Thursday, 18 September 2014

All Things Scottish

Today is a historic day for Scotland and the UK. And while in Scotland, they are voting in the referendum, in London, we want to express our love for all things Scottish. Scottish products and their enduring and worldwide popularity have grabbed our imagination at Alfies.

When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Scotland for the first time in 1842, and, subsequently Prince Albert bought Balmoral, a passion for everything Scottish was inspired and became widespread across the UK. Lifestyles changed dramatically during the Victorian period, characterised by a great industrialisation and urbanisation, the development of railway was making travel more affordable, while goods from abroad entered everyday life, and yet, a desire for authenticity and local myths and history took root and left a mark in all aspects of creative work. Folk art and ancient custom were elevated to a noble status. All things Scottish became the archetypal example of true origins.

Craighall, Scotland. Hand coloured, c1820, offered by Moe Heidarieh

Harris Tweed is widely acknowledged as the champagne of fabrics.  The cloth is woven only on the Western Isles, is widely sold in the UK and exported to over 50 countries including Japan and Germany. Scottish tartan is consistently popular with discerning customers and leading fashion and interior designers. Scottish cashmere is another guarantee of quality, and for many, the last word in luxury.  Only one mill in Britain carries out the entire cashmere weaving process from raw fibre to finished garment and that mill is located in the Scottish Highlands.

1960s velvet and tartan evening dress, offered by June Victor
Vintage ladies kilt, offered by June Victor

Mens tartan kilt made by Kinlock Anderson est. 1868, offered by June Victor

Scotland’s textile industry boasts an enviable client list which includes Chanel, Hermès, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, YSL and more. Excellent vintage examples can be found at Alfies Antique Market.

1950s pure wool dressing gown, offered by Carole Collier

Scottish jewellery made from local agate, a banded and variegated form of chalcedony usually cut en cabochon, reached the height of popularity during the Victorian era. Agates such as Montrose Agate and Rare Jaspers in Russets and Green were set in Silver and sometimes gold. Antique Scottish Jewellery has a timeless appeal with its rich palette of colours and the ancient Celtic Designs from other parts of Scotland and Ireland inspired by the relics of our ancestors. Designs are drawn from Scandinavian mythology, local wildlife it represents a connection of the legacy of the past.

Scottish Miracle necklace, 1950s, offered by Paola & Iaia

Scottish Miracle jewellery, 1950s, offered by Paola & Iaia

Scottish Miracle jewellery, 1950s, offered by Paola & Iaia

Many models of Miracle jewellery were originally created by W. Johnson & Sons and Ward Brothers Ltd, both of whom were established in the 19th Century.
Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

Friday, 12 September 2014

London Design Festival 2014: A spotlight on MidCentury Dutch Design

In celebration of the 2014 London Design Festival, from tomorrow Saturday 13th September until Friday 10th October, Design SECT at Alfies will be dedicating their gallery space to the works of Friso Kramer and Wim Rietveld, two of the most important names in Dutch industrial design from the post-war era. With this in mind we thought it would be interesting to explore Dutch MidCentury design further.

Twentieth Century industrial design has firmly established its place in our Twenty-First Century choice of interiors, both at home and in our workspace. However, with iconic pieces by the likes of Prouvé and Perriand far beyond the reach of all but the most serious collector, awareness and appreciation is growing for these Dutch stars. The influence of the De Stijl movement and their observation of the Geod Wonen movement – the Dutch foundation set up in 1948 to promote well-designed domestic goods - make their designs as appealing and relevant today as they were over fifty years ago.

The De Stijl movement began in 1917 in the Netherlands and was led by painters Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, who also created a journal of the same name; ‘De Stijl’ literally meaning ‘the style’ in Dutch. The movement was partly a reaction to the decorative excess of Art Nouveau  and partly a way of rebuilding society after the horrors of World War I; the creators seeing the style as a stripped back aesthetic which would speak to everyone the world over and be appropriate for a new, and largely rebuilt, modern society. With a simplistic approach and heavy focus on geometric and abstract patterns, straight lines and primary colours, their work was designed to be a perfect marriage between form and function.  De Stijl's influence was perhaps felt most noticeably in the realm of architecture, but also covered fine art, typography and literature.

The architect Gerrit Rietveld was another Dutch luminary who was a member of the movement; father of Wim Rietveld, Gerrit’s designs included the famous Red and Blue chair and the Schröder House, Utrecht.

