This was the Sixth Rock Around Randwick vintage fair, but its been a few years since I’ve attended and I was curious to see how it was running. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the Sydney vintage scene has undergone a slump recently – it didn’t quite tank altogether, but vintage bricks and mortar shops and fairs became much more scarce, prompting us to appreciate even more those that remained.
My collecting interests lie very heavily in the pre-WWII era, and are particularly centred around the 1920s and 30s (although I can never resist a lovely Edwardian hat or a richly beaded Victorian mantelet). These pieces can often be rather thin on the ground, and are really starting to edge more into “Antique” rather than “Vintage” as they approach their 100th anniversary. Many can’t be considered wearable vintage, and that – coupled with their increasing scarcity – means that I don’t really expect to find them in a substantial amount at vintage and retro fairs….but I live in hope. You can still find lovely celluloid handled bags or Czech glass jewellery in unexpected places, and a velvet 1930s coat is not all that unusual to come across amidst the racks 60s-80s pieces.
Although not a huge event, the Randwick Fair filled out the town hall with dealers and showed a very good cross section of antique, vintage and retro pieces. The event is free entry, and from the time we arrived at 10.00 am opening there was a good sized crowd. There were plenty of funky and fun pieces from more recent decades in Pucci type prints or OTT 1970s glitz.
Even more pleasing to me was the presence of older pieces as well, going back into the Victorian era. Keith and Fiona Baverstock are well known for their extensive collection of Antique and Vintage stock, and their business, Seams Old, is a staple of the Australian vintage scene (in fact, I purchased my first 1920s piece from them many years ago at an antique fair…I was looking for Edwardian clothing, but was seduced by the rich, vibrant colour and texture of a 1920s silk velvet jacket). Keith was on hand to discuss all their stock and was happy to bring items out of the showcases and from where some of the more extravagant pieces were hanging on the walls, and we were very pleased to pick up a lovely 1920s floral cape lined with lamé from their stall. The cape is covered with a fine spiderweb of gold metallic thread – a very unusual treatment. We also bought a large beaded 1920s bag with a faux tortoiseshell celluloid handle from Seams Old…its generous size made it a practical piece for those vintage events where you’re carrying more than your powder and a sovereign! Finally, we bought a German made Art Deco manicure set – all original pieces in their original box.
Other stallholders also had some wonderful Deco era pieces. Glennis of Over the Top Vintage is another familiar face to Sydney vintage lovers, and after a bit of a brief hiatus she has returned to selling with a great variety of pieces. Her hats in particular are a joy to behold – if I hadn’t already done my dash with the cape, I would have very happily purchased a beautiful 1910s toque in Autumnal, coppery colours with a velvet flower trim.
Elsewhere, we found a 1930s purse with soutache embroidery – a little worn around the edges, but for an excellent price. I was also completely bemused by a snake bracelet set with rhinestones – the style itself is very familiar from the celluloid or carved horn bracelets in the same design, but it is either carved wood or resin. I’d never seen one quite like it, and – acting on the principle of collecting that prompts me to buy unusual pieces that pique my curiosity – I bought it. More research needed!
On the way out we looked at the display of wedding gowns through the ages. One of the most delightful things about it was seeing a grandmother explaining the styles to her granddaughter, and looking through all the photos on the table to see if they could identify which gown belonged to each era. Seeing that sort of audience engagement is always a pleasure when you work in museums, whether it be for a huge blockbuster exhibition or a small display in a town hall.
A very successful day from our perspective and, I hope, from that of the stallholders – it’s good to see the Sydney vintage scene alive and humming.