Beyond the Pale


Love Is Boutique: Bloggers & Press Day

A veritable Tardis of designer goodies, Love Is Boutique has always been a must-visit destination for the bargain-hunting fashionista, but there have been subtle changes afoot since I last visited and now I had heard it’s EVEN BETTER. Along with a few other invited bloggers and press peeps, I sashayed along to see just how this could be so.
20121202-180804.jpg
If you are on heart medication of any kind, you may want to dose yourself up before walking through the doors of Love Is Boutique, as every rail, each shelf and cabinet the eye rests on is bulging with temptation in the form of DESIGNER BARGAINS.

20121202-165313.jpg
Be still my rapidly beating heart. Hopefully not literally.

20121202-165414.jpg
“Umm… Is that a Phillip Lim evening dress sparkling on the wall? Can that be a Chloe Paddington bag hanging up there?” your brain asks your eyes. “Just next to the several immaculate Louis Vuitton bags and adjacent to the cabinet of handmade couture Manolo Blahnik shoes…” your eyes nonchalantly reply.

20121202-165506.jpg

20121202-165701.jpg
At this point, your palpitations are going to kick in, so it’s really handy if you have remembered that medication or have your inhaler to hand. Or a hip flask of gin, whatever gets you through. Yup, it’s all true, this place is piled up with the kind of high-end designer merchandise normally only sighed over in the glossy pages of Vogue, Harpers and their ilk. Only at VASTLY reduced prices.

20121202-165811.jpg
Paula Fry, the owner of this treasure trove, invited me, along with several other bloggers and members of the press, to come and see the changes Love Is has undergone. It’s always been good – the kind of Best Kept Secret you only tell your best girlfriend. And maybe not even then – so how could things get even better?

20121202-182042.jpg
“We’ve got a lot more picky about what we accept to sell for customers, now.” Paula explained. Love Is works as a dress agency, with clients gaining a percentage of whatever the boutique sells the items for. “We can afford to be really choosy because our reputation has spread, and the stuff people bring in for us to look at is unbelievable! One lady came in with her collection of Louis Vuitton bags. ELEVEN of them, all real!”

Paula has become something if an expert at sniffing out fakes “Most of them you can spot a mile off, because the shape or size is wrong, the stitching isn’t right. Some are a bit more difficult, but there are experts you can refer to, and the big brands are all very happy to verify their own merchandise if you’re really not sure.”

20121202-183002.jpg
Having built up their name, hosted hugely successful events and fashion shows, and been featured in Vogue magazine as a “must visit” destination, Love Is now boasts a celebrity clientele – “Top Secret, I absolutely cannot name names!” – who buy and sell their designer swag here. “Often the chauffeur comes and drops stuff off,” Paula whispers, “and oh my GOD it’s such amazing stuff…”

20121202-183937.jpg
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the fact there’s far less vintage stock in the boutique these days. It’s getting harder and harder to get top quality vintage to sell, and people put a ‘vintage’ tag on any old thing and expect it to be desirable, so I think this is a clever move on their part. Plus, in a wealthy area and with celebrities emptying their wardrobes, you may as well focus on the goodies surrounding you!

20121202-184600.jpg
The vintage pieces are still to be found: really cute little fifties fur collars, dinky enamelled bug brooches and incredible unique handbags from all eras, along with select clothes, but here the designer investment pieces now jostle with the very best high-end High-street items, so there really is something for every budget.

20121202-185333.jpg
It’s really interesting to note that real classics like the Mulberry Bayswater bags are flying out the door – “We just can’t get enough of them, as soon as we have them through the door, they leave again on someone else’s arm!” Iconic designer pieces such as Alexander McQueen scarves and tailcoats are also in high demand, as customers invest in designer stand-out pieces which won’t date, mixing these with far cheaper high street trend items.

20121202-190420.jpg

20121202-190904.jpg
On this visit, I was quite selfless and restrained, buying an unusual necklace for a friend’s Christmas present, though I took rather a shine to the Bally, sheepskin lined ankle boots on the back shelf here, and may have to pop back in to, um, visit them. Yes. That’s it. *cough*

20121202-191827.jpg
I also have a massive regret that I didn’t get the beautiful enamelled ladybird brooch purchased by fellow bargain-snaffler, Bettina, AKA Mrs Anke (of Ladybits blog fame: she has a gin cocktail named after her, and that’s a REAL measure of fame, my friends). Que Sera, as Doris Day was wont to warble!

