Wednesday, March 16, 2016

THE BALLYMALOE VINTAGE & ANTIQUES FAIR



There’s magic in the air! I’ve stumbled into Aladdin’s cave. My invitation to speak at the Ballymaloe Vintage Fair had arrived into my inbox some time ago, and now here I am, beneath an outdoor roofed Emporium, brimming with the most delectable and sought after antiques and collectibles to suit every pocket.










I was met by the organiser, the lovely Helena, who in the true spirit of the event, had daintily painted flowers festooning her high cheek bones in true 60’s style. I liked her instantly.


My talk was to be a “kiss and tell” history of garments, beginning with the parsimonious Second World War to the power driven, shoulder padded Divas of the 80’s. I quickly set the stage with my rails of clothing -so that I had at least two hours to do my second favourite thing, shop. So I dived off the platform and right into the heart of The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair in all its glory.








It had the lush, burgeoning, opulent chaos of an Arabian Souk. Aromatics from scrumptious foods perfumed the air, tables and stalls were burgeoning with tapestries, gilded mirrors, porcelain, Wedgewood, sumptuous paste jewellery, rare edition books, trinkets, novel bric-a-brac, vintage furnishings, fashion accessories, hand-crafts, clothing, and fine art; to name but a smidgeon of the beautiful and bewitching array of items on offer.


My browsing time evaporated, and soon I’m chatting away to the crowd, taking them through my selection of clothing, and revealing the history and design concepts of each particular period. It was delightfully received, and It got me thinking as to why vintage clothing and indeed the vintage life-style has so many people enamoured and under its intoxicating spell.











Vintage clothing, unlike its fashionable counterparts, endures. Sought after for its detail, rarity, and one of a kind uniqueness, perfectly reflecting the influences of the designers of the time. A time when mass production hadn’t yet brought to bear its standardised assembly line looks. There are close comparisons between vintage clothing and antiques, I maintain that a vintage ensemble is in essence “an era in motion”, wearable, desirable, and instantly able to confer on its owner the mystique of the time that it came from. It evokes an instant response, that’s both nostalgic and identifiable, so when I saw so many beautiful garments laid out among the treasure troves of antiques, strewn across a dazzling array of endless stalls, the clothes resonated perfectly, striking the most beautiful notes, and coming to life in a way that was a privilege to see. The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair, had morphed into a glittering, glamorous wardrobe, worthy of a silver screen Goddess.










And speaking of silver screen Goddesses, I was fortunate enough to spot two very glamorous women, who could have effortlessly graced a red carpet opening night, and who were delighted to model for me, turning my talk therefore, into a true demonstration of the transformative power of vintage clothing, and indeed the chameleon like abilities that lie within stylish women, to wear with unchallenged flair whatever they are presented with.







The regally poised and elegant Miriam Hanberry was charm personified, and delighted the audience with her easy good humour and joie de vivre. She twirled and posed effortlessly, and later when I privately asked Miriam her age, I was truly astonished by her answer. Suffice it to say Miriam looked decades younger, and puts her youthful complexion and svelte figure down to the power of positive thinking and a first class skin care regime, that included high end brands such as Elizabeth Arden and Freeze 24/7. Yes, I went on my phone and ordered the products over the net!










The beautiful Christina Weidner swirled like a leggy super-model in a 50’s inspired flared gown that wowed the crowds. Her tumbling tresses, clear complexion, and dazzling eyes held all the allure of a pre-Raphaelite beauty. She moved with a natural balletic grace, and was chic beyond words.Thank you Ladies so much, you added immensurable value to my event with your timeless allure.































Once I had finished I was really free to mingle and meet the stall-holders. A highly creative and exceptionally skilled group of people who had travelled from all over the country to set up shop, and did they! I spent hours revelling in their company, trying on wraps, furs, pashminas, dresses, belts, bags, buckles, and every accessory I could get my hands on. It was such a blessing to meet so many fellow devotees of vintage fashion under one roof. I felt thoroughly inspired. The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair was fast becoming a solid date in my diary.














I’m forever thankful to the incredibly talented Matthew Reilly, for his remarkable eyes and skill with a lens, and of course-for keeping me in the picture- and yes, that’s also an applicable metaphor. Matthew’s guidance on the day was indispensable, he negotiated the crowds at The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair with such affable ease, and kept such a discreet pace with me, that I almost forgot he was there; and he still managed to take stunning shots. I said it before, I will say it again, girls, girls, girls, if you are having a wedding, THIS is your guy, just look at these pictures!












And a special hug to the other man in my life, my editor Roland Thackaberry, who hopped on a plane to be with me, followed me like a shadow, and manged to glean copious notes and valid points from my endless chattering, I suspect that he might be a Saint!







Later that day as I stood in the doorway of Ballymaloe House, gazing out over a pastoral and panoramic vista, worthy of the great John Constable, I got to thinking. I had been to these kinds of events before, but The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair stood out pristinely, for more than just its reputation and location. There was something deeply ingrained within the functioning framework that had brought the event to this standard. The aged and charming entrance and ivy covered walls were perhaps a clue.














Over time, and with a relentless devotion to standards, perfection becomes prominent, and I’m not suggesting that’s the singular mind-set at Ballymaloe. Neither the house, nor the land has lost its heart in the pursuit of perfection, and perfection as we know doesn’t exist. But it’s the daily devotion to achieving the highest possible results that ensures the success of whatever Ballymaloe might choose to do; and with the Ballymaloe Vintage Fair this particularly rings true.




Decades ago The Allen family catapulted Irish Country House Cooking onto the international gourmet circuit, with sophisticated and inspiring touches, transforming a rather modest cuisine with humble origins, into a trailblazing and stellar five star affair; and It’s that same alchemical gift of taking the ordinary and transmuting it into the extraordinary that made The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair such a success. It’s the painstaking attention to small details, and that intuitive and immediate response to quality- so typical of the Allen clan- which bestowed upon The Ballymaloe Vintage Fair, a Vintage and Antique A La Carte experience filled with endless choices and tempting morsels, that just like Ballymaloe and its fine food, was above and beyond… the usual fare. 


Photography by Matthew Reilly 


Edited by Roland Thackaberry         

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