Julie Carolan meets Margot Waggoner, founder and owner of Leftovers Brixton, to find out all about how it began …
Hi! Tell us about Leftovers
Leftovers is a French antique and vintage shop in the heart of Brixton. Each garment is hand-picked from markets in France which means that every item is unique in its cut, transcends fads and creates a timeless silhouette.
How did it begin?
The shop first opened in January 2010, but the idea actually came about long before. I was studying fashion design in Paris and working to supplement my student loan in the clothing section at one of France’s most famous and well respected antique shops. This is where I learnt everything: what to look for; how to identify clothing from certain eras; and how to price things accordingly. I was lucky enough to get an internship after university at Alexander McQueen in the couture department. This is where I fell in love with London. Although working at a fashion house wasn’t for me, London excited me – there are so many different cultures and people from all sorts of backgrounds in the city; and having lived in France, Egypt and America, this really appealed to me.
I moved to Brixton seven years ago. I loved visiting Brixton Market to pick up vegetables, but was often surprised by how many vacant spaces there were in the market. On a whim, I decided to email the owners to find out if any spaces were available to rent and was told about the Spacemakers project. I applied and was delighted to find out I was one of the first 20 businesses to be accepted!
How do you source the clothing and accessories?
Every three months I travel to antique markets in the south of France – that’s a lot of fun! I always manage to find stacks of beautiful and unusual designs – the only tricky thing is getting it all back on the Eurostar. I look for pieces that have an interesting cut or fabric to see what might have inspired the designer. I find it endlessly fascinating and, where possible, I try to discover the story behind each piece.
Are there any pieces that you would never sell?
I’m always happy to sell, as it allows me to go and find other pieces! Having said that, I once came across one of the first bras ever created and I don’t think I could ever part with it. It’s crotched and has no underwiring which is the complete opposite of what came before it, the corset. To me it represents freedom, as well as being a beautifully designed garment.
What are the best things about having a space within Brixton Village?
The sense of community. Everyone helps each other out where they can. I used to repair some of the fishmongers’ trousers in exchange for fresh squid; and Cornercopia provided me with free lunches (and the opportunity to taste test new things) because I stitched their first tablecloths.
My other favourite thing is the variety of people who visit Brixton Village, from locals and tourists to the young and old – and this is reflected in the demographic of Leftovers’ customers. I’ve had sweet, Jamaican grandmothers to cool costume designers and fashion stylists walk through the doors. Everyone is welcome to come and have a rummage!
Which pieces tend to be the most popular?
Antique nightgowns – they’re so comfortable, timeless and fit almost everyone. The quality of the linen is outstanding and the fabric was expensive. French sailor tops tend to be great sellers as well.
Having worked in both the UK and France, what do you think are the main differences between English and French women in terms of what they look for ?
There aren’t that many differences, but I guess one thing I’ve noticed is that English girls tend to be more confident and might go for shorter pieces, whereas French women are actually quite conservative – and maybe a bit more casual. I’ve also been amazed by the girls in London and their dedication to different eras – it’s totally normal to see women in head to toe forties or fifties clothing which I’m always inspired by – I feel lazy in comparison. Parisians tend to take a few pieces, rather than whole looks, from past eras.
Do you keep an eye on trends?
I’m aware of trends, but I aim to find timeless designs as I think these will stand the test of time (as they already have). There’s nothing prettier than a thirties lace dress or more stylish than a fifties pencil skirt. Modern designers are constantly looking to the past for inspiration, so everything does come back into fashion at one time or another. Lots of vintage shops might stock something just because it’s old, but I scour France looking for interesting designs, fabrics and cuts. I fall in love with every piece I stock.
I’m also constantly inspired by what I see in Brixton – you see so many brilliant outfits every single day from all walks of life. So much so that I shot my first lookbook in Brockwell Park.
Why do you think you prefer antique clothing?
The quality of the fabric is better than anything made today; or you’d need to pay a lot of money to get the same quality by buying from high end designer brands.
Do you have a favourite era?
The thirties. Women were very feminine without being girlie. The cuts were sexy but elegant. I think this is when female dressing was at its most stylish.
Will you be introducing any new ranges to the shop?
I’ll be bringing in more baby clothes as they’re selling extremely well. The silk, cotton and linen fabrics are excellent for sensitive skin. I’ve also launched a website and Facebook page: http://leftoverslondon.com/#top and https://www.facebook.com/leftoversbrixton?fref=ts.
Is there anything that’s hard to get hold of?
1920s beaded dresses. It’s tough to find them in good condition as beads and silk don’t age as well – and they were put through a lot during the flapper years. But they’re super popular because of Downton Abbey and The Great Gatsby so it’s a shame.
Do you accept requests from customers?
I do, yes – mostly for wedding dresses. It’s hard to display wedding dresses so I keep them all in a studio above my flat in Brixton, but anyone is welcome to come and have a look!
Any tips for spring/summer dressing?
Anything sailor is always the coolest: striped shirt, high waist trousers and espadrilles.
Where do you like to eat and drink in Brixton?
There are too many, I almost don’t know where to start…
I like Cornercopia – we started our businesses at the same time so I’ve always felt a connection with the team.
I’m a total coffee addict so can often be found in Federation Coffee; Seven is great for a cocktail and The Effra is brilliant – the music is great and there are so many different ages and people, it reminds me of Paris in a way.
I buy sandwiches from the Moroccan cafe on Station Road almost everyday; and I bring friends who have never been to Brixton to Asmara – it’s so different and so good.