THE 1990s may have started more than 20 years ago but there’s a good reason why Leah Austin doesn’t sell clothing from that era at Vintage Per Sempre.
“I was born in the 1990s,” she says. “So it can’t be vintage, can it?”
Leah is only 18, which probably makes her Bournemouth’s youngest shopkeeper, but her interest in the decades before she was born started early indeed.
Surrounded by 1950s cocktail dresses, wild 60s prints, tweed coats and a hat collection that John Lennon’s Auntie Mimi would have killed for, she explains how her vintage love affair started.
“As long I can remember, I’ve had a subscription to Vogue and I started collecting 1980s back copies of the magazine,” she says.
“I was always hanging round charity shops, because older clothing seemed so much more original and better made.”
Her first vintage buy was a dazzling green frock but it was only after her grandparents died and she was helping her parents to clear their home last year, that the idea of her own vintage store crystallised.
“I really wasn’t sure about going to university and although I did think about doing fashion marketing, I wasn’t sure there would be a job after it,” she says.
“My grandparents had a big, old house stuffed with lovely things and we couldn’t keep it all so I decided I could open a shop to sell it off.
“I liked the recycling aspect of it, too.”
Now her Pokesdown store is stuffed to the gills with a rainbow of fabulous frocks, jerseys, skirts, shoes and household effects.
She even sells old night-dresses. “People wear them to pyjama parties,” she explains.
Her gran’s hat collection is slowly being sold off, along with a rail of Crimplene dresses in eye-watering patterns and there is a rail of the cutest 1970s kids’ clothing.
But who is buying all this stuff?
“Students, young mums, anyone interested in fashion, really.
“One mum was going to a seventies party and bought some seventies children’s clothing for her kids to wear.”
Some of her stock is donated (“people feel glad you can sell it on and they often like to chat about the items they’ve brought in”) and some items have lovely stories attached.
“One woman told me she’d brought her friend’s going-away dress from her wedding.”
Her favourite items are the Frank Usher gowns and although she’s had a few high-end garments, such as a vintage Burberry Mac, much of her stock has been handmade by its original owners.
Most sought-after items are the 1950s prom gowns although Leah herself dreaming of finding a 1920s flapper dress.
Of all the stock, however, one thing stands out; the outrageous tangerine nylon evening gown with marabou-trimmed, medieval sleeves, which looks as though it was last worn by Cilla Black in 1972.
The idea that a real person once wore it is amazing but, Leah declares: “Someone will buy it for a fancy dress party.”
• Vintage Per Sempre: 983 Christchurch Road, Pokesdown