Sandy & Candy at This Shop Rocks
Vintage clothes shops come and go on Brick Lane, with one opening as quickly as another closes, so that I can barely keep track of them all. Yet, in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of recycled fashions, This Shop Rocks distinguishes itself with a more eclectic stock than its competitors. Those who know about these thing have whispered to me that it is the best. In other words, the phrase “This Shop Rocks” upon the facia is no hyperbole.
Anyone that has been inside will recognise Sandy, the hatmaker, famous for his white ponytail and louche repartee, and Candy, queen of vintage, carelessly flaunting her raven locks and razor wit. Sandy & Candy Sanderson preside like royalty from the corner booth in this snazzy emporium of glad rags, running the family business with their son Timothy – the prince in waiting – who regularly hosts sparkling nights in Dalston where customers can swan around in their swanky frocks.
Eager to discover what makes This Shop Rock, I asked Sandy how he came to be here on Brick Lane, which caused him to roll his eyes in droll amusement. ” There are so many considerations,” he informed me in wonder, adopting a quizzical smile and placing a hand upon his chin in dreamy contemplation, as he sought to compose a conscientious answer.
“When our kids grew up and left home, Candy & I bought an old minibus and travelled all over Europe and North Africa. We came back when one of our sons got married and intended to go travelling again, but instead we got sidetracked into opening this shop in Brick Lane. We’re old-fashioned antique dealers, we’ve always bought and sold everybody else’s old tat. Like everybody else, we had to make the school fees. We’ve done a lot of things because we’ve been around a long time.
I was at art school in Taunton when I met Candy in a coffee bar in Weston Super Mare fifty-one years ago. We got married pretty much at once. Just after both of us finished art school, we started a studio pottery and we were very good at throwing pots but no good at flogging them. Then we became weavers and we got thrown out of the Quantocks Weavers’ Guild because we used silk in our weft. So – we were living on the front in Burnham on Sea at the time – we opened up one of the front rooms as a public aquarium, until we got reported to the RSPCA for cruelty to fish and the council closed us down. Just after that we bought a forty five foot yawl, and we left Somerset and moved to Tollesbury in Essex.
Both of us were peace campaigners and we were on the Aldermaston marches. It was a lot of fun. I don’t want to claim the moral high ground – to us, it just seemed sensible. We joined CND and were very active in the Peace Movement. We still retain the same views but we feel there isn’t any point in it now. When you are young you feel you can change things for the better, but once you get rid of one bastard, there is another one waiting to take his or her place. You can’t really win.
I became an art teacher in a brand new comprehensive in Chelmsford, I started dealing in antiques in my spare time. Candy went to Colchester one day and bought a nice old pine cupboard, but she had to buy a lot of things that came with it at the auction. So we put a list in the window of our cottage and we sold the lot. And that inspired us to start, we caught the bug and went to local auctions and bought a whole lot. We opened up an antiques shop in our house, and I gave up teaching and went into the antiques trade.
We moved from there to Suffolk where we bought an old farmhouse with barns and stables and rode about a bit – Candy ran a riding school. When we needed to make money, we started to sell antiques again and I did restoration, but we got excited about paintings. The same thing happened, we bought one we wanted and a lot came with it. So we became art dealers, we dealt from home with exhibitions in the barn and did art fairs. We opened an antiquarian shop in Coggeshall because Candy knows a lot about books. We were second-hand book dealers, and we sold antiquarian maps and early prints.
When our kids grew up, we sold the farm and bought an old Mercedes truck on its last legs and a mahogany horse box. For five or six years, we made our way around Europe. We made a bob or two by drawing people’s homes, cafes, restaurants, and scenic stuff – anything we could try to sell and the public would buy. We were able to keep ourselves doing that, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and we met a lot of hippies. It was the weirdos that made places interesting. We were in Gibraltar at the time of the millennium, and we went as far north as Denmark and as far South as the Sahara.
We decided to come to Brick Lane because it had a reputation for selling vintage things and I make hats so it seemed a logical place to be. Five years ago, we came here and we love it. Sometimes somebody tries something on and their face lights up and it’s sheer pleasure. It’s a natural state of things for young people to do this – put on the clothes of their forebears – at this age I was wearing a lot of stuff from the twenties, and the Edwardians were very fashionable then too. We flog anything from Victorian right through to seventies gear. Candy & Tim do the clothes, and I buy and make hats. Hats are interesting in that it’s an excuse to make a piece of sculpture that someone can wear. I quite enjoy it really.
We are open seven days a week and I do five, but I am here more than I need to be because I get bored quite easily. I must be doing something, not just sitting at home with Candy. She can’t be doing with just sitting either. We’re survivors, that’s what we do, we survive. One of these days we’re going to get back in that truck and set off again…”
Of the many journeys people have travelled to reach Brick Lane, Sandy & Candy’s must be one of the most circuitous. But it explained completely why they are proprietors of the most interesting vintage clothes shop, because along the way they have learnt so much about culture that they thoroughly understand the meaning of their clothes. This is the secret of why This Shop Rocks.
Candy & Sandy at Weston Super Mare in the nineteen sixties.
Candy in Cornwall in the nineteen fifties.
Sandy with his son in the nineteen sixties in Wiltshire.
Candy on the road in Northern Spain in the nineteen nineties.
Candy in Suffolk with a grandchild in the nineteen nineties.
“a snazzy emporium of glad rags”
The men’s department.