What I Know About Style


The Merchant


Vanessa Bunsen, of vintage boutique The Merchant, on scouting Portobello Market and being a little bohemian

 What inspired you to run The Merchant?

A lot! The economic situation; no-one wants to lose their status symbols, which clothes certainly are. Luxury goods are becoming more and more expensive and people are fed up with the low quality and missing craftsmanship of the high street. Plus, being ethical; consignment is recycling. It’s more personal than buying off the rack and it comes with that endorphin feeling that you get when you find a bargain or something extremely special and unique. Plus you get a better conscience as a percentage of profits go to the Naked Heart Foundation charity. Last but not least, because of my background as a personal shopper and clearing out wardrobes I could see how many items could be treasures to a new person, instead of sitting in the back of the wardrobe to collect dust.

Do you up-cycle?

I do! I love antique quirky furniture. The more shabby it looks the better and then I can turn them into antique-meets-modern pieces by implementing stencils, rare fabrics and making them really contemporary with a pop art touch that I love.

Why did you choose to be based in Notting Hill?

I am a little bohemian and Notting Hill offers that lifestyle. We are an easy-going boutique which just fits right into that flair. Notting Hill is known for interesting vintage finds so it came naturally to position our pieces somewhere where people come to to find something unique. Also it’s close to the Portobello Market where I often go to scout for new furniture pieces and other objects of desire.

Can you tell us where you source your pre-loved clothing?

Number one supplier are my personal shopping clients, followed by celebrities, stylists and the locals. Notting Hill has such stylish ladies with tons of good wardrobes that consign to us, from Alexander McQueen to Chanel. The website also brings us consignors from abroad…

What’s your favourite fashion era (and why)?

I love most of them… But especially the ’70s. I love the music, spirit, clothes and lifestyle that the time defined. Think 54 soundtrack, flared jeans and a floral embroidered blouse or maxi dress, big sunglasses, sequin mini dresses and Halston.

Who is your style icon?

Karl Lagerfeld for staying true to his style even with his reinvention and sharp tongue; Tom Ford for creating himself as a brand and giving us an unforgettable Gucci Era; Bridgitte Bardot for her femininity; Trinny Woodall for everyday glamour in my life.

Do you personally collect anything?

I collect framed butterflies and silk scarves (preferably Hermes).

Who are your customers?

It’s a very international clientele influenced by the Portobello Market on weekends. Celebrity-wise we have many, but I can’t name them.

Who is your current favourite designer that you stock?

Isabel Marant.

You regularly have artists work in the shop. Who has been your favourite artist you have showcased and why?

I admire photographer Derrick Santini for his holograms. He makes art come alive. We stocked his Nightporter which gained everyone’s attention. I hope one day he is going to do some fashion photography for The Merchant!

What’s the most valuable vintage piece you have discovered?

An anniversary silver cheque by American Express. I found it at Antiquarius Antiques Centre on the King’s Road and it made the perfect gift for someone.

What’s your favourite quote?

‘Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets,’ by Mignon McLaughlin, 1960. It couldn’t be more true

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Louboutins, black cabs and Pornstar martinis at Electric.

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