Steph's a friendly face at markets, and has been a great help with advice, guidance and smiles as El's & Co. committed to hitting the road for markets and events in 2022.
Steph's stall and product is beautiful and immaculately merchandised - you can find Style Vintage's events and markets here.
El: Please tell us about Style Vintage and how you came to start your business.
S: I was a fashion designer for a million years... OK maybe just 20!
When creating shapes and cutting patterns it's natural to reference what's gone before so my knowledge of fashion history was pretty comprehensive from early on, with shelves of books in the subject.
Throughout the 80's & 90's I was making bridalwear, I'm a purist so I'd deconstruct victorian bodices and visit the V&A to get the shapes bang on.
You know that Ralph Lauren Design studios in New York have archive rooms full of the most amazing vintage pieces for design sourcing (probably copying me 🤣).
Skip forward 20 years, I'd closed my comercial workrooms and spent a few years in retail management which paid the rent but left me cold with the sameness of it all, I craved something more creative, something a bit more 'Rive Gauche'.
My Husband has offices in Yeovil (not my dream location) so I batted my lashes and persuaded him to let me take over the 1st floor, a row on magnolia boxes.
So I began slowly curating a bonkers boutique inspired by the ones I pressed my nose against when I was little in the 70's. I shipped my own vintage up there and added new finds of 50's, 60's, 70's (couldn't cope with 80's back then) and really special pre loved pieces, focusing on amazing fabrics & textiles.
Footfall was limited but it was a good time to slowly work out this very niche business.
Then I did my first market and boom, that was my new world full of my kind of people and unlimited footfall.
El: What have you learnt from market trading?
To be organised ahead of the day or you could be faffing all day instead of focusing on customers. (rehearsals in the garage are still a thing)
When you think you've got it looking just right - walk away and check it from passing customers point of view.
It's a Market stall but it's still retail and deserves every bit of display and merchandising as Selfridges to draw the customer in.
Every market has it's crazy characters but they're generally a really supportive bunch of mavericks.
Don't spill over onto an inch of someone else's pitch.
It's WAY more fun than any other job I've ever done.
Did you know that Market trading is one of the top 5 fastest growing small business in the UK.
El: Why markets over a bricks and mortar shop?
S: For the same reason that shops have an open door policy - removing a barrier from a potential sale, so if you take that to the Nth degree, we marketeers have an open door, wall, roof policy.
People don't have to make a conscious decision to shop with us like they do to cross the threshold of a store. The difference is that our open door isn't costing the planet!
Also, having a fixed retail location can potentially make shoppers complacent, where as when we pop up once a week/month it created a sense of urgency.
I manage the social media for Bridport Market and it amuses and irritates me in equal measures when someone messages us to ask how to buy something from a trader now they're back in London because they regret not getting it at the time - "does he/she have a website?"
That's the point of a street market, You snooze you lose and long may it continue!
El: What are your favourite products to source and/or make?
S: Source: Ah, I'm hungry for all things Tassled and Pioneer, but they're quite rare. Liberty prints are always popular and I'm a bit of a Liberty expert so they shine bright like a diamond when I catch a chink of one on a pile of clothes, especially Ianthe or Hera Feather.
Anything 1970's in decent condition and bigger than size 6 makes the hairs on my arms prickle, if it makes me start humming The Jackson 5 it's in!
Make: If I make time and space to lose myself in the sewing room I love everything that comes off the machine. I find the Bakerboy Cap particularly satisfying. I've taken years perfecting the pattern and I get far too excited when I turn it right side out and it pops into shape.
El: Here's a little more about Steph:
S: There are lots of weird and random things on my metaphorical CV, but I really feel that all those things point to what I do now, and what I do now isn't one thing.
My Instagram gallery is a mess - I wish I had one of those aesthetically pleasing grids, I think it's about as chaotic as my brain.
I'm in my 60th year and only now, FINALLY am I confident enough to say this is me, I believe in my choices, take it or leave it but I'm not apologising.
I never had children so I've never had to grow up or be accountable i think thats why I refuse to slot into an age range.
I buy for fashion loving people 30 years my junior who appreciate iconic pieces with class and a sense of humour. I think I'm getting better at what I do because my twice yearly sale rail is getting smaller!
In a typical week, I'm a designer/maker on a Monday, an Researcher & restorer on a Tuesday, I'm a Market stall retailer on Wednesday & Saturday, I'm a stockroom steamer on a Thursday, then on a Friday I volunteer in a charity shop.
My volunteer role is to pull out items of value, curate them and slowly list them on eBay. I keep thinking I REALLY dont have time to volunteer but then something else sells on eBay and the shop is over the moon so I carry on.
My sister died of cancer 7 years ago and the palliative nurse was so very precious to us all in keeping us together and retaining dignity in death - only those who know, know the importance of that, so my volunteering is a small payback.
But make no mistake I'm NOT a saint, I saw the girls in the shop struggling and knew I could help. It was in the months after my sisters death that I decided to stuff the 9 to 5 and do what makes me happy. She wouldn't be at all surprised at what I'm doing now!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Steph in Bridport, Castle Cary, Exeter, Frome and other markets - give Style Vintage a follow on Instagram to keep up to date.
Thank you Steph, it's a pleasure to have met you.