20121202-192819.jpg

20121202-192905.jpg
Adored this darling little bobble-trimmed dress, too. Oh, and the cosy hooded cloak and the bauble charm bracelet and about five coats upstairs and… Uh, no, I mean it’s all awful and you wouldn’t like it at all so don’t go before I’ve got my mitts on all the goodies I saw, there’s nothing there. Yup. Convincing, eh?

20121202-194216.jpg
As the Champagne was quaffed and more people arrived to gawp and gossip (three of my favourite things to do, right there: quaffing, gawping & gossiping) I had to grab my purchase and get a wriggle on, sadly. Having ogled their latest wares, I shall be back again very soon. They have all manner of gorgeousness arriving every single day, so there’s always a good reason to pop in again.

Just to look. Obviously…

20121202-202025.jpg

UPDATE: I have now been back and purchased the Bally boots. Quite by accident.



Pantiles Food & Drink Festival 2012

20120520-142018.jpg

Any day that begins with eating a rare breed for breakfast (and especially when that breakfast is strictly edging toward lunch, having enjoyed a leisurely lie-in), is a day that bodes well, my friends.

20120520-142112.jpg

Even better, the burgers were cooked for us by the lovely staff of the Eridge Park Farm Shop, whose burger & hotdog stall was doing a roaring trade by the time we ambled to the 2012 Pantiles Food Festival, fortuitously located mere minutes from our doorstep.

20120520-142225.jpg

The Pantiles Food & Drink Festival was launched last year to great acclaim, and the Association of Pantiles Traders have worked tirelessly to make this an annual event. It’s really my idea of a perfect day out – shuffling from stall to stall, all temptingly laden with the very best of local produce, nodding at acquaintances passing by, stopping to chat with friends and, all the while, wondering “What can I cram into my mouth next?”

20120520-142814.jpg

With celebrity chefs giving live demonstrations of their tenebrous arts to crowds openly slavering at their skills, ice cream sellers jostling with cake hawkers and the smell of sizzling juicy venison mingling with saffron-infused curls of paella steam rising into the air; the need to sit down for a coffee and a rest takes over. I think I was born a pensioner, really.

20120520-144923.jpg

Sitting outside a cafe and people watching is one of my favourite activities in the world, and The Pantiles area of Tunbridge Wells is just the perfect location for that. It always has a holiday feel to it, I think, with crowds thronging the market stalls and weaving through the Regency columns.

20120520-161139.jpg

As children by turn cavort among the tables and scream indignantly as they are deftly ushered past sweet stalls by parents well-versed in the methods of diversion “Look at that lovely doggie!” – and deception – “No you wouldn’t like those sweets, darling, they all taste of Brussels sprouts…” it’s good just to kick back and drink it all in, this passing melee of All Human (well, Kentish) Life.

20120520-145316.jpg

Of the many mouth-watering wares on offer, we were drawn to the tables of Mccarthy’s Country Stores, groaning with delicious looking homemade cakes and breads. When someone has gone to all the trouble to produce such wonderful items, it always seems terribly rude not to try something, doesn’t it?

20120520-145822.jpg

With this in mind, we plumped for (quite literally) a couple of slices of the pecan pie, which we shall have with tea later this evening. I feel it’s my duty to try such things on your behalf, dear readers. I know, I know, I am practically a saint for dedicating my life to helping you, I need no thanks, merely your continuing quiet adoration.

20120520-145935.jpg

20120520-160759.jpg

Having recently started a Well Known Healthy Eating Plan that uses the allocation of Points to all food and drink that isn’t fruit or vegetables, I advise you not to get out your Points Calculator and start totting up how many are in a scotch egg as large as a baby’s head, because you will drop dead where you stand; but having been Good all week, I have oodles of Points left to ‘spend’ (scoff) so couldn’t care less about being Naughty during the weekend: that’s surely what weekends are all about!

20120520-151525.jpg

The focus on this year’s festival was on Drink, with an excellent display of local vineyards and drink manufacturers on display. I DO wish I could drink cider – a misspent youth drinking gutrot cider laced with piss and sugar (actually, lager and blackcurrant, but the previous description holds true) called Snakebite and Black (look, it was the early nineties, I was a Goth and at University: it was obligatory to drink it, okay?) has led to a continuing distaste for even the smell of cider. I am sure one day I’ll hopefully get over it, and if I do, I want to to try The Lisping Cowboy by Big Tree Cider. It’s an absolutely wonderful name and made me smile, I do like companies with a sense of humour in naming their beverages.

