Fashion: Rag-trade rummager

Shopping with Jane Clucas

Jane Clucas makes her living by creating pretty child-ren's clothes out of vintage Fifties and Sixties fabrics. Although the finished product is sold in such style havens as Cath Kidston, Matches and, soon, The Conran Shop, Clucas's raw material often has a more humble provenance. Most of her shopping time for the past seven years has, she claims, been spent in charity shops hunting out these vintage fabrics.

"I used to get lots of fabric from charity shops, but I'm finding that often they have become more like vintage shops - charging pounds 15 or pounds 20 for any slightly old clothing. They seem to have become centralised - one main office says how all the shops should look - and anything interesting is often binned." Despite this gripe, Clucas still rates "funny ones run by two old ladies who just put everything out!" She claims the RSPCA charity shop, in Aylesbury (tel: 01296 415846) fills such criteria.

One of Clucas's secret sources of vintage fabric is to be found in Dorset. On holiday there Clucas was tipped off by a local antique shop. "The Clothes Line (Unit 6, Sterte Industrial Estate, 145 Sterte Road, Sterte, nr Poole, tel: 01202 676256) is a really odd place right in the middle of nowhere. It took ages to find. It's quite weird - there's a bathtub filled with goldfish as you go in - but there are rooms full of jumble sale stuff and even fancy dresses." Clucas thought she'd "died and gone to heaven" when she discovered a room piled high with pairs of old curtains which she recycled into her children's wear. Although designers and trade people often buy goods by the kilo, this jumble-sale-cum warehouse is open to the public, too.

Jane Clucas is refreshingly open about where she hunts out vintage fabrics but admits that, even for a designer, finding such places can be very difficult. "The old fabric business is like the Mafia!" she laughs. "Nobody will tell you where the rag yards are and even then you need to make an appointment."

In contrast, Clucas finds some stall holders who sell vintage materials very helpful. "The nicest vintage clothing stalls are London's Great and Dolly Rockers (units in The Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London NW1, tel: 0171-485 5511). They're run by a really friendly couple who always get me stuff." For friendly service Clucas recommends the haberdashery M Courts & Son Ltd (50 Brick Lane, London, E1, tel: 0171-247 6888), often used by the trade. Hours spent sewing at home mean that Clucas often asks for buttons to be posted to her. "I like them because if I can't get to London they send things to me which arrive the next day."

The Clucas family home does not escape the designer's preference for vintage. "We've practically done out the whole house with what I call 'village hall furniture' from the Berkhamsted Auction Rooms (tel: 01442 865169)." Clucas has picked up second-hand furniture there which would cost "10 times as much in London".

The designer finds London's Oxford Street "a nightmare", preferring to zip along the streets behind buying high- street labels second-hand. Her husband's work shirts and clothes for her own children (when they're not wearing Clucas's designs) are bought from the Salvation Army Charity Shop (9 Princes Street, London W1, tel: 0171-495 3958). For herself, Clucas keeps it simple. "I always end up dizzy and go into Gap (enquiries: 0800 427 789) for a black T-shirt, and I love the shoes in Camper (tel: 0171- 629 2722). I know I can go in there and there'll definitely be something I like."

Imogen Fox

Jane Clucas enquiries: 01442 873642

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