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Inspirational Women: accessories, entrepreneurs and vintage doyennes
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Vintage doyenne Vivienne Bartholomew


 - Vintage doyenne Vivienne Bartholomew
Vivienne Bartholomew, 53

Vivienne is something of a style icon in South East London where she presides over her exquisite vintage emporium, Vien, in leafy Crystal Palace. "Vintage clothing is all about finding your identity", she explains. "A vintage piece is unique so it has the ability to boost a person’s confidence as an individual and that identity can ripple through your life."

Fashion mavens including BBC costumiers and Vogue stylists come from far and wide to check out her collection, which started during Vivienne’s teens, progressed through her 20s as a market seller on The Kings Road, and was honed in her 50s, in her very own shop. "Before the shop, I started selling my clothes, styling in bags and shoes and jewelry, in a local Crystal Palace market. Girls started to know I was there and I would watch them put new and old together which is exactly what I used to do."

Things soon progressed: "That led me to take a risk so I started to look at where I could buy more stock. I struck lucky and found an Italian distributer and because my husband’s a freight forwarder I can import beautiful things at a reasonable price."

The shop has gone from strength to strength and is well-loved in the community, something Vivienne holds dear: "You realize that people really want to see a shop like this thrive. So many people came to me to buy their Christmas presents - I was overwhelmed by that. It’s really heartening."

Part stylist, part psychologist, Vivienne has a very personal approach: "I can see in my mind’s eye what will suit a girl and what won’t. And I can create something that’s perfect for that person by making a few simple alterations. It’s that one-on-one service that people remember, I suppose." Her own fashion line using vintage fabrics is next on the agenda.

In these times of recession and landfill, vintage is a really smart shopping choice too, of course: "We cannot afford to keep throwing away. We can be satisfied within ourselves with a good piece. When you’re unsatisfied with yourself you’re often looking for a thing to satisfy the need. It’s all about harmony within yourself. We’re all looking for it but we’re looking in the wrong places."

Vivienne's CV
1971 – UK patent office
1972 - Office assistant
1973 -  Married with children
2002-2006 - Chiropractic assistant
2007- Haynes Lane Market, Crystal Palace
April 2008 - Opened 76 Vintage
September 2008 - Opened Vien Vintage

Vien, 87 Church Road, Crystal Palace, London

More of the Inspirational Women series here



Alison Taylor
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