised
field in this country. If it was in America, of
course they would know.
There was quite a lot of snobbery about 20th
Century and post-war items until relatively
recently and they couldnít be evaluated as
valuables Ė certainly not as antiques. Now
plastic items, fifties and sixties are seen as
collectable and acceptable, as it were.
Yes, and Iíve got a lot of friends who are
jewellers and who deal in wonderful fine antique
jewellery. To begin with they were saying
ďYouíre doing WHAT? Costume jewellery?
Really?!Ē And when they saw it they said
ďActually this is quite nice.Ē Because I try
to go for the best of the costume jewellery
There was method in your madness and you had the
foresight and confidence to go with what you saw
as a niche.
What sort of services are you offering other
than selling the jewellery?
I rent out the vintage tiaras for weddings.
That sounds like a good market.
Yes, theyíre very popular.
Do you do valuations over the phone e or
No, I prefer not to because if I canít handle
it then itís very difficult. People do send me
photographs and I can maybe see who I think it
is and direct them to sites that they could
maybe find something similar. But I donít give
values because you canít really see them and
you donít know the condition or see
There are some Internet sites that value items
by reference to a photo and a description.
Well, I donít know how they can be sure. For
example, with the likes of Boucher, a lot of
people copied his stuff and until you feel it
you just can tell. The quality isnít there in
You need to feel the weight and see the detail?
Yes, and to just feel the crispness of them. So,
no I donít like to do valuations. Sometimes
people come in and I just tell them what their
item is but itís very subjective because
itís just my opinion.
What sort of feedback and comments are you
getting from clients?
They love it. (Laughs) They think Iíve got a
good eye for the pieces I pick. They love the
shop because itís very relaxed.
Is there much competition in this area?
Not in Edinburgh. Not at all. Oh, the other
thing I do is I do repair work and restringing.
Oh, thatís quite a skill. How did you get into
I donít actually do the restringing, I have a
girl who does that but I do the stonework. I
replace stones and pieces because I have to do
that for pieces that I buy.
Where did you learn that skill?
I just taught myself.
Thatís impressive because youíre working
with delicate and detailed items there, so well
done for teaching yourself those skills.
(Laughs) Well, I'll have a go!
One of my clients does Railwayana and from that
heís now specialising in repairing clocks Ė
again, he taught himself because he has a
passion for them. Itís amazing what people can
do. And heís very sought after.
I can imagine, because there are so few people
that do repair work now.
Itís a very old-fashioned thing that weíve
lost. There used to be repair shops for lots of
things in most towns but you just donít get
that now. Itís all replaced and thrown away
Thatís right and thatís whatís making
these pieces more valuable.
What are the best things about running Chic and
Lots of friends come in for coffee and keep me
company. (Both laugh) Iíve met so many
people through the shop whoíve become friends.
I just enjoy it and although running a business
can be stressful theyíre different stresses
from working in that office job. Itís hard
work but everything I do in the business is for
me rather than for a big company and I get a lot
of pleasure from making the clients happy. I
havenít had a holiday in four years but itís
rewarding working for yourself when someone, for
example, comes in and shows a photograph of
their wedding and they say ďIt was wonderful
and it really made my day. It was such a great experience.
Ē I think ďThatís nice".
Whatís your specific retro passion?
Any Art Deco? I mean would you furnish your
house in Art Deco furnishings and so on? I love
that Jeeves and Wooster look...
If I could afford it yes. But at the moment I
have some inherited furniture and Iím a bit
old-fashioned. I have my china and silver tea
services and things like that. Iím afraid I
come from a family where we donít throw anything
out. We just recycle around the family!
Good. We need people like you. Do you think
itís a very British thing, collecting and
hanging on to stuff for generations?
I think thereís a lot less of it now with all
the new people coming up and the uncluttered
living. Everythingís got to be white or cream.
I think on The Continent itís much bigger than
here now and I think people have lost that and
will regret it in twenty years.
What are the best sellers Moira?
Definitely Art Deco bracelets and earrings. And
the pearly things by Miriam Haskell. I think so
many people like the Art Deco and the clean
lines and the fact that theyíre from the
1930s. Because of programmes like Poirot Ė
itís so stylish and elegant and thatís what
they have in their heads. The fashions for
wedding dresses as well because thatís when I
sell most pieces. For brides or the evening
The Deco look and the clean lines are a terrific
And itís evocative of the age and when they
put them on they think ďOoh, whoís worn this
before? Some flapper girl or some stylish lady
from the thirties or forties, a film star
The roaring twenties and the gay young things
between the wars.
Yes, when women were really coming into their
own and taking control of their lives, having
jobs and moving forward. They got rid of their
corsets and cut their hair.
And come the war they were ably doing all of the
jobs that the men had been doing.
Yes. And becoming very independent.
Why do you think we are generally so keen on
nostalgia and vintage?
Probably because things were better made and
they were much more stylish. I mean, a lot of
women now just walk about in jeans and things.
And again it is all the nostalgic and period
programmes that have brought back all these
images and people are looking and wishing they
could look like that.
You do notice when you go out that even when
they go to restaurants and so on people donít
dress up these days.
Yes. I went to the theatre and there were people
there in jeans. I would never go to the theatre
No, itís a shame. Thereís a photo in the pub
next to our local theatre and it shows the whole
audience from the twenties or thirties from the
stage perspective. They are all in their
smartest clothes for the show, no matter
what class or job they did.
I had great aunties and four of them shared a
bedroom and they had half a chest of drawers
each. They had their Sunday Best dress and then
they had two dresses for during the week for
working and that was it. And the good shoes and
hat for Sunday. They just didnít have what we
have now, they couldnít afford it, there was
no credit and thatís the way they worked. My
mother is still very much like that. She has her
summer outfits and her winter outfits, evening
outfits and a casual one and thatís it.
Itís such a big change in just one or two generations.
My mother was born in í32 so she was brought
up through the war and you couldnít get things
and you made do and mend. You bought the best
you could afford. My great aunties werenít
rich so they saved up and bought the best that
they could and it was paid for and they wore it until
What youíre selling is environmentally friendly
because itís being recycled so thatís a plus
Oh yes definitely.
So Moira, what are your future plans for Chic
Pushing The Internet. And I used to do quite a
lot of fashion shows so Iíd quite like to get
back into do more of those. And I support a lot
of charities with lending them pieces. Iím
doing something with St Columbus Hospice for
their Whit Dinner and weíre dressing up all
How far do you travel?
I tend to stay in and around Edinburgh because I
have a neurotic dog and I canít give him to
anybody else so it makes it very difficult to go
far. Heís a rescue dog and heís agoraphobic
and quite frightened of strangers so heís hard
work. I figured it out that heís scared of a
dark haired man in a luminous jacket so someone
fitting that description, maybe doing road
works, must have treated him badly.
Thatís a good bit of detective work. Well
Moira, I wish you every success with the
business and with your plans for developing it.
The jewellery looks stunning.
care. Bye for now.