Red Blue Chair (c1923) by Gerrit Rietveld

Later on, in the post-war years, and inspired by the De Stijl approach, the Goed Wonen (Good Living) Foundation promoted the benefits of well-designed domestic goods. This time a reaction to the Second World War the foundation wanted to improve on the lack of good materials available and gave lectures, exhibited their work widely, offered tips for and articles about modern living and the growing modern style.  The simple, functional approach is evident in the designs of both Kramer and Rietveld.

Background on the Designers

Friso Kramer (Netherlands 1922) is a highly influential designer. He produced numerous pieces for Ahrend De Cirkel in the period 1948-63 including, in 1953, the Revolt chair. In 1963 he founded the Total Design bureau with Wim Crouwel, Benno Wissing, Paul and Dick Schwartz. His designs are increasingly sought after, and a plastic version of his Revolt chair has been reissued by Ahrend in recent years. Archives now held by Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague.

Wim Rietveld
Wim Rietveld (1924-1985) was a designer whose work spanned furniture, lighting and also boats, trains and household appliances.
In 1949, Wim Rietveld joined Gispen as designer. There he introduced ‘furniture for simple interiors’, in line with the thoughts of Goed Wonen (or “Good Living”). Later at Ahrend he worked with Friso Kramer, where the two designed the Result chair and Reply drawing table. Rietveld also designed the Pyramid table, with its clear Prouvé influence.

Both Kramer and Rietveld won the Signe d’Or for numerous pieces throughout their careers.

Design SECT will be showcasing a range of original pieces from both designers, dating from 1950s to the 1960s. Also on show will be Ahrend’s reissued Revolt chair, available by special order from the gallery.

Revolt chair designed by Friso Kramer

Stools and chair designed by Friso Kramer

Friday, 5 September 2014

Vintage Fashion at Alfies

Every September, London reinstates itself as the style capital when the fashion industry touches down for London Fashion Week. This year it will run from Friday 12th September - Tuesday 16th September.

Fashion is always being reinterpreted, each year we see a creative new take on a classic piece. Contemporary fashion will always be at the forefront, high street shops curate key trends hot off the catwalk making couture wear more affordable to the masses. Whenever it gets a bit too overwhelming it's always nice to go for something original and unique- vintage fashion!

Original 1920s long lame dress, offered by Velvet Atelier

Vintage fashion will always be around and will never go out of style. We love the innovative style of the past, such as cloche hats and drop waist flappers of the 1920s, the long flowing gowns and pill box hats of the 1930s, elegant tea dresses and rolled up blue jeans of the 1940s, the pedal pushers and poodle skirts of the 1950s, bell bottoms and mini skirts of the 1960s, platforms and palazzo pants of the 1970s, spandex and 'power dressing' in the 1980s, and grunge and neon colours of the nineties.

Elegant vintage blue suit by BIBA, offered by Tin Tin Collectables

The 'Noughties' revisited and re-invented a number of different trends from past decades. Up until now we are still seeing the rejuvenation of fashion from a bygone era. To wear an original piece that was created in it's heyday makes it somewhat more special, the fact that these items have stood the test of time proves the superior quality and workmanship of the garment. 

Beautifully detailed 1940s beaded cream cardigan, lined. Offered by June Victor
A 1950s Kigu compact, cigarette case, lipstick holder & bag in one.Offered by Carole Collier

At Alfies we have expert vintage fashion dealers who stock a wide range of vintage fashion and accessories:

On the ground floor visit Tin Tin CollectablesVintage (especially 1900s) Clothing, and Ladies' & Gentlemen's Accessories including Costume Jewellery, Handbags and Cufflinks.

First floor, Velvet Atelier -  Vintage pre 1950s clothing plus designer stock, including Ceil Chapman, Dior, Armani, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Biba, Louis Vuitton and more. 

Be sure to visit June Victor & Carole Collier on the second floor -  Textiles, Fabrics & Vintage Clothing, Vintage Clothing & Accessories, Scent Bottles, Fashion Clothing & Accessories, Embroidery.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Brian Stonehouse: The Life Of A Military Artist

Brian Stonehouse: Artist, spy, war hero and renowned fashion illustrator. His fascinating life could resemble the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster and now through the generosity of Frederic A Sharf, the book 'Brian Stonehouse, MBE 1918-1998' (with contributions from our very own Leslie Verrinder and David Smith of Tin Tin Collectables), we can delve into his remarkable life.

Born 29th August 1918 in Torquay, Brian spent much of his childhood growing up in France. From a young age he showed a flair for painting and illustration. In 1932 his passion led him back to Britain to study art at Ipswich Art School. After graduating, Brian worked as a full time artist until the outbreak of World War II where he joined the Territorial Army. In the summer of 1941 whilst in training, he was contacted by the Special Operations Executives to become a secret wireless operator due to his fluency in French. His code name was 'Celestin', and his mission, to infiltrate Nazi Europe in order to sabotage the German war effort.

