In Conversation with Clemmie...
We find ourselves in a post lockdown world, how are you feeling about Lime Green Bow and the sustainable fashion revolution?
I’m feeling great. Don't get me wrong the pandemic was hard on me mentally and with a new baby it definitely wasn't the easiest of times, but after I came out of the depths of despair, I found I had basically regrouped without really knowing it and was in many ways flourishing. I had a couple of really interesting consultancy projects on the go and online sales actually went up during the lockdowns and all in all whilst not being able to have appointments at the new studio (i took a new lease on a bigger space Feb 1st 2020!) was sad, it was manageable. And my loyal shoppers some of whom have been buying from me every season for years made a comfortable transition to online. Some still come from the old days when I set up shop in a spare room in my Chelsea flat which was when Vogue put me on their checkout page almost immediately which was an absolute gift!
Vintage wasn't really even a thing in those days - we’re talking about 18 years ago now. I remember back then I felt rather like I was on a crusade, I’d often meet people who didn't own an item of second-hand clothing, can you imagine that now? I felt more up against it back then. Now I feel like I'm winning, maybe even that I've won. I don't have to push the sustainable agenda, I'm almost always dealing with like-minded people who understand the value of vintage, who love a story and the history and vibrancy of old pieces, and all of them want to feel good about their consumption. Because that's the thing, we all want to consume and always will, but how we consume is up to us. Post pandemic I get the feeling that more than ever it will feel the most acceptable and appropriate consumer behaviour to be showing off your new coveted vintage purchase or special limited edition piece from a small business. How wonderful is that? That's my new fight, celebrating and promoting small businesses, offering bespoke experiences in shopping, fashion, art and interiors, curation, community and connection from the bottom up. I co founded Mrs and Mr Bateman in 2018 and it has been an absolute pleasure to work with new and more established creatives offering them a platform to show their works within the framework of the story of the fictious Bateman family. @mrsandmrbateman
How has your relationship with vintage and the Lime Green Bow experience evolved over the years?
I've always loved vintage. It was a passion before it was anything else. I remember thinking as soon as I was old enough to have pocket money why would I spend my money on something that everyone else had? It was as literal as that at first. But then I bought my first coat from a shop called Unicorn in Oxford when I was 11. I say shop but it was more like someone's attic but on the ground floor with piles and piles of clothing and a lady sitting amongst it all rather reluctantly letting pieces go. I don't remember how much the sheepskin coat was (it's still too big for me today and had an unfortunate overnight stay in a charity shop on Notting Hill Gate about 10 years ago before I rescued it by the morning after a sleepless night.) but I do remember that it was an awkward price like £20.15 or something. I remember a few years later returning to Unicorn and paying by cheque for another strangely priced item. Both times the owner couldn't have been less pleased about her sales. Almost as though they were an inconvenience. I found this thrilling; it was an EXPERIENCE be it an awkward one but it was history in the making, a story I knew id repeat one day. I didn't quite realise then how impactful it would come to be.
By now I was extremely keen on the vintage vibe but I definitely wasn't swept up and lost in the idea. The initial interest gave way to teenage experimentation, and then a sense of fitting in. I became a bit of a goth garage girl, a loo chain for a necklace, acupuncture trainers, technics jacket, boys who were into garage music. I wanted to be hard and cool and this was my uniform. Mainly black with a hint of grey. My statement was not standing out I suppose, even if I was clearly in armour of sorts. It was later at university on discovering the rather ironically named Naff Clothing in Bristol that I became hooked. I fell in love with the owner's curated vintage section and would literally go in 4 or 5 times a week and try things on and save up for things I had to have. It was then that I started buying scarves and jewellery, a panel of cloth that could ‘go with something,’ a top I could cut up, my David Silverman dress that I would later repeatedly quote as the one piece of clothing I would save in a fire. A good friend and LGB shopper tried to buy it from me last year and the answer was a firm no. She will, of course, have first dibs if I ever decide to let it go (she knows this) but at this moment I am reminded of the owner of Unicorn and how I may be becoming that lady.
‘It was the styling and playing and dressing up of it all that really got me hooked. Vintage clothing (i began to believe) was officially magic, the bearer of fantastical frequencies of unique and endless possibilities.' I started to see clothing as costume and realised I could be whomever I wanted to be on a day to day basis. WHAT a revelation. What part of myself shall I express to the world - became my daily mantra. Once I had swallowed the vintage pill I began to encourage other people to be playful and experimental, to mix casual with glam and above all to embrace and enjoy their individuality and peculiarities. I kept collecting and collecting and my friends kept asking to borrow my clothes and then more and more people would turn up asking to borrow things. Post university, suddenly I had this overflow room filled with clothes and people turning up on a Friday night saying I need something for so and so’s party, it just sort of evolved. But the truth is Lime Green Bow happened by accident.
