What I Know About Style

Herbie Mensah Vintage

May
8

Vintage fashion collector Herbie Mensah on underrated labels, reinventing clothes and Fridays in Chinatown

Where’s your stomping ground?

West London, particularly Kensal Green – it’s where I live, where my kids were born and there’s a good sense of community. I stomp between there, Portobello Road, Fulham Football Club and every car boot sale and flea market between here and the M25.

Who sparked your love of vintage?

I have vivid memories of the clothes my parents wore from the ‘50s and ‘60s. I always loved buying and collecting clothes. When I was very young I used to buy some of my clothes from charity shops because I didn’t have much money.

It was when I got into clubbing and music that I realised I wanted to try and be more individual and creative. During my late teens I lived in Birmingham where I worked in a nightclub. I bought jodhpurs from the ‘rag market’ – I’d buy anything a bit different to what was available on the high street. It developed from there and my style became more flamboyant from being in bands during the ‘80s. I’d also collated a vast array of clothing and shoes.

Sum up your formative years in three words…

Fun, travel, friendships.

What inspired you to customise your own range of designs?

I feel like anything can have a new life, I don’t like throwing things away and I enjoy reinventing something by changing its shape or structure. Plus, I’m an artist at heart.

What are you most proud of?

Workwise, I’m most proud of being able to make a living out of doing something ethical and that I have a passion for. When I had a shop on Portobello Road it was included in the Louis Vuitton City Guide London – to feel like you are recognised by an international crowd is a great feeling.

Can you name-drop a few celeb customers…

A lot of designers and design teams have bought from us including Michael Kors, Domenico Dolce, Gucci, plus high street stores Reiss, Topshop and River Island. We seem to appeal a lot to singers and performers such as Erykah Badu, Joss Stone, Duffy; actors such as Jaime Winstone and Thandie Newton; personal stylists – the list goes on of stylish customers of all ages! We’re very friendly and people like that vibe.

What’s your favourite film for its style?

Quadrophenia for the Mod look and ‘60s style – I love that film.

What are your fashion rules?

Don’t try too hard; and less is more.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?

Chinatown for duck and rice after I’ve had a mosey around Selfridges and Liberty in the West End.

What’s in your fridge?

A strawberry trifle and a bottle of ready-mixed piña colada!

What was the last band you saw?

I went to see a blues/jazz singer called Loretta Heywood at The Elgin, the singer from Bomb the Base who sang Winter in July in the late ‘80s. She has a new album, Shades of Blue, out. She was great! Also, I enjoyed seeing Yves Saint Laurent at The Lexi Cinema. Another favourite is the comedian Steve Furst who has an act called Lenny Beige – we have been going to his shows from when they started in the mid-‘90s.

What’s your vice?

I’m a die-hard Manchester United Fan. But for a London team I support Fulham – I’m a season ticket holder with my two sons now.

What item of clothing could you not give up?

I still have two tailor-made suits from when I was about six. Also, I have a kente cloth, traditional tribal wear, from Ghana. It is from the Ashanti region where I was born. And a pair of limited-edition converse trainers I bought in Tokyo 2002.

Who do you think is the most underrated designer?

A black American designer called Patrick Kelly, who died in 1990 [from a complication of AIDS] – had he lived on he would have been very well known. I sourced one of his dresses for a customer of mine, designer Duro Olowu. Similarly, Willi Smith [who died in 1987] – I really liked his casual streetwear in the ‘80s.

Currently, I think John Lewis men’s label is where it’s at for price and quality. It’s great for staples. I also buy the menswear label Folk, which suits my style and age!

Summer plans?

Glamping in Ibiza with my family and probably another buying trip in New York.

www.herbiemensahvintage.com

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