With TV chef and owner of Thackeray’s restaurant, Richard Phillips, as patron, the Pantiles Food & Drink Festival has once again been a great success, with over 50 stalls and drawing crowds (last year) of around 15,000 people sampling the array of the best Kent and Sussex fare. Ya-boo-sucks, I say, to malls full of faceless, anodyne chain stores – I would far rather spend a weekend like this, celebrating the bountiful wares of local producers and showing our support by scoffing them, wouldn’t you?

20120520-160933.jpg



Stuff & Good Sense: Vintage Soiree

Stuff & Good Sense is a little treasure trove of a boutique, nestled away in that sacred heart of Tunbridge Wells: the picturesque Pantiles. This historic area of the town has always drawn tourists but previously became written-off as being perhaps a bit Cream Tea Twee (though I love a good ol’ cream tea, me).


In the last year it has definitely become apparent The Pantiles is quietly booming & actually quite a (whisper it) funky/alternative location for locals AND tourists to shop, eat, drink and generally parade themselves about.

A plethora of really interesting independent shops abound and I cannot overstate how refreshing it is to wander around an area free of big chains and the corporate big boys: a shopping experience that’s becomming distressingly rare these days, it seems.


I love supporting local, hand-made and independent shops, so when I received an invitation to attend a Vintage Soiree including PINK FIZZ, delicious food, retro furnishings, vintage designer gowns & all manner of fabulous nick-nackery… It would be rude not to go along and show one’s support, wouldn’t it? Quite.

Knowing full well that friend & colleague in crime, Sallie the Sausage Queen (see below), would be up for a bit of fizz sipping while shopping, we’d hot-footed it to the Soiree straight after work.


Stuff & Good Sense is tucked behind the inimitable Trevor Mottram’s – a veritable maze of a shop containing every cooking impliment known to man. And many unknown to man or, indeed, his dog. As we arrived the party was already in full swing, with the laughter and chatter bursting out of the open door to greet us.


Plunging forth, we made straight for the makeover area with the utterly charming makeup artist from Powder & Glow (I think it was Caroline herself, but do forgive me if I remember incorrectly!) giving good lip (I was complimented on my pillarbox red lipstick, which was pleasing) & Sallie’s pout was painted, too. Just before she applied herself to some refreshments.


The makeover area just happened to be right next to the table of alcohol and an extremely tasty selection of nibbles, kindly provided by The Bijou Bakery. Imagine: Sallie & I plonked next to a table of plonk. Oops, what a coincidence!

We were particularly fond of the Sticky Sausages (indeed, I imagine there are very few times either Sallie or I would willingly turn down a sticky sausage). We could quite easily have polished off the whole plate, and very nearly did.

A few glasses of PINK FIZZ saw us glowing rosily (well, Sallie had just the one, as she was driving, so I drank her share. It seemed the right and proper thing to do).

No vintage event seems complete without a pretty stand of cupcakes, but the ones here were truly, gobsmackingly gorgeous.


Look at them. LOOK at them!

We looked at them for several minutes before deciding that no, they weren’t ‘too good to eat’ and cramming them into our mouths. They were meltingly light and the frosting wasn’t too sweet – the downfall of many a cupcake, in my opinion. Some look nice but you find you’re left with a mouthful of what is basically pure sugar, with your eyes spinning in their sockets and the onset of diabetes. These were simply cupcake perfection, and you, too, may experience their delights at Vintage Rose Cupcakes. HIGHLY recommended!

The Stuff & Good Sense soiree was such fun, a really friendly atmosphere of celebration and larking about. It was really quite uplifting to the spirits, seeing the lovely laydeeees of Tunbridge Wells all quaffing, laughing, scoffing and browsing.

Shop owner, Gaynor, has amassed a fantastic collection of desirable goods, from mid-century furniture to Liberty patterned dog collars – with pure, handmade soaps, & cosmetics, retro crockery, quirky jewellery, art and all manner of Perfect Gift type pieces in between.

I really liked a lot of the prints they had hanging in the shop – but am always drawn to things like this, being a bit of a font nerd of old.

Knowing a good thing thing when they see it, the fabulous frock purveyors Gently Worn Vintagewww.gentlywornvintage.co.uk now have a tempting closet of gorgeous vintage clothes & accessories within Stuff & Good Sense.

We all spent quite a long time cooing over various glamourous hats bedecked with pearls or overlaid with peacock feathers.

