Where Do They Get Their Ideas From?

Words by: Andrew Williams

I imagine anybody who has designs on producing clothes will at some point suffer niggling doubts. The one that gets me from time is can I keep coming up with new ideas?

They say there’s no such thing as an original idea. That’s not strictly true of course. There is originality in high fashion, but sending men down the catwalk in sequin caftans, Bermuda shorts and hobnail boots is of no interest to me.

But even classically minded producers of clothes must come up with new products and designs at least twice a year. So, where do the designers get their ideas?


In fact they do the same thing that I’ve been doing. I’ve amassed old black and white photos from flea markets, magazine clippings; a huge file of images taken from websites like the Sartorialist; collections of old movies and a trawl of London’s excellent vintage shops. This last source is in fact the most logical path and one most heavily tramped.

You may already know that Jeremy Hackett’s first retail endeavour was a vintage shop on the King’s Road. What’s less well known is that a regular customer was Ralph Lauren. Once Hackett began remaking items that took his fancy from within his vintage stock the label we know today was born.

He is far from the only one, and London is well served for archives of vintage clothing and apparel. To begin with there is Portobello Road market. Held every Saturday it’s the largest open air antiques market in the World. It hosts a multitude of vintage clothes and military apparel stalls, as well as kit from new upcoming designers. The likes of Paul Smith and Ozwald Boateng are reputed to stalk the stalls, seeking inspiration for everything from buttons to tweed blazers.

Other favourites include Old Hat – whom we highlighted here.


My favourite vintage shop, Emporium, is where I picked up my denim jacket. Although not specialising in one particular area they’re a good place to start if you’re looking for a 60s or Mod vibe. Jonathan has a huge private collection which designers can view by appointment. Not only does he help a number of well known designers, he and his wife also undertake work with film and television wardrobe departments.


A relative newcomer is The Vintage Showroom. They specialise in 40s and 50s British military apparel and American orientated work wear. They’ve collaborated with both Garbstore and North Sea Clothing in the past. As well as the retail unit they have a large collection available to view by appointment. Their website gives a flavour of what they offer.


Next door to The Vintage Showroom is MINT. I’d say the styling was more 50’s. Here you’ll find rows of vintage washed denim and plaid shirts.

While you may never visit these shops, it’s a reasonable bet the folks who design your clothes have.