Shopping: I wish I was a saver

Written by  Sybilla Harvey

Stevie Wonder wished those days could come back once more, Santana wished it was more like fantasy and Skee-Lo wished he was a little bit taller. I wish, and will wish forever more that I was a saver. The kind of saver who turns their back on life’s needless and over priced little offerings and steps boldly into the no man’s land of I’m fine without it.

Savers are the truest of martyrs, each and every weighed-down-with-spare-change one of them. The satisfaction which arrives with this must be quite, well, satisfying, but where’s the megalomaniac overflow of emotion which rushes through you when step away from the till? Where is the flash of guilt, the heady splurge of endorphins, the thought I may actually keep this present for myself? This is what I love: Shopping in all its self destructive glory. I shop, and will continue to shop, fuelled by a sense of personal anarchy, all within the realm of the victorious smile belonging to a store managers everywhere. For shame, you say.

I do have my punishments, I promise, like buying second hand clothes; clothes which belonged to your grandma, clothes which possibly didn’t leave someone’s wardrobe, and worse, their body, until they had gone to that special place where we simply have no need to want anymore. Forklift all this to an East End warehouse, as stifling, dark and fantastic as the Suuq of Marrakesh , place a billboard outside saying vintage, put some good music on and you’ve sold it. It’s that easy and I’m that shallow. I’d much prefer rail upon dusty rail of 50s swing skirts, 80s batwing, polyester jumpers, garish flowered shirts and old prom dresses to a flawless store on Bond Street where you're too afraid to move due to a fear of making the steely lipped employees actually break into a smile. Of course, this is not always the case and merely reflects my own insecure musings.

It’s not that I’m afraid of big, shiny stores like Selfridges ;I loiter around the food hall there quite frequently, tasting Champagne Marmite and shopping for bizarre melted marshmallow in a tub. Liberty makes me sad quite a lot of the time, simply because I want everything in there. Everything. Right down to the scented Liberty print drawer liners. When pennies are sparse I pretend I live there, admiring my faux Tudor, neo Gothic beams and how successful I’ve been in purchasing a country house just off Oxford Street. If my purse could withstand a battle with Dover Street Market and all its wonderful, wearable inhabitants, I wouldn’t think twice about traveling to Dover Street and immersing myself in Comme des Garçons and friends. Sadly, this is not the case and kicks must be sought and bought somewhere else.

The price tag attached to some of the vintage stores in London is one of the reasons why I regularly sift for treasure via mothballs. There’s a family of them around the Brick Lane area; “Rokit” and “Beyond Retro” to name a couple, as well as “Blondie” which offers vintage Chanel jackets and Hermès scarves. Also not forgetting the Spitalfields area and further a field in Stepney Green. On a Saturday I like ambling along to Broadway market, near London Fields to rifle through all the clothes and bejeweled stalls which appear overnight. CA4LA is a rickety, rummage-able shop, found by embracing the spirit of the Rue des Paquis' winding alleys, and heading to Old Street. The shop is filled with stuffed animals and chandeliers, but its main draw, is its endless collection of hats.

The best thing about vintage stores and flea markets is that when you find somewhere you like, there is only one of each item inside it, and it’s all for you. When you catch a glimpse of yourself in the store’s mirror, you also realise the whole process is very funny. You enter a focused individual dedicated to finding a truly unique piece and within minutes you morph into a clotheshorse, piled high with shirts, handbags for £1.50 and a red turban which may come in handy some time. These items will remain with you until you separate the decent from the unsightly. Sometimes you hide one dress you haven’t quite made up your mind about, just so no one else finds it. This kind of shopping is a survival of the fittest, but I quite like it.

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