Published: January 28, 2022 | Updated: January 28, 2022

A follower of (slow) fashion: Richard’s vintage store attracts customers from across the globe

Richard Mason, Owner, Vintage Clobber: “I’ve always been interested in fashion and just love doing this.” Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

It’s like stepping out of a time machine.

Into an era when clothes weren’t just made to last but handed down from generation to generation.

Where quality was paramount, using the finest fabrics, skilfully tailored into some of the most desirable garments available in their day.

The very opposite to today’s fast fashion where clothes are mass produced, often in far-off exploitative ‘sweat shops’, worn a few times and then discarded.

No wonder Richard Mason, Owner of Vintage Clobber in Bournemouth, describes himself as an aficionado of ‘slow fashion’.

He took over the business, which specialises in vintage clothes and accessories, in 1998, ten years after it began life as Hardy’s Clobber.

It has since expanded into neighbouring premises in Christchurch Road, Pokesdown, to become one of the largest vintage clothes fashion shops on the South Coast.

Under Richard’s ownership, Clobber has been named by The Daily Telegraph as one of Britain’s 50 best vintage boutiques and also featured in publications as diverse as Grazia, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and The Sunday Times fashion magazine.

Rail upon rail is stuffed with clothes dating back decades while polished shoes, many hand-made, line up in rows and every type of hat imaginable – from pith helmets to top hats and bowlers – is on display.

“I’ve always been interested in fashion and just love doing this,” said Richard, 56.

“The majority of the things we sell are pre-1990s and in the period from the 1940s to the 1980s.

“I’m a great fan of English labels, using quality materials such as pure wool and individually tailor-made.

“They were made to last and have stood the test of time.”

Richard reckons the majority of his customers – up to 70 per cent – are from outside the area.

Indeed, Clobber’s reputation has spread so far and wide that it’s often on the visiting schedule for overseas tourists from as far afield as Japan.

He said: “We’re one of a number of places on their list to visit.

“We also often have bands who might be appearing locally coming in and Noddy Holder [lead singer and guitarist with Slade] has been a visitor.

“Some of our clothes and accessories also end up being used on TV programmes.”

Google reviews – there are 70 giving Clobber an average score of 4.4 out of 5 – provide a flavour of customer feedback with words such as ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ and ‘treasure trove’ bandied around.

They include:

  • “Amazing vintage shop. Really good prices and great finds.”
  • “An Aladdin’s Cave of vintage clothing and accessories.”
  • “Great choice of vintage clothing for very affordable prices.”
  • “If you like old clothes, you’ll love Clobber! “

All the items on sale, which run into the many thousands, are carefully hand selected by Richard.

Many come from house clearances, resulting from a bereavement or a person going into a care home.

Richard said: “We pay good prices.

“Often people are unaware of the value of well looked after and good quality clothing.

“An original 1940’s demob three-piece suit could fetch anything between £200 and £300.”

As well as selling direct through the shop, Clobber also exhibits at fairs and has an online presence.

But Richard said: “You really need to feel and touch clothing to fully appreciate it.

“Online selling is often more trouble than it’s worth.”

Somewhat ironically for a business which specialises in vintage items, Richard uses the latest technology supplied by SumUp, including a card reader, for sales.

He said: “The reader is just so easy and convenient and the costs are very acceptable for a small business like mine.”

Nina Etienne, Vice President of Marketing Europe at the UK-based SumUp, said last year had seen a 40.9 per cent increase in business activity by UK merchants,.

There had also been a sizeable shift towards contactless with the number of transactions paid by contactless technology rising from 83.5 per cent in 2020 to 87 per cent in 2021.

She added: “The pandemic has, of course, had a profound effect on British businesses.

“At SumUp, our aim is to help SMEs and small businesses not only survive, but flourish – by equipping merchants with the tools to help them do so.

“By providing local merchants with access to fast and effective payment solutions, we have helped to sustain small businesses during the pandemic, offering a lifeline during an increasingly digitised age dominated by massive online conglomerates.”