Just over a week ago, I had the honour of being a guest at the launch party of a brand-new vintage clothing site, Frau Braun. I was invited by the lovely Anna at Essence Communications, the PR company who look after such splendid events as the Chap Olympiad and the Blitz Parties, because she quite rightly thought that it might be something I’d be interested in. So, with my fabulous vintage friend Lisa in tow, I sashayed along to the Rag Factory gallery in Brick Lane to see what Frau Braun was all about.
Lovely Lisa and I as snapped by the official snapper Laura.
I took my earrings off during work as they were pinching, and forgot to put them back on! Oops!
We expected to be wowed by the vintage being worn and displayed, and we weren’t disappointed. Appropriately, by far the most spectacular outfit in the whole room was that worn by Frau Braun herself, who also goes by the name Stefanie.
The proprietor in the flesh and looking fab.
Her stunning, floor length peach gown is just the kind of thing I dream of owning, although I’d first have to somehow come across an exceptionally tall 40s woman’s wardrobe! I’ve never come across one yet, that would be long enough for me, sadly. It’s cocktail frocks all the way when you are of amazonian proportions! But it cheers me just to look at such a beautiful garment.
Colour me green with envy at this peach delight.
As you can see in this picture, is some stunning vintage dresses which were on display, and next to them are pictures of normal ladies wearing them, all self taken using a remote control. This is the way that Stefanie chooses to display all the items on her site, and it makes for a very unique site all round. Since the site launched after I’d been invited and I hadn’t had a really good look at it before the event, I wanted to learn a bit more about Frau Braun, both the shop, and the lady herself. So, I thought I would do a mini interview with her, which she kindly agreed to. And here it is, my first ever interview… hopefully not my last!
Let me first of all say thank you to you and to Anna of Essence for inviting me to your lovely launch soirée, you looked absolutely wonderful in your gown, and my friend and I had a fabulous time! I hope you did too?
Thank you for coming! I had a brilliant time and it was great to see so many lovely people coming together to celebrate the launch of my website.
This lady looked so chic with her pixie cut and her vintage dress.
I think my interest in vintage clothing started with looking at my grandparents and parents photo albums when I was a teenager. Everyone looked so amazing in these pictures and I thought it was fantastic that women were allowed to dress up and not wore jeans and t-shirts every day…. Then, when I was 17, my school organized a trip to London. When I came across Camden Market I couldn’t believe what I saw – such an amazing treasure trove of vintage clothing. Growing up in Germany I had never imagined something like this existed. I didn’t have much money but I managed to buy a very cool 1970s black raincoat which I wore for years afterwards until it fell apart. Friends and family in Munich however didn’t quite understand and share my fascination for old things – wearing vintage wasn’t really the done thing – so it wasn’t until several years later when I came back to London to study and live here that I seriously started to collect.
Another pair of lovely dresses
At first I bought pieces that fitted me and that I would wear myself but then over the years I also started to buy pieces just because I loved them, regardless of their size. Then more and more often friends came round to my flat to borrow a dress when they had a party or wedding to go to and so last year I thought, why not take it one step further and actually start selling the pieces. It wasn’t an easy decision to be honest as I love all of them but I also love seeing them on other women and it’s just so wonderful when someone falls in love with a piece and it looks as if it has been made just for them!
This lady’s dress was particularly gorgeous – wish there was a full-length shot!
What do you look for in a vintage garment, to ensure it’s suitable to be featured in your shop?
Well, that’s a tricky question as it’s so hard to describe! I guess I have to find something special in each garment. I also try and find pieces that somehow have a contemporary edge to them. My taste is quite eclectic and I can get equally excited about a 1930s tea dress as I can about an 1980s jump suit….. there are no hierarchies for me in terms of periods – each garment just has to surprise me and also, very importantly, be in excellent condition.
An even more vintage look, like an Edwardian urchin!
The way you display your garments is so unique and interesting. How did you come up with the idea to do that?
Thank you. Well, in my day job I work as a curator for photography and so the way objects and images are presented and displayed is very important to me. I love graphic design, photography and vintage fashion and my idea was to create a website that is beautiful to look at, that makes browsing and shopping enjoyable and fun… and obviously features lovely vintage items. I didn’t want the clothes to sit on lifeless mannequins and asked friends if they could model for me (oh, and I modelled too!). The twist was that it wasn’t me photographing them but that they could take their own pictures with the help of a cable release which means they had complete control over how they wanted to photograph themselves. For several weekends I turned my living room into a photo studio complete with paper backdrop, lights etc and invited my friends to dress up, choose a song they liked and then off they went. They could jump, dance, laugh…. whatever they wanted to do in front of the camera. It’s so wonderful to see how everyone adds their personality and style, their individual interpretation of the dress and the mood it might inspire in them, all of which is captured in these images. At the same time the images obviously show the customer how the dress looks when worn, how it moves, how the fabric falls… but they are also very fun to look at. I guess ultimately my site is aimed more at people who are not regular vintage buyers but at women who are bored by the high street chain store shops and who want to try something different.
Very Mad Men with the 60s dress and headband.
How do you choose your models, all of whom are described on your site as ‘real women’?
Oh, anyone who wants to take part is welcome to model! All of the women on the site right now are friends of mine but I would love other women to come and model for me in the future. The idea is that the online catalogue will grow every time I am holding a selling party. The first event in London will take place on Sunday 8 November at The Rag Factory, 16 – 18 Heneage Street, London E1 (12.00 – 18.00). The event will be an opportunity to try on the pieces from the website as well as discover new additions and to have the opportunity to take your photograph in them! I am basically re-creating the photo studio setting in the venue – and everyone is welcome to take part. It should also be a nice environment to meet other women passionate about vintage clothing – a bit like a modern-day Tupperware party… It would be lovely to see your readers there and I very much hope that you, Fleur, will come and model too – I promise to reserve a very special 1940s piece for you!
Thanks again to Stefanie for having me, and for her interview. Please don’t forget to have a look at FrauBraun.com to see if anything tickles your fancy, and do keep an eye on her events page if you fancy having a look at her wonderful wares in person, and having a go at modelling some yourself!
I leave you with this wonderfully atmospheric photo of Lisa and I outside the gallery, which actually shows the vintage clothing on display too! Our personal joint favourite was the grey and cream linen 50s number in the middle… divine!
Auf wiedersehen, pets!