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Vintage clothing helps Johnathan's fabric shop live on

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: November 13, 2012

  • STYLISH SELECTION: Johnathan O'Connell, who runs Silken Threads in Albion Street, Cheltenham

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FASHIONS of the 1940s and 50s are keeping one Cheltenham trader in business.

Johnathan O'Connell, who runs Silken Threads, has returned to his first love to help him through leaner times.

And the strategy has worked, helping turn the shop into something more than just a fabrics retailer.

Johnathan, who grew up in Cirencester, trained in fashion and went on to make ball gowns and wedding dresses.

But his preference was always vintage clothing and, when he took on Silken Threads in Albion Street, it soon became apparent that he would need to rely on his past talents.

Johnathan said: "The fabric market has died in recent years.

"Buying the fabric and patterns and all that goes with it can be quite expensive, especially when the likes Primark and Matalan sell everything new at such a low price.

"But people still seemed to want to spend money on having something made.

"One of the old adages, especially for women, is that nobody wants to be seen wearing the same as somebody else.

"I have been collecting vintage patterns since I was at college 20 years ago and I always thought that one day I would create these for a living.

"There are a lot of vintage fairs which are very popular but authentic vintage dresses have very small waists.

"As our bodies have got bigger, so it has become harder for people to fit into these items.

"I'm not interested in creating something purely for a certain size, such as a 12 or 14.

"What I make will fit the customer individually as it is made-to-measure."

While the shop still sells fabrics, Johnathan runs his dress-making business, Johnny Rocks Vintage Emporium, out of the shop.

Much of his work comes through word-of- mouth.

He added: "If one vintage lover finds out about us, then they will tell all their friends about us. There is nothing like this anywhere in the South West of England."

Johnathan is backing the Echo's celebration of independent stores with our Love to Shop awards, and wants to enter the Best Window Display category.

"We have some fantastic displays, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, so I think that would be ideal for me," he said.

"The most important thing in any town is to have independent retailers. Every town in the country is getting swamped by the big chains with the little shops disappearing as they cannot afford to compete."

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