A few posts ago I told you about a delightful little vintage shop in London’s famous Brick Lane. I now want to introduce you to its proprietors, Messrs. Bodenham and Johns, two charming fellows with a passion for vintage and a willingness to chat. They share the same Christian name of Ian.
Ian and Ian, or the ‘Ians’ as I shall refer to them from now on, have recently returned from one of their customary buying trips in Italy! My initial envy was quickly surpassed by a feeling of curiosity; to wit, what treasures had they brought back? More on this later. First, a little history.
How It All Began
At the beginning of Brick Lane sits a doubly fronted wooden-clad shop. Yes, she’s a little rough round the edges, but so is Brick Lane and if you’d been there for that many years and seen what she’s seen, so would you be. Besides, the shop’s appearance does nothing but add to the vintage feel and sense of history. I confess myself emotionally attached, after having visited only once!
While Hunky Dory opened its doors in June 2008, this wasn’t the Ians’ first foray into the world of vintage. They’ve been selling vintage clothing for 25 years. In the beginning, “it wasn’t even called ‘Vintage’, just second hand or sometimes ‘period’ clothing. Nevertheless we were dealing in many of the same items which we sell to this day, that is, classic and high quality clothing and accessories for men and women, mainly from the 1940s-60s”
Ian went on to tell me that “first shop was ‘The Observatory’ in Greenwich South London, which traded very successfully from 1990 -2009. Greenwich at that time was a hub of creativity and full of vintage/junk/antique shops and markets. Unfortunately it began to decline from the mid 2000’s, largely because of rising rents and therefore a changing demographic. Over the years it’s become apparent that vintage and other leftfield shops have a decade or so to enjoy areas undergoing revival, indeed contributing to it, before they are displaced by more mainstream businesses, and it’s time to move on”
The Brick Lane Relocation
By 2008 they had relocated to Brick Lane in the East End of London, where the buzz had apparently settled. “We had been shopping at the Sunday Flea Market for over 20 years, and always been smitten with the incredible history of the neighbourhood, but we had never wanted to have more than one shop; it’s very difficult to avoid compromising the selection. We also decided to refine the concept somewhat, and dropped some of the lines we previously stocked; sportswear, 80s styles etc, as we wished to differentiate ourselves from the many other shops in the neighbourhood”
“Our concept is to source enduring styles in good quality fabrics, with more emphasis on Style than Fashion, or more particularly overexposed ‘Trends’ – for this reason many of our clientele are a little older than those of the other shops. They may have been shopping vintage for many years, and are looking for a well edited collection, which we aim to offer as affordably as possible”
I asked Ian who Hunky Dory customers are “There are now a huge diversity of Vintage shops, with people buying for a range of purposes. The various retro scenesters (pick a decade!), style mavens, people with a very particular and unchanging personal style, party goers, high streeters, and those simply looking for standout pieces from any era. Some of these types will inevitably fade away, as we have seen them come and go over the past three decades, but hopefully the diehard individualists will endure, and we would consider them our core customers”
The Italian Job
As I noted earlier, the Ians had recently returned from Italy on a buying trip. Having been to Rome myself recently, I wondered if our paths may have crossed. “In fact we do go near Rome, but to a dealer who collects certain things for us, and we find he’s particularly good for menswear and leather goods. This time we were particularly happy with a haul of ’60s and early ’70s dead stock tailored menswear; great short coats, blazers, and suits, in tweeds and velvets.”
The Ians are now busy sorting through all this new stock, sizing and categorising. I made a special request and asked them to hold a 40” navy or green velvet jacket for me! Upon my last visit to Hunky Dory, I walked out with an original unworn Italian checked jacket made in 1969 (and for a snip, at £45).
During my first visit, one of the Ians was busy in the basement redecorating: “It wasn’t so much a refurbishment on the basement, just repainting the concrete floor; we’ve been too busy to properly address the decor, it takes quite a lot of work to seasonally restock the shop when you buy by the piece as we do..heyho, hopefully next year..” This time when I visited. I was able to venture downstairs to find even more treasures, which included some stunning Italian deadstock 3 piece suits. I was tempted to buy one after looking at the label and reading my exact measurements. It was as if it was meant to be! But alas, the financials didn’t allow me to do so, being so close to Christmas!
So after a good few years in the business, the Ians must have some valuable tips and hints for the vintage gent: “When it comes to vintage shopping, unless you have a particular mission for whatever reason, I would suggest keeping an open mind with regard to styles, try lots of things on, some of which may be outside your normal comfort zone – the joy of vintage is its diversity, so why not explore?! Look for quality, and always check for wear in vulnerable spots such as collar cuffs and seams- although sometimes some weathering wear improves a garment, utilitarian workwear and leather for instance. I always look for unusual colours and prints too, away from those in favour on the High Street, and endearing details. For most people a personal style evolves gradually, few are born with innate perfect discrimination, but Vintage is a great way of experimenting with the infinite possibilities”
It’s All Going To Be Hunky Dory
So, what’s the future for Hunky Dory? “For the future, we have no plans to expand or relocate, save for increasing our online presence , we hope to begin selling menswear online this year; join our Facebook Group and follow us on Twitter for more on that! In the meantime come and visit us (it’s still the best way for Vintage!), we play the best music in town and are always available for a natter, as your good author will verify”
Huge thanks for Messrs. Bodenham and Johns for taking the time to speak to me, and allowing me to rummage relentlessly through their stock!
Location, Opening Times & Contact Details
Address: Hunky Dory Vintage, 226 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA
Phone: (0207 7297387)
Opening Times: Weekdays 11.30- 7, Weekends 10.30-7