It’s been a while since our last Vintage Musings but as soon as I had the privilege of visiting the subject of today’s Musings’ dream-like Cork store, I knew that I needed to learn more. Emma Wynne is the ever-glamorous, ever-charming, ever-present Le Chat Noir event attendee, with a vintage wardrobe to rival any collector. Brocade & Lime is the product of her passion for enduring style from every era and has become a destination for serious fashion lovers, vintage and otherwise, throughout the country. Here Emma talks Doris Day, late-blooming and style inspiration…
I: You have the most incredible personal collection of Vintage dresses and accessories. When did the love affair begin?
B&L: I know the exact date and time for that matter!! It was Dec 31 1998 at 5.55pm. It was New Year’s Eve and I was frantically looking for a dress to wear that evening! I was in the last 5 minutes of shopping time when I walked into an exclusive little boutique in Edinburgh and across the crowded room my eyes fell on the most beautiful silver dress from 1952. That was it! Apparently an elegant older lady had come in with a suitcase earlier that day and asked the salesgirl if she could sell her old couture gowns. She was moving into sheltered housing and thought her clothes deserved better than a Vintage or Charity shop (Vintage shops weren’t as nice back then as they are now)!
I: I love that you know the exact date, brilliant! Growing up, what was your style like? Did you have any style icons that you emulated?
B&L: I was hopeless. I was definitely a late bloomer! I tried to copy my peer and looked ridiculous. [I] should’ve had the confidence to wear what suited me and not what was in the shops at the time. Style icons were from old movies I used to watch with my mum and sister. Doris Day in Pillow Talk – the original and still the best romantic comedy – or Audrey Hepburn in Charade.
I: Ah, I’m seeing where the love of headwear began now too! Brocade & Lime has been open since last year. Why now? What was people’s reaction to opening at this time?
B&L: The reaction has been immensely positive… The people of Cork I am glad to say have embraced ‘Brocade and lime’. I think people generally were happy to see something so colourful, original and fresh appear in this economic slump we have found ourselves in! I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Cork for all their well wishes and such a wonderfully warm welcome.
I: It definitely is colorful and I think Corkonians in particular love individuality which Brocade & Lime has in spades. How did the name come about?
B&L: Brocade is a luxurious fabric very popular in the 50′s and lime is my favourite colour. Together it sounded like a cocktail and seemed to compliment my mixture of styles and collage of decades whilst still maintaining an element of fun.
I. And became your house cocktail too I believe! Tell us the thinking behind the ethos of the store and the stock you choose.
B&L: I wanted to introduce a new and unique concept in shopping… A themed boutique if you will! I wanted to blend together all of the favourite past times of women the world over… take shopping to a new enjoyment level! Not only would I sell exclusively vintage inspired labels, each one representing a decade and design shape of the past, I would operate a lime green retro beauty parlour with black and white movies projected around a hidden courtyard walls. All of this would be served with complimentary signature cocktails and cupcakes.
I. So every Vintage gal’s dream basically…. Who are the designers that you stock and why these ones in particular?
B&L: Each decade of the past has a definitive dress style, shape and design, each completely different from the next. The designers I stock have unashamedly taken their inspiration from one of these decades. Proudly representing the allure and mystery of the roaring 40s is the Stop Staring label. In my opinion the original and the best of these classic film noir inspired brands. Poppy and Mrs Pomeranz pay homage to the full circle shape that characterised the 50s. Orla Kiely perfectly captures the mood of the swinging 60s with her bold colours and geometric prints. A few iconic vintage pieces are also stocked to remind us of the original, lest we forget! I also stock What Katie Did faux-vintage lingerie and hosiery ,and Bésame vintage inspired cosmetics. I hope to improve and add to the Brocade & Lime line up this year with an art decadent 20s and a psychedelic 70s label!
I: The building that is home to Brocade and Lime is absolutely beautiful and your interiors take it to another level. Tell us a bit about the building, the sourcing of furniture and your vision for the layout (including that fabulous parlor!).
B&L: Thank you! I am proud to say I have completely refurbished a near derelict 1850s townhouse and restoring it back to its former glory has been one of the highlights of the whole process. I think in one respect it was easier that I had a completely blank canvas to work with. I wanted to incorporate pieces from the past that would justly compliment my stock. My cash desk is an art deco theatre kiosk from the 20s, imported from France. The chandeliers could be from the Hollywood glamour era of the 50s. The genuine salon dryer bank in the parlour dates back to 1956. The wallpaper is distinctly, unquestionably 60s. The hand-painted Moroccan tiles in the hidden courtyard are reminiscent of the 70s. I made sure I remained true to the Victorian roots of the building with the decorative coving, ornate ceiling roses, parquet flooring and high skirting. Sourcing the shop fittings was one of the biggest challenges but also the most rewarding and makes my shop like no other and I just love the end result.
I: Everyone loves it! I’m still getting to move in upstairs right?? So considering the massive love for your store, who is the Brocade & Lime customer?
B&L: The discerning wedding guest who is looking for the complete ensemble with a guarantee that no-one else will have the same outfit! The savvy but stylish business woman who wants to stand apart from her contemporaries. The young student with the confidence to wear something different. And any lady who loves colour, pattern, texture and can appreciate the evolving styles and designs of the past.
I. Considering you adore Vintage clothing so much, were you ever tempted to open a purely Vintage store?
B&L: No I always wanted to combine Vintage with Vintage-inspired – have the ‘inspiration’ and the ‘inspired’ share the same space. I wanted to do something completely unique!
I: Clearly you know vintage very well. How difficult was it to learn the ropes of ‘contemporary’ fashion buying?
B&L: My favourite part of the whole process! I meticulously source my stock from around the world, from Moscow to Costa Rica. I love travelling and meeting the designers, selecting the fabrics, prints, colours. I am still constantly learning about new labels, trending styles and new questions to ask. I make mistakes constantly but hopefully I learn from them.
I. How is it being a store owner in Cork? What is the best thing about it?
B&L: Cork is like a big town with a lot of community spirit. Both customers and local businesses genuinely take an interest in how you are getting on and offer to help you in any way they can! And of course vintage is alive and well in Cork with the Le Chat Noir girls, Jill and Leona.
I: Absolutely! So sticking with Vintage, what is your favourite Vintage store, home or abroad?
B&L: Ah I’m not too sure – I think I have favourite vintage pieces rather than stores – you can find the best dress in the worst store!! But then that’s the fun of the treasure hunt… I do love Alfie’s Antique Market near Marylebone, London for all things mid-century. It is an emporium of small quirky vintage/antique shops with a cafe on the roof – I can spend all day coo-ing and aahh-ing at everything – and wondering at the cost of bringing a van with me next time!
I: Great – room for me too so. What is your favourite era in fashion and why?
B&L: I change my favourite era constantly? I love them all(excluding 80s)! I love the serious femme fatale allure of the 40s; the fun frothy femininity of the 50s, an era made for dancing; the confident colour/pattern that emerged in the 60s.
I: What are your invaluable tips for buying Vintage?
B&L: For me each piece has to be almost perfect and effortlessly timeless. Each has to have an outstanding design, a remarkable quality or a decade defining detail. And the times I’m lucky enough to find them all in one piece I feel like I’ve unearthed a buried treasure!
Speaking of unearthing treasures, Brocade & Lime (and its fabulous owner) can be found at 4 Cornmarket Street in Cork.
Let’s meet in the parlour for cocktails and cupcakes, post haste!