When our menswear head of design wanted to develop an idea for a 1950s-inspired American Blizzard coat, she didn’t trawl through Instagram or consult catwalk looks. Instead, Claire picked up the phone to her long-time contact Enric – the “Vintage Hunter” – who she met in Spitalfields market during her time at Burberry.
“I knew the type of thing Claire wanted, found a vintage jacket and sent her a photo. She said it was perfect, so hired it to develop the Jigsaw coat,” Enric explains from his studio in Dalston, whose walls are covered, floor-to-ceiling, with vintage finds. Military jackets from the late 1800s, Victoriana blouses, exquisite embroidery.
“We do a US road trip about four times a year, finding little treasures to inspire people,” he continues. “I think we found that one in Massachusetts.”
The “we” is Enric and his wife, Estefi, who have been running the Silk & Rope vintage archive in east London for almost 10 years, having moved to the capital from Barcelona. Unless you’re in the business of buying vintage fashion, you won’t learn about its nuts and bolts from Enric and Estefi – not on the record, anyway, and certainly not without gaining their trust. Both are – understandably – protective of their trade, one that is based on nurturing relationships with people. In real life. Don’t expect to engage in an email exchange. They’re too busy living: touching beautiful clothes, talking to collectors, market-stall holders, designers, individuals who can spot a stitching detail that sets a jacket apart.
“We might meet a customer, who then says to us ‘I’ve got my mum’s collection for you to look at’ or another who says ‘I’ve got more stuff in Russia’,” Estefi explains. “We have people sourcing for us.”
And they have an eye for this stuff. You can’t pin it down with a science; they live and breathe vintage fashion. Enric resisted attempts by a Japanese collector to buy a 1980s fireman suit because he loved it so much (he caved after two years). Estefi is still holding on to a 1930s lamé, embroidered coat. “I love buying, not selling!” she laughs.
But she does admit to selling a coat she was actually wearing, when approached by a group of women on the street. “She was practically naked”, Enric laughs, recalling that the same women wanted to buy her shirt too, once the coat was removed.
“We’ve always been collectors, but of antiques, not fashion,” says Estefi. “We learnt on the job. At the beginning, we were doing seven markets a week, buying hundreds of pieces. Now, we have very selective pieces. That’s why designers come to us.”
By Ana Santi