Speaking about vintage. What springs to mind? Old, used and smelly? Think twice. Hepwrights is the heart of vintage in Southampton. Located in Bedford Place it’s been described as: “a treasure trove of quality vintage,” this is only one of the simple ways to describe this little wonderland of magic.
Sporting quality vintage attire: a purple print skirt from a charity shop; a 1920’s laced-cape cardigan, and a golden broach, which has been customised into a necklace. It’s safe to say that this 48-year-old vintage store owner is the love-child of classy and vintage. Many things have occurred in her life, which have brought her to this point of owning her very own vintage store. From early-life traumas, being a single mother raising two children and fighting a battle with depression. She hasn’t let this get the better of her though and believes all of her troubles have paved the way for her success. It’s very moving to see how positive she has remained through her hardships: “It’s amazing how many brilliant things can come out of adversity.”
Catherine Wright is a woman who knows her stuff, when it comes to the world of fashion and vintage-wear. “I’ve been wearing vintage, second-hand clothing for over fifty years now, it seems bizarre when I hear people saying they want to try wearing vintage clothing for a few months”, she laughs.
When talking to Catherine, she is very animated, and comes across as very eccentric and fiery, it’s clear she has a passion and her passion is vintage. Her personality is very fitting for the world she lives in. It almost comes across as she’s a character in a fairytale when she speaks about her love for clothes. Her love of fashion springs from her upbringing of being surrounded by theatre (as her mother was an actress), “The idea of dressing up was so normal to me.” It doesn’t stop there, Catherine also had a stepmother who was a ‘snob’ when it came to fashion, but influenced her nonetheless.
In a world where fashion is consumed by current trends and the high-street ruling over, it can be hard for small vintage stores to have a stance in the competitive industry, that is retail. But it seems now more and more high-street shops are trying their luck at having ‘vintage-like’ pieces in their clothing ranges. “There has always been vintage in the market. Vintage used to mean second-hand. It’s funny when I see things being labelled as vintage in the shops when they are new garments.” She continues: “Fashiony-type people have always enjoyed vintage stores… But they need to remember, once you become a trend, that trend will pass, that’s fashion.”
Don’t be confused into thinking she follows trends, Catherine is just a vintage lover: “I only ever go to the high-street to look at what everyone’s deciding to wear, it’s not for my own benefit. Purely just to see the competition that is out there!” She’s pretty unique when it comes to buying and shopping. Unlike the typical fashion shop’a’holic Catherine believes in the ethics of fashion.
She believes that there is so much in the world so why should she produce more, she adds: “I never think what I can buy, I think what can I use.” She calls this her own contribution to what already exists. She doesn’t even stand for customising vintage items, the necklace which was proudly hanging from her neck had been customised by a jewellery girl who worked in her store, she cringed as she spoke about how it was previously a broach and had been customised into a necklace: “I assure you this is so not me. I like how people make old things look new but when they stick beads and glitter and all those things, I think no no no! The point is, you use what is there .”
Her children didn’t follow in the footsteps of their mother. Her eldest son studies Politics; “Oh he’s far too busy changing the world to worry about clothes” she smiles. Her 11-year-old daughter didn’t exactly take to Catherine’s lifestyle in the beginning but given time she slowly warmed to the idea of having a mother who adored clothes, “At first Grace thought my clothes were weird, but now she thinks I’m cool.”
Sitting upright in her chair, she begins talking about issues in fashion and how she personally views clothes: “It often feels like I run an adoption agency for clothes,” she snorts. “Because everything in the shop is a one. You have to find the right person for that one thing,” she added. Speaking about the current size issue that has been a dominant story in the fashion world: “The sizing issue is ridiculous! Every day I get women coming into the shop saying ‘Oh I can’t wear this, my bum’s too big’ or ‘I’m too fat’ it’s like saying the manufacturer is right and the garment is wrong?” She argues.
Her biggest regret she has is holding back. She explains: “I really do kick myself for not being brave enough. I used to hold myself back so much; I guess it’s the fear of being wrong. It just took me so long to take big steps.” Her powerful motivational words were an eye-opener for many, as she continued: “If it’s going wrong today, just make it right tomorrow.”
Hepwrights Vintage Store site: http://hepwrights.com/