BlitzSo-called ‘vintage’ pop-up fairs can be a bit of a mixture. Sometimes you’ll come across great stalls that really make your day; on other occasions it seems more like a craft fair with the odd stall selling very expensive collectables. However, you’re sure to find something more interesting to look at than along your average high street and when the venue is Spitalfields Market, you’re also assured that there will be lots to see in the surrounding area as well. So it was that we made tracks East of Liverpool Street to see what was on offer at one of the regular vintage events held in the old market.

To be honest, it was a little disappointing on this occasion – though that might be partly because some of the more interesting stalls were ones we’d seen just the day before in Greenwich. I also suspect that this occasion was not organised by the same people who’ve done the previous fairs there as their website implies that they’ve now moved on to other venues, so it wasn’t long, though, before we were on our way out again for a poke around the Brick Lane area.

Abslute VintageBrick Lane and its surroundings must have reached a peak in terms of vintage and secondhand outlets that can’t be sustained for too much longer. The old light industrial and commercial premises that currently provide homes for a plethora of traders will surely fall victim to the relentless tide of development that’s creeping eastwards from the City, and round every corner there’s a worrying construction site that doesn’t look as if it’s interested in maintaining the atmosphere of the area. For the moment, though, it’s to be relished – there’s loads to explore, and the streets of Hugenot houses and old factories running off at angles give everything a fantastic backdrop.

DSC03819We dipped in and out of a number of the bigger venues, including Blitz and Absolute Vintage, both in Hanbury Street, an un-named outlet in Commercial Street, and the Backyard Market and Truman Brewery Markets off Brick Lane itself. We weren’t supposed to be shopping, but I knew I wouldn’t get out of the record stall in the Truman Brewery empty handed with a vast stock of LPs at £5 each, and sure enough, the soundtracks box turned out copies of the albums from Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines and Thunderbirds that I’d been after for a long time (or so I realised when I saw them). We were tempted by all sorts of oddities, from lamps to bus blinds, to experiments in jars, but managed to confine ourselves prosaically to a couple of nice original-styled ties to freshen up my work collection.

LevisonsThe treat of the day, though, was a visit to Michael Levison’s eponymous emporium just off Brick Lane at 1 Cheshire Street. Michael seems to have the rare knack of tracking down original workwear, military surplus, tailoring and knitwear that one can actually wear on a day to day basis. In particular, he’s managed to sniff out several sources of that holy grail of vintage wear – dead stock. If you didn’t already know, that’s retail or wholesale stock that’s sat on the shelves since it was made, never to be worn. There’s something very special about buying a ‘new’ item of clothing that’s been waiting for you for 50 or 60 years, and still has the paper label on the outside. What’s more, Michael has been able to find stock in sizes that fit the average Brit (unlike so much of the stock that Flip used to import back in the 80s which was tailored for the ample 50s American frame), so there’s no re-tailoring to be done. On this occasion, I was lucky enough to find that he still had the last of a stock of lovely Chinos as I’d been regretting not getting two pairs when we last visited. Mind you, I also had to remind myself firmly that I work in an office, not a motorshop, and that I really didn’t need another pair of original overalls. Michael really knows his stuff and has been on the vintage clothing and music scene for a long time, so a visit to the shop can be the excuse for a long chat about all kinds of vintage ‘stuff’.20160220 Levinsons

Trouser LabelLinks to the various venues are built into the text above, but the best way to do Brick Lane and Spitalfields is just to go along on one of the Saturdays when there’s something on in the in the Market and explore for yourself. For dates of forthcoming pop-up vintage fairs across London, check the diary on their website.