Buy a piece of the Sixties

Forego High Street pastiche, Delta of Venus has the real thing. By Dominic Lutyens
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Fashion editors often accompany retro fashion spreads with copy heralding a new look. Never mind the top-to-toe Jackie O outfits or perfect pastiches of Julie Christie make-up used to showcase this winter's look. What's important, we're told, is not to copy the old style but to give it a Nineties twist.

The beauty of second-hand shops like the newly openedDelta of Venus, is that they're run by people who wholeheartedly embrace retro glamour. The brainwave of Chris Free, Leigh Wildman, Penny Sobr and Lydia Jones, Delta of Venus is a total Sixties and Seventies environment. Packed with period clothes, furniture, records and books, this huge shop opposite Euston's Laurence Corner, makes no apologies for its existence.

The team originally had a stall in London's Camden Market selling Sobr and Jones's old clothes. But such was their enthusiasm for Sixties and Seventies paraphernalia that they'd soon accumulated pieces of furniture, too, and the problem was getting everything to fit under one tarpaulin. "We needed a shop to get out of the rain," says Free.

Emulating the atmosphere of Sixties and Seventies emporia such as Mr Freedom and Biba, Delta of Venus is painted in acid-pop shades. Its stock is arranged as haphazardly as a bazaar's, but deliberately so. "We wanted the shop to have warmth and character. And not to look yuppified or impersonal," Free explains.

Thanks to this winter's mod revival, the shop couldn't be more in vogue. So are its crew style opportunists? Or have the Sixties and Seventies always turned them on? Wildman's answer - a misty-eyed panegyric to watching T Rex on Top of the Pops as a kid - would be enough to convince anyone that he, at least, was born with a glittery spoon in his mouth.

Punters so far have included Boy George (who whipped in to buy a couple of shirts on his birthday) and a Channel 4 TV researcher who bought a chair for a forthcoming documentary on Joyce McKinney, the famous Seventies Mormon molester. Inevitably, teenage mods and modettes also flock to the shop before going on to Sixties revival clubs like Lava Lounge and Venus Flytrap.

"We get fashion students looking for inspiration," Sobr says, "and once Marks & Spencer came in for an original Sixties M&S shirt because the company plans to bring out a Sixties line next spring."

The high quality of the clothes is a strong selling point. "The Sixties," says Jones, "were a borderline time between old-fashioned tailoring and mass production, and clothes then were made to last." A few of their garments are made by Jones from old patterns. She also takes inspiration from such Sixties glamourpusses as Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg. With its huge variety of groovy goodies could the shop perhaps do with a focus? "We specialise in the 1964-66 mod and glam rock eras," says Wildman, setting the record straight.

But to the untrained eye, Delta of Venus looks wildly eclectic: pairs of chic patent shoes recall Catherine Deneuve's bourgeois hooker look in Bunuel's film Belle de Jour, while silver space-age jewellery and orange fake nails scream Jane Fonda in Barbarella. Some of the clothes have nicknames: 'Dolly Spy' for a secret agent's trenchcoat, 'Kitty Scandal' for a frosty-pink brocade frock.

On walls and shelves are records, James Bond paperbacks. FAB 208 annuals and futuristic lamps. Everything is affordable and in great nick. A Seventies Braun table lighter in perfect working order will set you back pounds 20 - a snip compared with the pounds 70 paid for an identical one at a recent Bonham's auction.

I asked the Delta of Venus stylonauts how they see themselves in 10 years' time. "We'll be King's Road fatcats," joshes Wildman. Free, meanwhile, fantasises about the shop having "a beauty salon where people could have their hair and make-up done before going out."

Imagine - a beauty parlour dedicated to creating Julie Christie peepers and Farrah Fawcett flicks. Wow!

Delta of Venus, Mystic Maze, 151 Drummond Street, London NW1. Open Tuesday- Saturday, 10.30am-6pm.

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