I had left drama school (after uni) and was looking for something to hopefully tide me over on the side. I did up the spare room with some rails and the cheapest wallpaper known to man, I picked it because it was the most vintagey and I remember the decorator saying ‘This is the cheapest one in existence.’ i didn't care it was all about the look I was going for and this granny-style, textured paper was PERFECT. I had been inspired by the retro boutiques of downtown Manhattan having spent a wayward month there after a significant breakup. I was in my early 20s and I went MAD for the vintage in NYC the whole vibe felt so fresh and forward-thinking. It was the early 2000s; it was the absolute time of my life. I flipped between the Killers and The Kings of Leon on my Discman (yes Discman) whilst vintage shop and thrift store shopping. I spent EVERYTHING I had (which was an overdraft kindly supplied nay encouraged at the back end of uni by Lloyds Bank) on vintage, didn't even have enough to get to the airport, my friend Kate had to meet me outside her college with some dollars.
When I got home I thought I’ll sell some and keep some. I'll get by until I get some acting work. And then I made the move that looking back I can hardly believe anyone would have the gumption to do - and I probably wouldn't be where I am today without it -I hand wrote to various publications literally announcing that I had arrived, that I was selling vintage from home and that I thought they should come and see what I had. I must have had lots of self-belief but looking back I can't believe I thought anyone would pay any attention! But you also have to remember this was a time where big magazines were starting to use vintage in their publications, it was this exciting time where here and there vintage was photographed sitting proudly alongside couture, it was a new and exciting thing bubbling up and I was a part of it. God, I WISH I had kept some of those handwritten cards - I seem to remember something ridiculous and homemade stuck on the front of them. They were pretty childlike. But they were bold. Vogue responded within days and a profile on the checkout page followed. I guess as they say the rest is history.
Why do you think Lime Green Bow attracts such a diverse clientele?
I think it’s because I have an eclectic mix of stock. Unusual pieces, cuts, styles, prints and textures, lesser-known designers that inspire and excite, giving a fresh feel to my collection as well as those more commonly sought after for collectability. Whilst there are lots of statement pieces for the more avant-garde, I also have more trend-led items which normal shoppers love because they can keep up with trends, whilst having their own piece that no one else will have, whilst also being sustainable.
What can people expect from your collection?
First and foremost the piece has to excite me. I buy a mixture of interesting, quirky, unusual, well-cut, beautifully made statement & designer vintage pieces that appeal to people who want to be experimental and exclusive with their dressing. My eye appeals to designers who are looking for unusual details or supreme cuts, something that is out of the ordinary and to stylists who think outside the box. My clients who buy to wear, desire unique and interesting pieces, so even if they are buying items that are in keeping with current trends, they want those pieces to be unique to them – to be sure that no one else will have them. Collectors like my mix of documented collectable pieces often with provenance from timeless and well-known designers and pieces I choose from lesser-known forward-thinking designers who I predict will long term increase in value. In terms of designers I love, expect the likes of Ossie Clark, Jean Muir, Moschino, YSL, Valentino, LANVIN, Ted Lapidus, Sonia Rykiel, Dior, Lacroix, Comme des Garçons, Claude Montana, JPG, Versace, Gucci, Patrick Kelly – oh and I’m into the 1960s to Mid 2000s primarily.
Why vintage up to the Mid 2000s and not beyond?
It might be something to do with the Discman moment in the early 2000s in NYC. I guess something started for me then and simultaneously stopped at the same time.
What are your highlights of the last 15 years, any moments to remember?
There have been so many truly. I’ve met and worked with some amazing artists and creatives in my career but I have to say one moment that really sticks out is the first time Annie Lennox shopped with us. Her style was such an influence on me growing up and I think she was the first woman I saw in a trouser suit on TV - something I love to wear now. I admired her playful approach to clothing and costume and expressive style, so it was an honour that she started shopping with me.
John Galliano came by my flat in Chelsea when I started. I got a call saying someone from Galliano would be coming but when the door bell went it was actually John himself plus entourage. I was totally shocked. I had been out the night before and definitely wasn’t prepared in the way I should have been. If I could turn back time I would have made more of that meeting. I think I learnt a lot from that - it was a highlight because it made me realise you never know what might happen in life and you have to be prepared and on your game to make the most of the magic moments.
Who is your all-time IT GIRL?
Chloe Sevigny - She is the original influencer, vintage aficionado and style machine. Always on point even when she isn't.
What is your vision for the rest of 2022 into 2023 and Beyond?
I am so excited that i have officially established my new showroom in Notting Hill. I also have my favourite Pop up of the year the September/Oct new season POP UP (September 12th - October 16th) 201, Portobello Road). I’ll be off to Paris in August for a good sourcing session. I’ve been continuing to think of ways to be more sustainable as a brand and have been working with offcuts and reworking vintage pieces to create new things. I started with my Givenchy hairbands. Reusing fabric, particularly iconic designer pieces that would otherwise be discarded is such a thrill and I’m so pleased with how the hair bands turned out that i'm now doing repurposed scrunchies too! I have also been building the Creative Consultancy side of my business with CM Creates. I have been working with some fabulous brands and talents coaching them with their various creative needs and providing copy, soundbites, branding development and creative, helping them to align their offerings across media. I think words will be a key feature of 2023 and beyond for me, and I just cannot wait. Maybe just maybe Mrs and Mr Bateman will be back too.......