The North east of Scotland really is full of gems when it comes to vintage shops and traders selling their finds online or at local fairs. They are all spread widely, hidden in quiet corners and back alleys and often still unknown to many in the area. I felt it was time to shine a light on the people who dedicate their time to the trade and travel far and wide to find the best vintage treasures. This month we meet Elane Colville-Arthur from The Closet, vintage clothing store in Aberdeen.
The Closet, based in Aberdeen city centre, was established in 1980 (1980! That makes it vintage in itself!) and was originally located in the now gone Woolmanhill Court. Nowadays it is tucked away in a little alleyway called Jopps Lane, parallel to George Street. The boutique, dedicated to fashion, is an absolute treasure trove of gorgeous vintage clothing and accessories, with the odd groovy retro lamp or coffee set thrown in with the eclectic mix. Elane owns the business since the summer of 2005. I asked her about what makes her so passionate about vintage.
Elane, please tell us how it all started for you at The Closet
I’m one in a long line of “custodians” who have looked after the shop – or this is how I like to view my position. When I purchased the store – after dropping in one lunchtime on hearing a rumour she was for sale – she was already in her current location. One month later I was handed the keys and opened. No stock take, no till even and a mountain of old clothing to work through. Weirdly enough I had worked in a vintage clothing store in Melbourne, Australia years before whilst traveling and the store was called Out of The Closet! It seemed like fate. When I contacted the owners of the store in Melbourne they said “you can’t see green cheese”… Typical Ozzy reply! Since then I have given the shop a brand and established her place on social media. My hope for the shop in the future is that another young woman or guy will come along and carry on her journey.
Why are you so passionate about vintage?
I’m passionate about everything in my life – this is how I’m made – 100%, full speed ahead, life is too short not to enjoy yourself, cup half full kinda’ girl, so I’m the same about my beloved vintage. I’ve had a love affair with vintage all my life. I think it comes from being part of a large family and having to deal with hand me downs, but I also have a strong yearning to make my own way, not follow the herds and to stand out and be different. No one can accuse The Closet stock of being boring or run-of-the-mill! I love to search out and find those one-off pieces. If it’s boring, I don’t accept it. Sometimes this attitude can work against me being in a town in the North East of Scotland as I think my eccentric, colourful stock is probably more suited to a larger city where people are keener to stand out. But, then again, we do have our fair share of customers who love our collections and keep coming back.
I love finding one-off beauties and rare pieces. To then find them their forever homes is the icing on the cake! It is great when a fellow enthusiast come in and finds her perfect piece. I like pieces from so many eras but have a special place in my heart for all things Art Deco and the 1970’s. Two entirely different eras but I love them both. You also can’t beat the quality of the garments and the craftsmanship of the designers and manufacturers of the past. I have often had scouts in from design houses in London looking for pieces to inspire new lines and they have informed me that they often are able to re-learn ways of constructing pieces due to vintage finds. A wonderful cycle of fashion.
What makes The Closet stand out from other vintage shops in the area?
The Closet is special and unique in Aberdeen as she is the oldest surviving vintage shop in the area. We have been joined in the last few years by many other stores and many more traders but The Closet has the heritage and pedigree plus kudos of a long history. Can you believe she was originally called a “period shop”? She is special as we do not only sell vintage fashion (accessories etc) but we also hire out original clothing items from the past for vintage themed events. It has been more than once that we received the “best dressed” award at a party. It is so much fun to be part of this.
What is the weirdest and most beautiful thing you ever sold?
Ha! This is a tough question as I’ve had many strange items in over the years including a monkey hide coat (which we turned away!) and crocodile skin bags with their feet still attached. The most beautiful thing …. also hard! I’m a Libra and very visual. I can see beauty in fabrics, cuts, colours and prints but also in the arm of a chair or leg of a table. I recently re-homed a French lace wedding dress to a beautiful young bride. That was truly special.
What do you like about your job?
What’s not to like? I love being my own boss. I love the varied and interesting people I meet. I love all the wonderful vintage traders I’ve met over the years and how so many of them are now friends who have helped and supported me through many turbulent times. I love finding stock. I love the thrill of the chase. Treasure hunting and equally finding the perfect home for the pieces. I love the stories behind the scenes too! I once had a gents 3-piece suit, painstakingly stitched together by a young bride-to-be’s father (after he came home from his hard days work) to allow him to give his daughter away in style! That suit was named “Made with Love” and was re-homed quickly!
What is the biggest challenge in running your vintage business?
The biggest challenge is translating my passion for what I do into paying for the ‘real-world’ things like rent and bills. This is the grown-up part to the business and for a creative person this is not so easy. I persist though and thus far I have managed to carry on.
Why should people buy vintage?
People should buy what they love – if that happens to be vintage, all the better! Buying vintage clothing means they are buying, undoubtedly, good quality original and often classic pieces. They are helping the planet by recycling and reloving items. They are buying quirky and individual pieces. They are using their creativity to put items together, to go their own way and not follow the high street “trends”. They are being themselves.
Visit The Closet:
32 Jopps lane, Aberdeen
tel 01224 625450
During school term times – Sun & Mon closed / Tues & Wed 9.30am-2.30pm / Thurs 9.30am-4pm / Fri & Sat 9.30am-5pm
In school holidays: Sun & Mon closed / Tues – Sat 9.30-5pm