So glamourous! People should wear hats more often, I think.

Sallie tried virtually all of them on while I sipped another glass of pink fizz, so that she didn’t have to. I’m SO NICE like that. Here’s Sallie hiding in a corner while Cath (independent tour guide who runs Discover Southeast England & is a general font of local knowledge) looks slightly alarmed.

The conversation ranged from hidden wells (not a euphemism, get your mind out of the gutter, dear), and the history of various local buildings; to mad aunts, fur-lined gloves (also not a euphemism) and a Fashion Tour that Cath’s hoping to arrange in the near future. Also, lots of dressing up (them) and drinking fizz (mostly me). It was all rather marvellous.

My eye was taken with a stunning brocade evening coat, while Sallie fell head-over-heels for this perfect condition patent leather vanity case/handbag complete with original contents. Lined in watered pink silk and with dinky little bottles & pots for ones lotions & potions to be decanted into, it was pure Mad Men! Sallie put it by in order to purchase for her birthday. I think many of us are quite green with envy. 😉

For those of you who didn’t make this special event (or weren’t important enough to be invited. JOKE! ;p) you will be very glad to hear that future soirees are planned – in fact, one is happening this very week, on Wednesday 26th of October, 7-10pm.

Cocktails, decadent treats and music from a bygone era are promised along with the chance to learn the secrets of the art of couture. Which can’t be bad.

Against the fabulous retro backdrop of the shop, guests will be transformed with a personal makeup consultation and given a face chart to take home (estimated value of this service is £75, so worth the ticket price alone!) and a professional photographer will be present to capture the new look. In addition, guests will also be given an exciting goody bag, with a specially selected vintage gift in each one.

My goody bag from the soiree was full to brimming with exciting stuff, and I loved my vintage jade green silk scarf and twinkling hair clip – so cute!

Tickets for this event are £30: If the forthcoming soirée is even half as much fun as the one we attended, then it’s worth twice as much as that! Hopefully some are still available if you’re interested; contact Carole on 07827 960389 to reserve a place, or pop in to Stuff & Good Sense itself.

Stuff & Good Sense
29 The Pantiles,
Tunbridge Wells,
Kent
TN2 5TD

Thank you so much to the lovely Gaynor, all the hard work that everyone put into the event and to all the lovely ladies we met that night. It was a huge success and created a real buzz – and that wasn’t just the alcohol! I’m just sorry it took me so long to finally upload this post – a perfect storm of work pressures, illness and NO TIME AT ALL for ANYTHING (the usual) kept me from getting it up as soon as I’d have liked. Oooh, Matron.

I do hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures at the vintage soiree. You must go and visit Stuff & Good Sense yourself, it’s a real gem and we’re lucky to have such quirkily interesting shops as this on our doorstep.

 



Love Is Boutique: Vogue Fashion’s Night Out

You certainly didn’t have to be shaking your tail [or wing] feathers in that there London last night for Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, ho no!  

Love Is Boutique threw open their doors and welcomed local bloggers, along with actual members of the public, with the promise of free-flowing bubbly and that golden glow that only designer and vintage BARGAINS can bring.

Featured recently in Vogue magazine [oooh, get them!] who described them as “…a treasure trove” and in The Guardian [show offs!] time spent browsing the rails here was recommended as “a perfectly indulgent day out”, so even without the lure of discounts and alcohol, the temptations to nestle at the bosom of Love is Boutique are manifold.

After what I can only describe as a somewhat testing week (involving falling over, nearly dislocating my elbow on a kitchen cupboard, everyone – including myself – in utterly foul moods, discovering a leak in the bathroom & pouring boiling soup over myself) an indulgent evening out was exactly what the fashion doctor ordered.

Housed in a beautifully restored building that dates from 1862 and used to be the Old Romary Biscuit Factory; Love Is Boutique draws visitors on heritage trails as well as the fashionista bargain-hungry crowds. Last night the two worlds collided as a large crowd of enthralled tourists & history-loving locals were entertained outside the building, as we guzzled delicious treats and glasses of bubbly inside.

I can’t go much longer without mentioning the cake truffles by Little Treats Bakery, actually. Stacked on vintage cake tiers, my colleague & dear friend, Sallie, were only more than happy to sample them, um, a few times. Just to make sure, you know. We are very professional about such things. I know you’re proud.

