Taking a step back in time is paying off for Falkirk businesses

Charity shops once conjured up images of musty mothballed clothes and chipped china. But now going vintage has never been more cool.

Vintage clothing, accessories and homeware are in such demand a new vintage furniture shop is coming to Falkirk later this month.

Trevor and Mary Nisbet run a vintage furniture shop in Falkirk

Trevor and Mary Nisbet run a vintage furniture shop in Falkirk

Vintage is defined as items from the 1920s to 1980s, with earlier pieces classed as antiques. Currently 1950s clothing for women and men and furniture from the 1930-50s are most coveted with 1980s power-dressing also making a comeback.

Casci Ritchie from Larbert works as a vintage hair stylist and make-up artist with Edinburgh beauty parlour Miss Dixiebelle.

The fashion design graduate fell in love with vintage clothes when she was still a pupil at St Mungo’s High and recently did the hair and make up for an American production company filming in Scotland.

The 26-year-old said: “My mum wore vintage clothes and when I was about 14, I started getting interested too. Now it’s a full blown obsession and I have more clothes than I could ever wear. I even buy things that don’t fit me, just because they’re beautiful.”

Casci buys from charity shops, vintage shops and online and admits it is getting more difficult to get authentic pieces as the trend becomes more popular.

“When I first started wearing clothes from the charity shops, some of my friends were horrified. But there’s been a shift in attitudes and people seem more accepting of buying clothes from a second hand shop or wearing their gran’s coat.

“Clothes were very well made prior to the 1970s and mass production became the norm. People appreciate the quality and hand finishing that you can’t get on affordable clothing now.

“But as vintage becomes more popular, it has become harder to find. Charity shops have also cottoned on and they often sell on their good pieces to vintage shops, who charge a lot more.”

While retro clothes have become more popular in the last decade, furniture is a newer phenomenon.

Shabby Chic opened in Bean Row, Falkirk two years ago and owners Trevor and Mary Nisbet are preparing to open a second shop, Mostly Vintage, in two weeks.

Shabby Chic upcycles second hand quality furniture with the new shop selling original affordable pieces.

Trevor, who recently quit his job as a sales manager for a plumbing supply company to work full time in the business, said they are struggling to keep up with demand.

“Vintage furniture is incredibly popular - it’s good quality, well priced and environmentally friendly.

“Lots of the pieces are a bit scuffed and unloved when we get them, but with some care and painting they look brilliant again.

“Dressing tables and dining room sets are particularly popular just now. These pieces are usually from the 1930-50s and are handmade with hand-carved dovetail joints and lots of extra details. To buy something similar new today would cost a fortune but we keep our prices as low as possible.”

Trevor also thinks shoppers like the fact older furniture has a history and often buy items they remember older relatives having.

He added: “When we looked at opening the shop we were worried upcycling furniture could be a fad, but I don’t think it will ever go away.

“The recession made people more conscious of spending money and of waste and while the economy has picked up, people are still being careful.”

Charity Strathcarron Hospice is using the boom in all things vintage to their advantage and opened a shop selling only quality retro items. Strathcarron Vintage in Bridge of Allan sells clothes, bric a brac and furniture and has seen steady profits since opening last summer.

Manager Alexandra Owens (40) from Stenhousemuir has been wearing vintage clothes since she was a teenager and uses all methods of selling to make sure she generates as much as possible for the Fankerton hospice.

The former illustrator and photographer started volunteering in Edinburgh and then donated her time to the hospice’s Falkirk shop before taking on a management role and helping to set up their first vintage shop.

She said: “There has definitely been a vintage culture for a long time, but it’s become more popular in the last five years. I think shoppers are cannier with their money, and the stigma that used to surround charity shops is no longer there.”

Alexandra and her team get their stock from donations to the 11 Strathcarron charity shops, with staff sending anything vintage to them. While clothing and furniture has proved popular, it’s the quirky items that have been flying off the shelves.

“We had a very generous donation of Hornby trains, tracks and signals which raised over £1600 for the hospice. We had the display in the window, which drew in a lot of male shoppers and they proved very popular.

“People love the quirky homeware, like unusual lamps and toys from the past. When we first opened, tea sets were in high demand but that craze seems to have calmed now.”

By selling through the shop, on Facebook and Ebay, Alexandra is able to raise as much as possible.

“We had a really unusual PVC raincoat in, which we’d struggle to sell for £5 in the shop since it’s a specialist piece, but we got £45 online.

“Being a charity vintage shop, I’m always trying to strike a balance between keeping the tills ringing and raising as much as possible.

“Working with vintage and raising money for charity is my dream job - I have to pinch myself on a daily basis!”