Hammersmith Vintage Fair is always an inspiration. Never more so than when it coincides with London Fashion Week; there always seems to be an extra sparkle in the air and the aisles are packed with even more super-stylish shoppers, including occasional glimpses of Vogue editors. The traders are absolute specialists. They know their business but they also have their fingers firmly on the pulse of fashion, so it is always interesting to see how their stock reflects coming trends.
Last Sunday’s fair did not disappoint. There were Victorian blouses and petticoats in delicate lace and broderie anglaise alongside black velvet, jet-embroidered jackets – genuine antiques and soft as silk. There were Hermes scarves, spilling their sweetie-wrapper colours from boxes and tables. There were furs, real and faux, some in the Margot Tenenbaum style adopted by Gucci and Bally this season. There were capes: 1930s originals in cascades of velvet; abbreviated shrugs in opulent red ostrich feathers; and more recent tweed versions. There were midi to long dresses in all kinds of diaphanous silk prints.
None of these things surprised me – they have been featured in the magazines as keynotes of this autumn season. The things that really caught my eye were the brooches. In recent years earrings and bracelets have been popular, in tune with a dressed down or gypsy style. Brooches have seemed too formal or prim in this context. Now, set against Victoriana or eclectic vintage mixes, they are the perfect embellishment. Choose a single (but whopping) cameo on a poet blouse, a cluster of 80s-fabulous diamante on a jacket, or a Prada-style enamel or bakelite motif against a modernist print – anything goes.
The added value with a brooch comes from the almost unlimited options for placing it. Why just pin it at the neck or the shoulder? Use it to draw attention to your preferred feature – waist, decollete, nape-of-the-neck, small-of-the-back, wrist. Pin it to a hat or headscarf or add a pair of antique dress clips to your shoes for some Dolce e Gabbana glitz.
Don’t just take my word for it. I happened to be sitting at the back of a large auditorium last week, listening to a very senior woman speak. She was dressed sharply in a beautifully cut dress and Louboutin stilettos but it was the brooch pinned at her shoulder that projected right to the back of the room, picking up the stage lights as she moved and holding our eyes firmly on her. She knew the power of the deftly-placed jewel and of a rising trend.