Cake Truffle (and photo) by Little Treats Bakery

Anyway, the cake truffles are ruddy lovely and you should all go and treat yourselves to some, they make such a nice change from run-of-the-mill chocolates. What a perfect idea for table favours at a wedding or at a vintage tea party. Also, because they just melt in the mouth and are so light, you feel a bit virtuous for not having a whole slice of cake. Practically diet food!  

If you have never been to Love Is, I shall attempt to describe it for you – a pretty little building with a bay window and a huge wreath on the door, once you enter you realise what a tardis of fashion it is – every time you think you’ve seen it all, another area opens up begging to be explored, each nook and cranny sheltering a wealth of designer names and vintage goodies.

There really is something for everyone, with a large range of sizes, styles and prices. Pieces range from just a few pounds to several hundred for the Big Name Whoppers as I rather unglamorously call them – the big fish that you have to be quick to snag before some other complete cow reels in her line and claims it as hers before you do!

A really good tip for beating those utter cows (I mean this in a flattering way, obviously) to the prize pieces is to add Love Is Boutique on Facebook and/or Twitter, as the gorgeous Paula and Lynne often give their followers a head-start by announcing the plum picks they are adding to the shop or their ASOS online boutique selection. That way you are more likely to be holding your Manolos high or swinging your Chanel bag and shouting “In your face, biatch!” than crying over your laptop’s keyboard and very possibly causing an electrical problem. The choice is yours, dearie.

Sallie was looking for a drop-dead cocktail dress for her husband’s incredibly swanky work do. Not that she exactly needed a new dress, but she’d had a bit of a poo week, too, and how dull life would be if we only purchased what we needed!

Firstly, Sallie was rather taken by a quirky little vintage bag with chunks of semi-precious gems set into the front, which you can see her modelling rather wonderfully, below.. However, once she had stroked the silk of the lace-hemmed (and brand new) Laundry dress she’s spied for £BARAGIN pricetag, she completely lost her heart and the dress won the day.

Of course I completely failed to get a picture of it as I’m rubbish, but take my word for it – it was amazing. We also managed to hunt out a vintage Venetian glass flapper necklace, and lo, the classy cocktail outfit was complete.

This is a similar necklace on top of a jaw-droppingly gorgeous dress and sweetest little velvet jacket we also loved. The colours really doesn’t come out well on my phone’s photos, but it was soft, luxurious and wonderful. You really are spoilt for choice when searching for a special occasion dress, here.

Photo of my top taken in semi-gloom of night on a phone, as I'm brilliant at this.

I found a darling little heather silk top by Belgravia-based designer Sybil Stanislaus with jet beading embellishment on one side of the hem, dangling jauntily over one hip and also quite reminiscent of a flapper-style outfit.

Closer look at jet beading (also taken in semi-gloom on a phone).

Perfect for dressing up a boring old skirt for a night out, or wearing with jeans and a leather jacket to spice it up a bit.

After making sure we had seen and touched every item in the shop at least twice, we joined the queue to pay for our treasures, all the while guzzling those cake truffles and gossiping with the lovely Love Is gals. We decided it should be against the law to own Chanel bags (or anything lovely) and not use them regularly. AGAINST THE LAW! We’re tough but fair.

As we left, clutching our purchases, we had goody bags forced upon us, if you can imagine such cruelty. Inside, we were treated to the most fabulous smelling array of Nature’s Finest Cosmetics.

French Twist soap by Nature's Finest Cosmetics

Mine included an amazing French Twist soap with soothing oils of lavender and invigorating coriander, and bath bombs that looked good enough to guzzle.

Bath Melt by Nature's Finest Cosmetics

I am not always the biggest fan of bath bombs, as some lesser companies seemingly make them of chalk scented grit, but these Bath Melts feel soft and waxy to the touch and are packed with moisturising shea and cocoa butters and natural oils. Simply divine, and the best way to end a stressful week I can think of. Bliss!

Thank you so much to everyone involved for all your hard work – it was much appreciated by everyone who attended.



Love Your Inner Magpie: Pantiles Vintage Fair & Flea Market

Boxes of treasure twinkling in the sunshine, the rustle of vintage fabrics in the afternoon breeze, stallholders carefully setting out their wares on velvet cushions…and my beady little eyes roving over everything, wondering if I could fit it all into my flat.

Yes, dears, it must be admitted: I am a magpie.

There were likeminded magpies galore at the first day of the inaugural Pantiles Vintage Fair and Flea Market – with something for everyone lined up throughout both days.