Portrait of Brian in uniform before becoming MBE

Agents needed to be fitted with their secret devices and since Brian was to be a wireless operator his equipment was disguised as an artist's paint box. On June 30th he was flown into France, as he parachuted down his radio equipment became trapped in a tree. He spent his first few days in France trying to retrieve it without making a scene. After four months, Brian's work as an SOE agent came to an abrupt halt. He had become careless when choosing his locations to transmit from. The Gestapo were clever and cracked his coded messages. On October 24th, 1942, he was arrested and interrogated, yet he continued his identity as a French art student. In November 1943, he was moved to Mauthausen concentration camp and in the summer of 1944 he was moved again to the notorious Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace. There his life was spared only by drawing sketches for the camp commandant guards and their families.

1940s Ladies Suit, Tin Tin Collectables

After the war, Brian Stonehouse testified at the Nazi war crimes trials with the aid of his sketches to identify the Nazi officers. He was liberated by U.S. troops on April 25th, 1945, and was awarded a military MBE. Following 1946, Brian continued his career as a fashion artist in America illustrating for Vogue, Elizabeth Arden and Harper's Bazaar. He was the first illustrator to be hired by Vogue in more than a decade.

In 1979, he returned to Britain and became a portrait painter with clients including the Queen Mother whose portrait hangs in the Special Forces Club in London. During his final years Stonehouse was an active Theosophist living at the London branch of the United Lodge of Theosophists. From charming the Gestapo prison guards, to the New York City Cafe Society and to the Queen Mother herself, Brian Stonehouse was a remarkable artist, fashion illustrator, icon and a war time hero.

Copies of the book are available from Leslie, please contact

1950s Lace Evening Dress, Tin Tin Collectables

Friday, 8 August 2014

Gorgeous Green

Summer in August conjures up images of deep blue skies, flowers in full bloom, the soothing sound of nature and of course, green. Green is often used to symbolize rebirth and renewal and immortality and is most commonly associated with nature, vivacity and life.

It's no wonder that some of the most beautiful items at Alfies are luscious shades of green...

Late Victorian enamel and pearl brooch, offered by Sheila Cameron

1950's green paste necklace by Vendome offered by Tony Durante

A stunning French emerald and diamond ring, c1920s. Offered by Kieron Rielly

1960s sculptured green ceramic lamp. British. Offered by The Originals

Linthorpe bowl by Christopher Dresser offered by Janes Antiques

Green and clear glass vase signed Val. St. Lambert, offered by Louise Verber Antiques

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Time Keeper

Your watch. It is an accessory, it is an investment, it is your most truthful friend. Whether you have it safely put away in a pocket, pinned to your chest or on your wrist; it is yours and, hopefully, just the way you want it. The working mechanism of a watch depends on the movement and there are a few of them to choose from. Even if you cannot see it at first glance, the movement play a definite part when pin pointing the characteristics of the watch you are wearing. At Alfies Antique Market you can find any of the different watch movements mentioned below.  

Mechanical Watches
What characterize a mechanical watch is the mainspring. The mainspring is a spring that gradually unwinds and transmits energy. You have to wind up your mechanical watch yourself, which makes it very traditional and creates a nice contact with your watch. Most models require a wind up every 24 hours, so a mechanical watch asks for some attention to be drawn from you every day. In other words, some time spent in order to see the time. 

A Cyma watch from the 1920s, mechanical wind up (offered by Moe Heidarieh)

1920s watch, mechanical wind up (offered by Moe Heidarieh)

Automatic Watches
The difference between a mechanical and an automatic watch is that automatic watches are self winding, so they do not need  to be wound manually. This is possible through a small weighted rotor that has to oscillate in order to wind up the mainspring inside the watch. When you wear the watch motion is created from the wrist and arm and so your movement translates into energy that powers the watch’s gears to wind up the mainspring. 

An automatic watch from the 60s (offered by Moe Heidarieh)

Quartz and Electronic Watches
These movements are more modern and are now widely used timekeeping technologies. Electronic movements are driven by battery and generally come without any moving parts. A quartz watch is powered by an electronic oscillator regulated by quartz crystal to keep time. Because the crystal oscillator can create a signal with very precise frequency, quartz clocks are slightly more accurate than mechanical clocks. The frequency is broken down through an integrated circuit where power is being released through a small stepping motor setting the watch in motion. 

A Garrard Quartz watch (offered by Moe Heidarieh)

A Jaquet Girard Quartz watch from the 70s (offered by Pari's Jewellery)

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