Fashion: Spitalfields via Sorrento

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Indy Lifestyle Online
TONI RODGERS, editor of interiors magazine Elle Decoration, describes herself, rather surprisingly, as "a rummager". A demon at car boot sales, Rodgers happily spends hours hunting down bargains in sleepy towns. "In Hastings Old Town there are loads of bric-a-brac shops. I only like to shop if I'm going to be surprised," she says.

Rodgers is a huge fan of Spitalfields Market in east London (0171-247 6590). She visits the craft and organic stalls on Sundays. "Apart from organic beetroot juices that taste of dirt, there's a girl who sells beautiful church candles which have been cast in old Victorian glass moulds. They have a really high percentage of beeswax and you can buy them in bulk in cardboard boxes like the ones you carry wine in." Other stalls Rodgers admires include Helen Durrant's pottery stall. "She has some rough-edged slate coasters - you get about six for pounds 6 and they come tied up with string. Another stall covered only in white canvas sells really simple soaps and bamboo mats and deep fuchsia sari cushions."

Roughneck & Thug (55 Brushfield Street) in a permanent site in Spitalfields also catches her attention. "There's rails of cashmere jumpers outside, with mad loud giddy music blasting out. It's bizarre. They also sell Seventies trutex suits for children with kick flares, brilliant glassware, acres of dancing shoes and loads of handbags." The modern furniture and design shop Sub.m2 (7 Lamb Street, 0171-392 2202) Rodgers visits too. "Last time I went they had a vase shaped like a molar tooth and some tall wicker lights."

Having just bought a house in Kent, Toni Rodgers has new shopping pastures. "I'm getting into seasonal eating. There's this brilliant book: Gardener Cook by Christopher Lloyd." Fascinated by local orchards and the stalls outside farmhouses selling fruit, Rodgers has been buying lots of quinces which she intends to make into quince cheese - like a compote.

The garden centre, Merriments Gardens (Hawkhurst Road, Hurst Green, East Sussex, 01580 860666), is a current favourite. "It's put together with great taste; all the plants are stocked alphabetically and it all looks really healthy and fantastic," she enthuses.

A fan of independent shops, Rodgers rates a pottery in a little town in Norfolk called Cley-next-the-sea. Made In Cley (01263 740134) sells lots of beautiful thin bowls and globe-shaped vases in simple colours. When I went, the only colours they had were black, white and a sludgy red. They are fantastic value: about pounds 24 each."

Rodgers is willing to travel abroad to discover other surprise shops. In Italy recently she fed her obsession with bed linen. "I bought in bulk from Sorrento - there were so many tiny shops owned by little white- haired men where everything is folded in knife-edge pleats and wrapped in tissue paper. One of them asked me what my tastes were - he couldn't believe I didn't want something with lace edging. I ended up buying six damask towels. I only really wanted two but he insisted he could only sell them by the box or half-box!"

Rodgers likes "going on weekends abroad shopping" and is off to Amsterdam soon. ("They've got tons of independent shops there.") She has even been known to nip off on day trips to France to clothes shop: "Practically all my clothes come from Zara." Ms Elle Decoration used to pick up this Spanish high-street label from the Centre Commercial Cite Europe (00 33 321464748), where the Channel Tunnel surfaces in Coquelles. "Zara are quick to appropriate things. I have a pair of trousers everyone thinks are from Joseph, so I'm dismayed to discover they are opening a branch soon on Regent Street!"