Programme of Events:

  • 11.30 – 12.30: The Swinging Little Big Band (Sat)
  • 11.30 – 12.30: Downtown Meltdown DJs ‘Sunday Morning Fry Up’ (Sun)
  • 1pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 1.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)
  • 2pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 2.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)
  • 3pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 3.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)

The Swinging Little Big Band

Forgive my dreadful pictures – these were all taken on the hop on my mobile phone, in bright sunshine most of the time, so that I couldn’t even see what I was looking at! Hopefully they will give you some idea of the atmosphere, though. 🙂

The Swinging Little Big Band were really, really good. Sorry if you missed them. This is the sort of band I’d like playing at my wedding – they were fantastic at doing covers of the old classics, like Mack The Knife, but equally brilliant at rendering Pulp’s Common People or Radiohead’s Creep in a retro swing way, with a great deal of swagger and charm. They really got the crowd moving, with people spontaneously dancing and the rest all clapping along.

The Lindy Hoppers were excellent, too, and dealt very well with a music system that unfortunately kept failing them.

You had to love the fashion shows, organised by Gently Worn Vintage and with some truly gorgeous pieces being show. It was heart-warming to see such a mix of ages in the crowds watching them – I wondered if many of the older ladies and gentlemen were remembering parties they went to in similar outfits. They certainly all seemed to be lapping it up.

The model, above, is wearing my favourite piece of the show – a stunning 1950’s Belville Sassoon Couture silk dress, available from Gently Worn Vintage’s collection.

Belville Sassoon Couture dress at Gently Worn Vintage

It appears on their website, but is even more stunning in real life – the colour and condition is amazing.

There was a competition for the best-dressed people wearing vintage outfits at the fair, and my favourites were the couple (were they an actual couple or had they just been dancing together all afternoon?) immaculately dressed in 40’s fashions. Just darling.

My esteemed colleague, and good friend, Sallie and I met for a girlie day of browsing, lunch and general gossiping – something we almost never get to do, as we’re usually working on the same day (or Sallie’s covering my day off). Here she is, attempting to look serious whilst stroking an old coat.

And again, foraging for bargains among the crowds…

I loved this book of photographs – I used to collect vintage photos and spend hours wondering who they were, what their lives were like, if they were in love when that picture was taken or wishing they could be with someone else. Ha, ever the whimsy-filled romantic old fool! 🙂

I think part of the joy of vintage is holding onto a tangible piece of history, it sort of anchors you in the world, don’t you think? It’s all to do with that reaching back through the years and shaking hands with someone you never met, finding out that, actually, we’re not so different. I also love the idea of rescuing things and having them feel loved & wanted again. Told you I was a soppy fool!

Yes, yes, don’t worry – I’ll stop whittering on for a bit and get on with describing things again. For a bit.

I was particularly taken with Lady Butterworth’s stall of pretty vintage crockery and shoe lasts. I have always wanted a shoe last – they are such pleasing, tactile objects – and saw theirs used as bookends. Immediately taken with the idea, I purchased one, and am utterly thrilled with it. I love the story behind them, too…

My vintage shoe last from Lady Butterworth's

“You are now the owner of a unique piece of Northamptonshire history. These lasts were made by craftsmen as the first step in the manufacture of boots and shoes in a shoe factory in Northamptonshire. Only right-handed patterns were made, from which as many pairs as required would be turned into a copy lathe. These lasts were rescued when the shoe factory closed, just two hours before the building was to be demolished.”

Ladies at Lady Butterworth's stall

The two lovely ladies running the stall gave Sallie & I FREE CUPCAKES, which we stuffed ourselves with in a most unladylike fashion, after eating our lunch. Complete piggy-wigs that we are. Lady Butterworth’s had some truly gorgeous vintage plates and the sweetest little cups, I could quite happily have taken the whole stall home with me.

Luckily, they are specialists in hiring out crockery and assorted vintage props & oddities, for weddings, tea parties and the like. Definitely worth remembering! Just have a look in their gorgeous Crockery Cupboard.

Lady Butterworth's Crockery Cupboard

As with the Food Festival I wrote about it May, it was great to see the Pantiles buzzing with crowds enjoying the sunshine, supporting local businesses and perhaps buying something that isn’t mass-made or readily available anymore.

Newly opened vintage fashion sellers Vintage Child had a lovely stall, full of bright colours and very wearable styles from various eras (they have only just launched, and I don’t believe their website it up yet, but I’ll link to it when it’s live).

