Bell Street Vintage opening brings new life to Sawbridgeworth's high street
Sawbridgeworth's high street has got a new boutique with the opening of Bell Street Vintage, a bijou store dedicated to pre-loved fashion.
Jo West, 31, from Harlow, quit her job at the British Heart Foundation charity shop in Bishop's Stortford to realise a long-held dream of having her own vintage fashion business. "I've wanted to do this for years," she said. "It's my passion."
The former costume design student has even lent a few of her own pieces to the tiny shop's collection. "That was mine," she says, pulling out a 1960s turquoise mini-dress. "I loved it so much."
As well as items sourced from her own wardrobe, the rails are full of items that Jo has lovingly collected from charity shops, car boot sales, and wholesalers up and down the country – travelling as far afield as Yorkshire and Devon.
She also takes pieces from individuals and welcomes anyone with quality items tucked away in the back of their wardrobes to bring them into the store.
"My boyfriend wonders whether I'm actually going to manage to sell anything," she says, stroking a 1930s evening bag.
The current stock includes "pretty vintage" – such as a hand-made orange 1950s prom dress and costume items from the 1940s – as well as urban wearable vintage with a focus on the 90s nostalgia and sportswear which is currently in vogue.
"I buy things based mostly on their look," she said. "But the quality of the old stuff... I mean people used to take so much care – that's why the pieces they made last so well."
A Bell Street Vintage dress could cost anything from £10 to £120 depending on how much work has gone into it and the quality of the fabric.
All the decades from the 1930s to 1990s are represented, with maxi-dresses and kaftans from the 1970s, pink dresses from the 1980s, and '90s kitch such as a Scooby Doo bag. Jo has also made a line of her own T-shirts using prints sourced from old adverts.
Jo was offered the shop by a family friend who owns the building. As it is listed, the owners had to retain a shop front and they offered Jo the opportunity to take it on.
Because the store is so small – your reporter had to retreat to the changing rooms to allow the Indy's photographer to take pictures – Jo opted not to have an opening party, but after waiting weeks for a completion certificate she finally opened the doors on Thursday (August 29).
She's hoping her unique collection will attract people to Sawbridgeworth from Harlow and Bishop's Stortford and further afield. As with many of the town's antiques shops, Bell Street Vintage will also be selling items online.