Wednesday, 02 September 2015 15:04

Welcome to "Stuff We Love"

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Browsing through the racks at Stuff We Love will always yield treasure Browsing through the racks at Stuff We Love will always yield treasure Pictures by Debbie Yazbek

With the rise of retro fashion pre-loved treasures are becoming very covetable on any stylish person's list, from fashion to furniture to vintage cars.

Places like the Marais district in Paris have seen vintage and pre-loved clothing become mainstream. The treasure troves found here can grace a model in any glossy high fashion magazine as a beautiful dress or bag will always will gorgeous and stylish no matter what era they reappear in.

In fact the popularity of these items, which used to be found for a song in the markets, has made them much scarcer and only to be had at a premium.

Fortunately for South Africans there are still gorgeous little places where one can find that beautiful "forever piece" which resonates with the energy of previous owners who cherished it.

One of these is the newest addition to the vintage scene, Stuff We Love, an emporium of rare delights on the corner of 7th street & 2nd avenue in Melville.,formerly owned (I hear) by the purveyers of the enormously popular Second Time Around in Cape Town.

The shop has passed into the hands of media powerhouses Gwynne Conlyn, well known on the foodie scene for her cookbooks, and Sue Russell, formerly of the Times Media Group.

They make a formidable team and their passion for beautiful things manifests itself in both the look and feel of the shop, which is set to see local stylists stampeding in for items for shoots (as well as Jozi glamour pusses who like to wear something a little "different" to red carpet dos).

Melville, of course, has a history of good vintage and always feel as though it is itself in some sort of time warp. Who could forget Velvet Underground in the 1990s where I found so many beautiful vintage evening dresses or Reminiscene run by the cantankerous Rosemary?

Stuff We Love has its own history, situated on the site of Pearls, another well known vintage shop. "There is a real sense of energy in this street. People say our place has one of the nicest shopfronts in Melville. There is even a "P" in the burglar bars," say Gwynne and Sue. "We want it to look like a walk-in closet, a home from home."

The two are great friends and have travelled to Europe extensively, shopping as they went. Naturally some of their purchases have found their way into the shop, hopefully to finance their next trip to Paris!

Both women like items that can be incorporated into one's everyday life and look in a quirky way.

"I had my eye on it," is their mantra!

They are not label queens - their favourite item was a huge polka dot skirt in a vintage shop in Paris, with absolutely no label whatsoever. Exclusive and unique does not mean ultra-expensive.

What was a hobby has become a passion and hopefully a career. Neither of them has given a moment's regret for having given up her day job.

"We want to offer a 'wow' factor - people must think they have found something special," says Gwynne, curled comfortably on the shop's resident chaise lounge with her feet tucked up.

Stuff We Love will be featuring its own line of steampunk jewellery very soon. With the focus so firmly on menswear, they have decided to stock men's clothing but the collection will be "very tight and closely curated".

"Part of the fun is having clothes crushes," says Sue. Her favourite era is the 1950s with its big skirts, nipped in waists and off the shoulder tops. After a period of haunting Victoria's Secrets a lot of "bras and broeks" have found their way into the shop. She has been through a velvet crush and also had a minor Dolce & Gabbana moment.

Both Sue and Gwynne know there is more to previously loved than meets the eye. At the Porte de Clingancourt Les Puces (Flea Market) in Paris they "breathe in the vintage". The biggest flea market in Europe., where the real collectors go, goes on for acres and acres and it takes a lot of focus to go through absolutely everything in sight.

"We love the hunt," they tell me. "It is exciting to find things that makes the little heart tremble and we pounce on them.

"We both bring slightly different eyes to it but complement each other."

"It is about a consciousness: you either get it or you don't. Vintage is becoming so huge and there is a green issue involved. It does not come from a sweatshop," says Gwynne. "You are buying a designer garment for a fraction of the original price.

"So many design houses have everything mad in the Far East now, but pieces from another era were all handmade and tell you a story of another time."



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