Fabulous local style gurus Love Is Boutique were proudly displaying their wares to all and sundry again, along with many stallholders new to me, who I’ll definitely go and seek out again. Long live originality, viva independent style I say!

Original Annie's new Pantiles boutique

Wandering down the historic little shopping area I so love, on the way to work the other day, I squealed slightly as my eye came to rest on on a colourful, retro-style waxed cotton dress in the window of a previously sadly empty shop space. “That looks suspiciously like an Original Annie dress” I thought to myself, and lo and behold, so it was. I wrote about their shop opening in Camden Road a little while ago, and now they have moved to the Pantiles where, I am sure, this great fashion label will go from strength to strength. Walking past their stylish boutique today it was absolutely heaving with people inside, which makes me very glad indeed.

Next, we ambled into the equally stylish new Stuff & Good Sense – recently opened concept shop that’s full to brimming with lust-worthy vintage furniture, crockery and homewares.

Their stall in the flea market was just as well set out as their shop – I like they way they use their space, it manages to be both warm and welcoming but without looking too cluttered.

Stuff and Good Sense (just behind the Tourist Information Centre) is a fantastic place to indulge in nostalgia – the shop is full of people sighing wistfully “Oh! Granny had that tea service!” or “My mum had that vase!” – find the finishing touch to a room or buy a perfect and unusual gift.

You absolutely must read about Mrs Anke’s trip around the new Pantiles boutiques for an overview of what you can find, but I highly recommend you come down here yourself for a good browse – the Pantiles is really coming into its own, now, and is something to be truly proud of.

Many towns have touristy bits that are twee and with nothing to offer anyone under 70, but the Pantiles seems to have really balanced the comfortingly antique with the excitingly new, now – it’s almost like a having a mini Covent Garden on our doorstep, and it’s wonderful to see.

There is a forthcoming Pantiles Fashion Market to look forward to, organised by local blogger and fashionista at large, Lady M Presents (August 13th & 14th) in which local independent designers and boutiques are gathering together to celebrate their diversity. Along with the Electric Lantern Festival (September 3rd -11th) celebrating film, photography, art, sculpture, comedy performances, dance, theatre and much more – and with the regular Thursday night Jazz and live bands, these festivals are drawing increasing numbers of people down to this (far more salubrious, dahlings) end of town.

Read more abut forthcoming Pantiles events on the Tunbridge Wells People website.

In a time of economic uncertainty and with only major chains and sprawling, faceless malls seemingly taking over many areas today, it’s more vital than ever to support local and independent businesses who are brave enough to stick their necks above the parapet. Jolly good show all round!



Pantiles Vintage Fair & Flea Market: Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th July

Hot on the heels of May’s hugely successful Pantiles Food Festival, tomorrow my darling colleague Sallie and I shall be lapping up the Pantiles Vintage Fair and Flea Market. I am SO excited I might actually burst. Though I’ll try not to.

Vintage dresses (from May's Pantiles Food Festival)

Held by The Association of Pantiles Traders, this event will span the weekend, meaning most people should be able to attend. I actually have two weekends in a row off work, as I have booked them as holiday leave. This is an occasion so rare, I fully expect a star to rise in the East, and for 3 wise men to begin their trek to Tunbridge Wells.

Bunting & crockery (from May's Pantiles Food Festival)

Last night I began celebrating by drinking Prosecco like it was going out of fashion and dreaming of all the fabulous vintage goodies I may get my paws on this weekend.

“Vintage is hugely in vogue,” says Richard Simm, chair of The Association of Pantiles Traders. “A younger generation are discovering and embracing mid-century style, while the older generation are happy to immerse themselves in the nostalgia of the era. “New shops, like Stuff & Good Sense on The Pantiles are proof positive of the popularity of vintage items – that only a few years ago would have been thrown into a skip,” he says. “The Pantiles has a tradition of antique shops, we see the Vintage Fair as continuation of a theme – and something we can have some fun with.”

Held in the year of the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, we should be in for a bumper day of vintage delights. In addition to many stalls hawking their wares, we are promised vintage fashion shows, live bands, free antique valuations, a competition for the visitors wearing the best vintage outfits, and a controversial Turner Prize winning artist… Intriguing!

