Another landmark of the Nottingham vintage scene, Baklash reopened last year in the premises of the old Selectadisc. Always with enticing window displays, this store specialises in vintage and retro clothing, shoes and accessories, as well as some new clothing and great costume jewellery. The prices are fantastic – especially as the clothes are laundered and in great condition. Many dresses and skirts are ‘reworked’ – the labels state clearly if this is the case – into more popular measurements. This is a winner for me, without a sewing machine and no big fan of the mid-calf length.
I had a few moments with owner Eve Cope as she was making the finishing touches to the recently opened top floor, which is lined with racks of beautifully pressed men’s and women’s clothing, arranged with an eye for colour and pattern. I spotted, amongst other things, Gatsby-esque beaded tops, trench coats in dove shades and a number of matching two-piece outfits, including a purple velvet Jaeger trouser suit. This is the sort of thing high-street stores are now churning out in countless copies; here, everything is much closer to one-of-a-kind, has been cared for deservedly, and clearly won’t disintegrate in the wash.
Eve really knows and loves her vintage. She’s had a shop 31 years, and was a wholesaler before that. She also runs a number of Ebay stores, for particularly rare vintage pieces that are reserved ‘so they don’t get damaged’ instore.
‘Well it’s always my passion, you see, it’s never been a business for me. ‘Cause I’ve always loved vintage – I’ve set shops up for people. I set this floor up in about 1980 for Brian [Selby’s] son – so I’ve gone full circle, really.’
The far corner looks like a sewing workshop – this is where the alterations take place. Eve, who employs (and sells the work of) ‘people that are talented’, has designated this floor for Gayle, who will be selling some of her own creations – her take on 1940s knitwear, ‘beautiful one-off pieces’ – available from mid-February.
I asked Eve where she gets her stock.
‘My resource? I’ve had mine for years. I buy from near London. My stock all comes from the same place as the people with shops in London – Camden and everywhere. They all go to where I go. But I’m very close to the family, you see.’
When I asked if she feels there is a sense of community among vintage sellers in Nottingham, she asserted there was more often rivalry. She is completely unperturbed:
‘I love competition – ‘cause I am the competition! … [Some places] go into it for the money – and it’s wrong. I still love what I do, so I’m very fortunate.’
However, there certainly is community within the shop walls. The customers who come and go as I browse the store are mostly regulars, many on first name terms with the staff; it was also fun to eavesdrop on their discoveries and reminiscences when they came across a pattern, a label or a style they remembered or had been looking for.
I observed to Eve that Baklash regulars seem to span a large age range.
‘I’ve got people in their eighties – just ‘cause they’re old don’t mean to say they don’t like vintage! I’m 60 this year – and where am I supposed to shop? They shove you either in John Lewis, or they shove you to Debenhams. All these younger places… [people] feel intimidated because they’re old. And these shops have got young staff who aren’t interested in old people – you become invisible. And they know that – and that’s why they love me, ‘cause they’ve grown with me; and they’re the same age if not older, and they’ll come in and say -’
She lowered her voice.
‘“- Can you find me that jacket?” And I’ll say, “Yep, no problem, I’ll have you one next week.” And they love it, because I become their personal shopper as well, but they’re still getting it within their price range, they can still afford to buy things and eat.’
‘And that’s why I’ve got such a loyal following […] I’m very, very fortunate.’
As you can see, there’s hardly anything I need to add about Eve, her knack for sourcing and selling quality vintage and her obvious regard for her clientele. So I’ll leave you with some parting words that I think explain a lot why a good vintage store (and independently owned businesses in general) are so important:
‘It’s not about money to me – I mean, you’ve got to pay your bills and you’ve got to pay the staff’s wages – but not everything boils down to money. A lot of it is being loyal to your customers – and the right customers… If you can get somebody to feel nice, why not? And that’s what life is about.’
Go and say hi to Eve and the rest of the staff; you probably won’t leave empty-handed, either.