Leeds-List caught up with some of the city’s pre-loved retailers and event organisers to find out why the vintage shopping scene in Leeds is so good…
Hailed as one of the best vintage shopping destinations outside of London, Leeds attracts shoppers from far and wide. But what is it that makes our streets so irresistible to vintage retailers and what can you expect from our ever expanding vintage scene?
What to expect
Michelle Walton, the brains behind Bird’s Yard and owner of second floor vintage store Bird Shell, recently opened a second store in Sheffield. She told us, ‘Although their fairs are amazingly popular, I was astonished to hear that it only had 5 vintage shops.’ In contrast, Leeds is a vintage mecca, it ‘has lots of vintage shops and the owners really know their stuff.’
It’s true, the vintage shopping scene in Leeds is vast and varied. The city centre has its own vintage quarter of sorts, where you can pick up anything from retro eighties tops and recycled fashion to hand-picked forties dresses shipped in from America.
But when it comes to vintage fashion in Leeds, quantity doesn’t mean any lack of quality. Shoppers expect more, as Roberta Swift, owner of antique jewellery store Aladdin’s Cave, told us – ‘the people of Leeds are becoming more discerning when it comes to buying vintage, they want something a bit more unique, not something mass produced which is often the case these days.’
So not only do we have loads of vintage stores, but they’re top class too. Competition between stores has led to retailers trying to differentiate themselves. Many stores now hand-pick items, moving away from the ‘bulk buying’ trend, and some are now specialising. Blue Rinse, for example, has a thriving recycled fashion brand, called ‘Remade in Britain’, while Bird Shell fill the rails with high-end chic, chosen for its authenticity, style and quality.
And the same is true outside the city centre. Rebecca Jade’s Vintage, the only vintage store in Horsforth, focuses on the shopping experience, as owner Rebecca told us, ‘I really wanted to offer the kind of customer service you won’t get in normal high street fashion shops.’
When we asked Rebecca why she chose to open her store in the suburbs, she told us ‘Leeds is a very trendy town and the vintage scene has been here for a long time, so there are a great range of shops in the city centre – I wanted to bring vintage out to my local neighbourhoods in North Leeds. I find that many of my customers prefer independent shopping to support local businesses and it’s a lot easier than making the trip into town.’
But it isn’t easy, especially in the current climate. As Roberta Swift told us – ‘with the rising costs of rent and rates, it is quite hard to survive these days as an independent store.’
more than just stores
There’s more to the vintage shopping scene in Leeds than just stores. The city has two dedicated vintage fairs, and is an important stop for many national fairs.
St Gemma’s Hospice, a charity that offers care and support to people with terminal diseases, run their own vintage fair. We caught up with fundraiser, Michelle Budd to find out a little more about it.
‘It started off with two members of the team, a rail & a van and off they went. But the idea has really rocketed and now takes up the whole of our conference areas, seminar rooms and boardrooms. It just goes to show what you can achieve with a small idea.’
St Gemma’s Vintage Fair, which boasts stock saved from their 20 charity stores and expert vintage traders, who travel to Leeds specially for the event, attracts vintage shoppers ‘from far & wide, all across Yorkshire.’
As does the Leeds Vintage Fashion Fair. Started in 2005, it’s moved from The Queens to Leeds Town Hall and back again, but it’s still as popular as ever. We caught up with organiser Sally Woodhead, who told us how the Leeds vintage scene has shaped her fair. She said, ‘It has become harder to differentiate between true vintage and second hand fashion.’ She thinks the rise in bulk buying has made ‘it is harder to find good quality vintage fashion’ and has used this insight to create a fair that ‘only deals in high quality fashions.’
We don’t know what the future holds for the vintage fashion scene in Leeds, but there are a few gaps just waiting to be filled by vintage entrepreneurs.
With the growing popularity of vintage-themed weddings, the city is in dire need of a dedicated vintage bridal store. Both Bird Shell and Rebecca Jade’s Vintage dabble in this area, but with such small selections available, the chance of finding that perfect dress is one in a million.
We should take our lead from London. The capital has entire stores devoted to vintage wedding dresses – although you’ll have to cross the city three times over to see them all. And the Vintage Wedding Dress Company, now rebranded as Charlie Brear, has stockists in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and more – but not here.
The city is also sadly lacking in designers stores, at least of the vintage variety. Harvey Nichols and the Victoria Quarter are proof of the demand for luxury fashion in Leeds, and the new Eastgate development further confirms this argument. So if this vintage haven of ours is to rival the capital it needs high-end stores, like London’s Rellik.