Programme of Events:

  • 11.30 – 12.30: The Swinging Little Big Band (Sat)
  • 11.30 – 12.30: Downtown Meltdown DJs ‘Sunday Morning Fry Up’ (Sun)
  • 1pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 1.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)
  • 2pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 2.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)
  • 3pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 3.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)

Crowds enjoying May's Food Festival

There are some really exciting shops opening up in the Pantiles, now, and the diversity of the boutiques really serves to maximise the area’s originality. It’s interesting to see the range of fashions, homewares, art and accessories (both new and vintage) available, and positively cockle-warming to witness once empty shops blooming with renewed life. Please read the ever-wonderful Bettina (aka: Mrs Anke)’s latest blog article, focusing on these Pantiles boutiques, for an overview!



Much Middle-Class Munching: The Pantiles Food Festival 2011
May 22, 2011, 6:26 pm
Filed under: cakes, Cookery, Cupcakes, Food, Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells | Tags: , ,

The day that begins with freshly cooked Chicken Pakora for breakfast is a day that bodes well, my friends. It’s not the usual breakfast fare, I’ll grant you, but the enticing curry tendrils of temptation were wafted our way as we strolled to the local food festival being held at the bottom of our road, and so we just had to submit. I’m sure you understand.

The Pantiles is a really pretty area of Tunbridge Wells that is practically the definition of “Quaint” – all white-washed Georgian elegance and hanging baskets; though it retains a certain boutiquey-buzz and slightly more lefty-leaning arts & crafty atmosphere, which manages to lift it above mere saccharine levels of Ye Olde Touristy Bit.

It’s still not utilised as much as it could be, but it’s getting there, and this festival should definitely help raise the profile of both the Pantiles area and the plethora of wonderful food producers we’re lucky enough to have in Tunbridge Wells, generally.

Yum. Our Pear & Almond tarts & Baked Orange Cheesecake were from here!

There are often farmers markets and French markets held in the Pantiles, but the Food Festival takes it to another level, with many more stalls of fresh produce, local restaurants serving take-away versions of their best sellers and all manner of splendid concoctions with which to lure you in.

Spot the lady...

Locally brewed beers & cider, bread, cheese, freshly picked asparagus and punnets of plump strawberries, cupcakes and bunting “made to order”, pop-up vintage shops, Turkish delicacies, towers of chutney & jam, tray-bakes and huge steaming pans of Paella with huge queues to match – there was something for everyone and it would have been rude not to try several things, wouldn’t it?

We left with a haul of pear & almond tart, orange baked cheesecake, red onion marmalade, Scottish Tablet (a fudge-like sweet), Jamaican-spiced cashews, handmade chocolates (including Smoked Earl Grey Tea flavour, which I cannot wait to try!), banana bread, tea bread, a bottle of Blackcurrant Stout and two Scotch eggs. Phew!

This sign on the back of the Indian food van made me grin. 🙂

That was just the goodies we took away with us, of course, and doesn’t include the aforementioned Chicken Pakora we shared for breakfast, the cheese & ham crepe we shared for elevensies (well, twelvesies, really), a mix & match Thali (selection box containing small portions of curry) we shared for lunch, the beef & jalapeno sausage-in-a-bun & the Taywell’s ice cream cone (the Honeycomb flavour was delicious!) for afters. I don’t think we’ll need to eat for several days, actually.

It was lovely to see so many crowds filling the Pantiles, laughing and joking (and eating and eating and eating, of course) and generally gadding about enjoying the – albeit patchy – sunshine we had today. It had been glorious blue skies and wall-to-wall blazing sunshine yesterday (whilst I was working, alas), of course, but we were jolly lucky considering torrential rain had been forecast, and all we got was a quick burst of droplets as were leaving, so I didn’t mind a bit.

I have to say I was somewhat enraptured by the live cookery demonstrations being held by talented chefs on the old bandstand, as I am quite addicted to cookery shows in general, so to see it all happening right in front of you was quite mesmerising.I could have stood there watching them for most of the day, had I not been dragged away by the thought of yet more stalls to investigate.

Organised by the fantastic Association of Pantiles Traders, and with renowned (it feels somewhat derogatory just to call him “celebrity”) chef Richard Phillips as the esteemed Patron in order to to coincide with the 10th anniversary of his restaurant, Thackeray’s, in Tunbridge Wells; the festival was all about showcasing local ‘food heroes’ (to shamelessly borrow a Rick Stein phrase), and they all must be absolutely thrilled with its success.

I so hope this becomes, at the very least, an annual event! Although I wish it were weekly, I think my bank balance would decrease in direct proportion to my waistline’s increase, so it’s probably best that it isn’t. 😉