Queens of Vintage: In Conversation with Alana aka New Wave Exchange

26 May 2022
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We are so excited to be bringing you yet another instalment in our QUEENS OF VINTAGE series, this time we were able to chat IRL (?!?) to Alana the owner of New Wave Exchange about all things inspo, punk and the future of fashion.

Georgia Taylor Stidwell: Tell me about what started your love of vintage?

Alana: I moved to London 8 years ago and I really enjoyed seeing the eclectic mix of styles in the city, I got so inspired by how people put their outfits together and I was thinking ‘where are people getting these clothes?!’. It was around this time I really started exploring charity shops and vintage shops and I loved it so much and I got a job at Beyond Retro, from there I was completely in the vintage world and I knew I would never leave!

GTS: How did you start New Wave Exchange? 

A: It all actually stemmed from a movie I saw called ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’ the film is all about Vivienne Westwood’s first shop. I was so inspired by the community she cultivated in the late 1970s, the music and the subculture, I saw it and thought that’s something I want to do!

I was managing vintage stores when lockdown happened and just like everyone else I was suddenly at home every day. Myself and my partner passed the days listening to records, watching documentaries and overall getting really inspired. I came to a point where I realised I wanted to be able to cultivate my own creative community, and I decided to finally open a vintage store.

We imagined the store to be very focussed on clothing for a creative community, the store is inspired by the clothes that our favourite musicians and artists wore. Our ideas have developed and changed so much and since I opened the shop, the journey has really been based on responding to what is happening, what I really want to have and to foster is this creative community feeling. The creativity within the store for me is centred around the clothes, it is even written on the window ‘wear what you want and let’s get creative with clothes’.

Customers outside New Wave Exchange, Brighton

GTS: Can you reflect on the current vogue for vintage? Why do you think people are so interested in having their own unique styles?

I think now we have this Instagram culture where in each of your pictures you have to be wearing a brand new, never before seen outfit. I think this started with ‘oh I’ll just order brand new things from boohoo or missguided’ to keep up with this constant need for newness. As Depop has grown there has been more of a shift into buying lots of second hand items instead.

Instagram is actually a very interesting source of inspiration, whereas before brands with huge marketing budgets had monopoly on our attention, now we have a much more diverse base for inspiration on social media. We see so much more than just branded ads saying our product is what is cool, you must buy it. I think there is more chance for us now to form our own style and our own opinion.

I still think there is a massive culture of ‘having the look’, so not necessarily everyone wanting to look the same but everyone wanting to have an ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ look. The perfect example of what I mean by that is the Afghan coat mania that happened this A/W. Everyone wanted one, but not everyone wanted the same one. We were all out trawling vintage stores to find the best and coolest one! Because of social media we all get our 15 minutes of fame and we’re all influencing each other! 

GTS: Do you ever find it hard to part with any of your vintage? 

A: I do but I’ve learnt to separate what is for me and what I just appreciate. I see so many things that I adore but I have become so good at saying it’s not for me! I get so much pleasure from seeing people buying things and styling them and getting excited about them, for me to put cool stuff in the shop is more important than keeping it myself. In my store I almost feel like the artist in the studio, covered in paint, I am making something really cool and beautiful so I almost don’t care about how I look! I just want to see other people getting exciting pieces that they really truly love.

GTS: Who is your style icon, vintage or modern day? 

A: Of course it is Debbie Harry, at one point there were eight images just of her in the store! The first image I uploaded onto our instagram was Debbie Harry, she created a dress with a zebra print pillowcase, it is such an iconic photo and I wanted to recreate that image. So much of what I pick out for the shop is influenced by Debbie Harry! 

Debbie Harry, Zebra print pillowcase dress

GTS: What is your favourite era for vintage? 

A: Definitely the late 1970s. I love 70s fashion, I feel like it is so easy to look fabulous in. I do love the transition which happened in the late 70s where punk culture came in. Obviously Vivienne Westwood was a huge part of this, making clothes and cultivating a creative scene around her boutique SEX on the Kings Road. The younger punks just couldn’t afford these clothes so they were getting creative making their own versions with charity shops and hand-me-downs. This do-it-yourself punk aesthetic has been hugely influential to my own style and I love the creativity within it. I think my ultimate favourite vintage is a hybrid of the glam 70s disco with its flares and polyester and then merging into this gritty DIY style of the punks.

GTS: What do you envisage for the future of fashion? 

A: My dream for the future of fashion is for people to move away from mass consumption on the highstreet and to shop more second hand instead. Circular fashion is going to play a huge role in this future. I would love to see a new subculture, something new in terms of fashion, it has been really interesting to see the resurgence of y2k and the noughties. But it is nothing on the fashion shifts we saw in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. 

It is very encouraging to see attitude changes within the fashion industry and to see young people moving away from fast-fashion. Ultimately our message here is to be creative with what you find and what you have and ultimately this is the key to great style!

Make sure to follow @newwaveexchange on Instagram to keep up to date with their fabulous stock