Friday, 29 May 2009

Handbags at dawn

When I was small, I never, ever played with dolls. I did however play with office supplies. I always particularly liked bulldog clips, imagining they resembled natty 1950s-style handbags. These days I have put away childish things. But I have not put away bulldog clips. This one holds up a card from my friend Pendle; I think if I asked it nicely it would also be happy to hold a placecard for a dinner party.

Pendle grew up in Notting Hill and she introduced me to the Exchange Shops when we were working around there. Every so often the hardback books we'd receive through our jobs would pile up on our desks. We would march them over the road to the Book Exchange. There we would be offered a random amount of cash for the books, or double that random ransom in Exchange Shops vouchers to be spent at a future date in the Record Exchange, the CD Exchange, the Vintage Exchange or the Designer Exchange.

In my time, I've traded in books and come away with: a Fred Perry shirt, a blue velvet cape, a pair of crazy trousers for a fancy dress party, a blue leather belt, a hunters' cap, a quilted coat, a skirt that blatantly did not fit, a pair of brand-new flip flops, two pairs of pastel snakeskin court shoes, a lampshade, two bracelets, a set of 1960s plates, a leather handbag that I use every day (pictured) and a vintage maxidress that I offloaded at the Global Cool Swish.

So what that means is that a bunch of books was turned into a dress which was then turned into a cardigan, all without a single penny changing hands. Give and take indeed.

(Lamely, the website for the Exchange Shops is down, but you can read more about the stores and get their addresses by doing a search for "exchange" on Yelp.)

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