Stocking untouched archive pieces from key designers this website is a vintage collector’s dream …
In today’s fashion landscape recreating iconic celebrity red carpet looks from times-past is at an all-time high – see Jennifer Lawrence’s plunging Versace black dress in the vein of Elizabeth Hurley or, in a meta move, Jennifer Lopez referencing herself by rewearing the emerald and blue palm leaf gown she originally debuted at the Grammys more than 20 years ago. As the collective consciousness around mass-consumerism rises, so does the appetite for vintage and pre-loved. (According to online consignment store Thred Up, the global second hand market is expected to nearly double by 2027, reaching $350 billion.) Perhaps one of the greatest boons of snaring a vintage piece, aside from it being unique, is the idea of buying something with a story attached.
Enter: Vintage Plums, the new online boutique that specialises in designer vintage, albeit with a twist. Each piece on sale isn’t the result of an extensive haul from collectors and sellers across the globe, rather they are the fruits of bad luck and a dash of ingenuity. Owner Pat Jordan-Scott is selling pieces from a warehouse attached to her 64-year-old Belfast-based retail business La Babalu. La Babalu originated on Church Lane, a spot Jordan-Scott name-checks as “the Carnaby Street of Belfast” and was home to designers such as Ossie Clark, Biba, Nolan Miller, Oleg Cassini and Anne Bruh. The reason for the excess stock was a practical one: the boutique was bombed on three different occasions, in three different locations, during the Troubles so the clothing was moved to a warehouse during each rebuild. In 1983, the boutique changed its name to La Jourdan before moving to Queen’s Arcade and subsequently Lisburn Road, before closing in 2019. However, the stock remained, unworn and unsold, acting as Jordan-Scott puts it, as “a warehouse locked in time”. Times changed, as did fashion. However, there was something about the clothes that still appealed. “Although having high warehousing costs throughout the decades, I just couldn’t bring myself to dispose of these beautiful garments,” she says.
In what can only be described as a collector’s dream, each item on sale is unworn and many have the original tags still attached. “Unworn vintage has the particular advantage of being new to the first-time buyer and still holding a second-hand value,” Jordan-Scott explains. That is, if you could bear to part with it. As you can imagine, the pieces act as a direct line to specific eras in fashion, most notably the 1960s, through to the 1990s. Currently on site is a chiffon floral dress with a peplum trim by seminal designer Ossie Clark for Quorum, the London boutique run by Alice Pollock which was a key player in the sixties fashion scene in London. (Clark initially designed pieces alongside textile specialist, and his soon to be wife, Celia Birthwell.) It’s an era that still fascinates. “Designers such as Anne Bruh and Frank Russell, who were two of the main contributors to the swinging sixties (through their labels, Frank Usher and Cache D’or), attract a lot of attention,” says Jordan-Scott. Also, a safety-pin dress in striking red, in the vein of Elizabeth Hurley’s aforementioned Versace dress worn in 1994, this one by Bernshaw, the London occasion wear brand which dressed the cast of Dallas. Equally, an early 1980s beaded gown by Roots, is an updated nod to flapper fashion that wouldn’t look out of place in the context of contemporary brands like Rixo.
Naturally, with over 60 years of retail experience in fashion, through the different iterations of the boutique, Jordan-Scott has accumulated many stories. Although she maintains that one of her favourite customers was Roger Moore who shopped for his wife in their then boutique in Queen’s Arcade. Also, notably, the Seattle Airlines owner who was visiting Ireland to lease aircrafts to Aer Lingus. “He found our shop and bought a total of 22 outfits for his wife’s 40th birthday. He said at the time that his wife usually always asked for a receipt with any gifts given by him – not this time!” she says. Shop the collection at www.vintageplums.co.uk.