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Norwich women take a step back in time

PUBLISHED: 10:18 29 October 2010

Glory Days on Wensum Street and Poppy Valentine in the Royal Arcade are two new shops that have opened in Norwich. Photos: Antony Kelly and SImon Finlay.

Glory Days on Wensum Street and Poppy Valentine in the Royal Arcade are two new shops that have opened in Norwich. Photos: Antony Kelly and SImon Finlay.

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Meet the two women who have taken inspiration from the past to turn their dreams of running a shop a reality. BY EMMA LEE AND EMMA HARROWING

Ruth Johnson from Norwich has recently fulfilled her dream of opening her own shop. She's a former teaching assistant, but has worked in shops all her life as her parents owned the post office and newsagents at Reepham. Glory Days, which opened a couple of months ago, stocks a mixture of antiques and locally made vintage-inspired items, including jewellery and clothes.

Stepping through the door of Glory Days is almost like stepping back in time.

Delicate vintage tea cups are perched on the shelves alongside tempting bags of the sort of sweets you used to save up your pocket money for.

The shop, in Wensum Street, is run by Ruth Johnson, and it certainly brings out the magpie in you. It’s a treasure trove of vintage inspired jewellery and handmade gifts, plus antiques – and many of the items she sells are made locally.

The north city has undergone a transformation recently. Earlier this month traders got together and held their own festival, and it feels as if the area is back on the shopping map.

Claire Read, who has opened up vintage shop Poppy Valentine in the Royal Arcade Norwich, where most of the dresses she makes herself using vintage patterns and fabrics.

Glory Days is a couple of doors down from the small but perfectly formed cafe The Window Coffee and a fashion designer is set to open a boutique in the same row soon.

When it came to looking for premises, Ruth instantly knew she’d found the ideal spot, because she’d had the idea for the shop in her head for years.

She recently celebrated her 40th birthday, and reaching the milestone prompted her to go for it and make the dream a reality.

“I was brought up in shops – my parents had the post office and newsagents in Reepham so from an early age I was in the newsagents pricing up the Mars Bars,” she laughs.

Ruth says that she loves “colour and experimenting with painting”, had taken an interior design course and is also a keen collector of vintage china, inspired by her parents’ love and antiques.

With those skills and passions and 40 on the horizon she had the impetus to take the plunge and open Glory Days.

“I was working as a teaching assistant and I thought ‘if I don’t do it now I never will’. So I gave up my job and went for it. And I’m so glad I did,” she says.

When it comes to stocking the shop, Ruth really champions homegrown talent. You can buy gorgeous skirts fashioned from vintage fabric made by a seamstress at Aylsham, divine smelling soaps and bath fizzers made at Beccles and super cute knitted tea cosies made right here in Norwich.

With Christmas now well on its way, Glory Days is the perfect place to pick up some gifts – and with prices starting at around £5, you can perhaps even justify treating yourself to a little present too...

Glory Days is at 21 Wensum Street, Norwich. It’s open from 10am-4pm Tuesday to Saturday.

Meet the Norwich woman who makes clothes out of vintage materials

When you were a child did your mother make your clothes out of odds and ends and even the off-cuts of the lounge curtains?

For Claire Read, who owns vintage inspired fashion shop Poppy Valentine in the Royal Arcade, the memories of wearing a pair of curtains as a dress are somewhat different.

“I used to make clothes for myself and my friends in the neighbourhood,” says Claire. “I remember making a elastic waisted skirt out of a pair of old curtains on a small kid’s sewing machine when I was seven years old.”

Claire’s passion for making clothes out of old fabric hasn’t waned, but now instead of making items out of an old pair of curtains she sources vintage fabric to make vintage inspired dresses, handbags, cosmetic purses and yoga bags.

With a portfolio that includes designing for online fashion boutique ASOS, Claire has brought her skills in couture to Norwich.

Says Claire: “I source my fabric from antique dealers in and around Portobello Road in London, which is where Poppy Valentine was born. They source original vintage fabrics from the UK, France and Belgium.

“The fabric pieces come in small quantities so the items I make are either one-offs or they are only available for a limited time. All of the Poppy Valentine designs in the shop are available in different fabrics and clothes can be altered to fit so that you can get the complete bespoke shopping experience.”

Claire’s creations have received critical acclaim from the fashion world, in particular the 50s Doris Day dress which was featured on the Life Matters fashion pages last week and is set to go into the December issue of top fashion magazine Cosmopolitan.

Claire describes the style of her designs as ‘new vintage’ – “they don’t smell of mothballs like secondhand vintage, but they have authentic vintage fabric and design.

“I moved the shop from London to Norwich mainly because my husband Tim is originally from this area,” says Claire.

“I feel in love with the Royal Arcade from the moment I first visited the city, so when this shop came on the market I knew I just had to have it!”
The shop is home to Claire’s Poppy Valentine collection and clothing, jewellery and accessories from local and UK up and coming fashion designers, such as Norwich-based jewellery labels Tamarind Designs and The Jewellery Genie.

So does Claire still have a desire to make items out of a pair of grannies old curtains? “I have recently made some makeup bags out of the fabric from a 70s maxi dress so I would never say never!”

Poppy Valentine is in the Royal Arcade, Norwich.

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