We live in a society which has bought into excessive fashion consumption. Don’t feel guilty. We’ve all been there. But while there’s no obligation to change your ways, there are ample opportunities to take a new direction with the growth in the vintage clothing market, a trend that has steadily advanced in Barcelona thanks in part to people like British creative Aby Mackie.
The opposing agendas of ‘fast fashion’ and sustainability, coupled with endless magazine interviews with celebrities about how ‘this old thing’ was found at their favourite out-of-the-way vintage store, has seen a huge expansion in the concept of digging out clothes from the past, either to wear as is or to adapt them to personal or catwalk tastes. “We’re very conscious of consumerism,” said Mackie of her family, which has embraced a sustainable lifestyle. “I hardly ever buy new clothes. About 95 percent of what we have is vintage, swapped, borrowed or given.”
In her work, too, Mackie is conscious of how manufacturers nowadays often opt for time efficiency over lasting quality and has headed away from such practices. She has a vintage label, Violeta Vintage, through which she sells—online and at local markets—classic pieces found in many different places. These include markets in London and Chile, where her husband is from and which she visits occasionally.
Mackie’s treasure trove wardrobe in her studio, where she has all the pieces for sale on display, is captivating. “It’s all the things that I loved but that weren’t quite right for me, or not quite my style.” When asked about what she looks for in a vintage garment, she said: “In general, I try and find garments in really good condition. Quality speaks for itself.” She then revealed how her dad, an antique clock-maker and restorer, inspired her passion for timeless classics. “It taught me about things that were well-made, old, well-worn and had a history. It’s the same with clothes. You find things that are beautiful and well-made, timeless.”
She has also created a line of baby bibs—under the label Wild and Beautiful—that she creates using raw materials, all of which are sourced in this area. “Everything is local, and the idea is to keep it local. We don’t get anything imported. We do everything ourselves.”
If you’re still not convinced by the allure of vintage clothing, consider this: despite appearances to the contrary, with so many stores selling cheap clothes, the homogenisation of fashion design means consumers actually have limited stylistic choices. “You pick up on particular silhouettes because they’re all repeated,” said Mackie. So, there’s an element of conformity in following fashion, even when it is considered an act of individualisation. This is exactly why vintage is a great option for anyone tired of looking like everybody else. “You’re getting the current trend, but with a twist on it. By buying an old piece, it’s actually more unique and original. No one is going to have the same thing as you, they’re really not.”
From Leicestershire to Barcelona, and with a degree in Textile Design and an MA in Fine Art and Photography behind her, Mackie describes her journey as “a big mess of creativity”. She also talks fondly about the creative community in Barcelona, mentioning a few of her friends who are doing similar things, such as Lulu Melotte (Vintage-bebe) and Leyla Nazim (Layelfishvintage). “It’s all mixed up. Everyone is multifaceted in what they’re doing now.”
After some time off looking after her young children and moving house, Mackie is now settled and ready to concentrate on some of her new projects during 2012. She participates regularly in markets around Barcelona: Brick Lane BCN, a monthly vintage pop-up collaboration (this month’s edition takes place on Saturday 4th on Corretger 5, 12 to 6pm) and the Saturday crafts market on Allada Vermell are two of the places where you can seek out Aby Mackie and her treasures.