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Spitalfields Antique Market 14

July 8, 2010
by the gentle author

This is Justin Melican, an agreeable young actor of antipodean origin who enjoys selling kitschy collectables when he is not working. “I’m just back from Cambodia, shooting an episode of an American TV docudrama, playing a drug trafficker,” he let slip with deeply impressive indifference – as if this was something everyone did – before explaining that he has just completed the first year of a three-year interior design course as well. “I’m juggling everything at the moment!” he declared, brimming with the bright energy, bold schemes and winning charisma of one eager to discover his destined place in the world.

This is the gracious Sonoe Sugawara, seen here proudly holding an exquisite nineteenth century girl’s silk undergarment. Sonoe originally sold vintage English clothes from a stall in a Tokyo department store and now has a clever business going whereby she sells kimonos in London too, moving back and forth two or three times a year with a full suitcase in both directions. “My boyfriend’s great-grandparents were dealers before the war, collecting nineteenth and early twentieth century kimonos,” revealed Sonoe with a signficant nod, accounting for the origins of her ravishingly beautiful stock of fine antique kimonos.

This is Matthew Mcfarlane, a free-thinking one man band who enjoys the community here as much as the selling. “I can leave my stall unattended and no one will touch it,” he vouched confidently. Matthew modestly contends his stall offers him a day off from his work as a set builder and designer of shop windows, but I could see he possesses a good eye – and the rescued chairs he has reinvented (to be seen on his blog Sew Watless) testify to a cunning ingenious sensibility. “There is something hauntingly beautiful about dishevelled furniture, left to waste, yet with so much more to give.” he added, revealing his true soulful self.

This is Jennie Sedwell, Heather Sedwell and Lesley Willis – not sisters as you might assume, but in fact three generations who work happily together selling a breathtaking range of vintage textiles, clothing and haberdashery. Lesley has done it as a hobby for twenty-five years, while her mother Jennie joined ten years ago and daughter Heather completed the trio on leaving school. “It was ridiculous!” exclaimed Lesley, “We used to have twelve stalls – as much stock as a big shop – and a van with a mirror for a changing room. We didn’t even have time to sit down, whereas now unfortunately…”, protesting in appealingly overemphatic self-deprecation, whilst still presiding over one of the busiest stalls in the market.

Photographs copyright © Jeremy Freedman

4 Responses leave one →
  1. JohnB permalink
    July 8, 2010

    I love your articles about Spittalfields market. They all make me wish I was gazing at it out of a first floor window of The Gun pub, Brushfield Street, eating one of their staggeringly large and good individual steak and kidney puddings and enjoying a bottle or three of good red wine with fine friends, instead of sitting in the sand in the Middle East. It’s a lovely silver service restaurant in the old style.

  2. Candice permalink
    July 8, 2010

    This is my favorite part of your blog — the stalls at the antique market. It really makes me want to get on a plane and get myself over to London. Next time we’re there, we have to take a gander! Thanks, Gentle Author.


  3. July 8, 2010

    Great article can’t wait to visit these wonderful people and their wares. I am an English Designer with my own business in NYC. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning a wonderful Brazilian artist who has made Kingsland Rd his home. Many of his clothes become the canvas for his paintings. I have incorporated several of his paintings in my own evening line. His e-mail is feruk@hotmail. Thank you for making me feel I am still connected to the East End.

  4. Stuey the time traveller permalink
    July 8, 2023

    Still here, popped in from this day – but this day 2023.

    Things have changed, OMG how they’ve changed!! I hope these traders are still happily trading, but money is so tight…

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