Located on Earlham Street, a cobbled street leading off Seven Dials which dissects the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden, London, lies the flagship store of what is without a doubt one of the largest collections of vintage menswear in the world. Founded in 2007 by Doug Gunn and Roy Luckett, who joined forces following years of both individually selling vintage on Portobello Road in the early-2000s, The Vintage Showroom defines the epithet, ‘a hidden gem’. Together, they’ve amassed a highly respected and vast collection (around 50,000 pieces) of particularly rare vintage clothing. Encompassing military pieces, workwear, sportswear, tailoring and many unique, and unusual items from all over the world, it transcends most of the 20th century, with exception of the 1990s, which isn’t vintage, yet. They cite that “having different styles definitely helps with the collection,” which explains Doug’s heavy, raw denim jacket and jean ensemble, compared to Roy’s pared down tailored, quintessentially British approach.
It comes as no surprise then that their collection is one of the most resourced archives in the world, serving as a seed of creativity for many up-and-coming and already established designers (names of which I’m not allowed to disclose) who visit their showroom in Notting Hill. “We are just on the end of the design process. I love following up with designers and finding out where they went with that one detail. When a designer comes to us, they are looking for something new. They’re looking for a pocket they’ve never seen before or a fabric or wash,” Doug informs me.
“I love following up with designers and finding out where they went with that one detail.”
“This is really about retail,” explains Doug, as we stand in the basement of the pleasantly crammed, creaking oak-floored, rustic store. “It’s an introduction to the business if you like, whereas the showroom hosts fashion designers, stylists, film wardrobe and costume designers and the occasional personal shopping experience,” Doug says. As you look around, there’s not one element or article of clothing or accessory that seems out of place. It’s a perfectly curated, friendly space that will swallow up your day as your fingers flick in between the many coat hangers (and I am glad it’s come to my attention).
It’s safe to say that both Doug and Roy are fully fledged experts in 20th century clothing. They have an encyclopaedic knowledge of various world cultures and their specific styles of dress, and are able to discuss at great lengths the differences, reasons and explanations between the varying technical aspects of military and aviation wear — from pre-WW2 through to Vietnam. They understand the complete breadth of British tailoring by decade, plus a concise understanding of denim, its origins and how different countries developed the fabric in their own, unique ways. Doug has been curating Belstaff’s arcchive over the past year and the first reveal is available to see now in Belstaff’s New Bond St flagship through London Fashion Week.