My Vintage Sussex: Laura Oakes
Rye-based Laura Oakes, a designer, illustrator and pattern-maker who finds inspiration in the little things in life, answers our questions on all things vintage and Sussex.
Who are you? I’m Laura Oakes, a designer, illustrator and pattern maker. Having grown up in Brighton, I’ve been heavily influenced by its vibrant and colourful art and people. I’m now based in Rye, East Sussex - drawn to the area by its incredible landscape and inspirational vibe - and am very happy to call it home. Everything in life inspires me, from my small dog Pixie and my cat Misty, to the people around me. I am a huge romantic and love anything with a history or story attached to it. I would definitely describe myself as ‘micro’ rather than a ‘macro’, as I derive pleasure out of the smaller details in life and nature.
What do you do? I create visual imagery that can be applied to utilitarian accessories for the home, thereby making them decorative. From ready-to-buy pieces such as large drum lampshades and cushions to smaller, unique prints framed in one-off frames sourced from flea markets and auctions.
I also have a range of bespoke retro and vintage furniture which has been given the “Laura Oakes” stamp with the introduction of new materials, such as Perspex, to create striking, one-off statement pieces.
The bespoke range also offers people the chance to re-invent favourite pieces of furniture by blending the old with the new. I believe that to have new and exciting designs in your home, you don’t have to discard all your beloved old pieces of furniture. My ethos is to transform and reinvent what you have already to create original and vibrant interiors and spaces.
What does vintage mean to you? To me, vintage means anything with a past and a story, be it clothes, china or furniture: Objects have a “voice” that relates to their era - something that I find fascinating. Everything that we treasure and admire today usually comes from a re-adapted view or design of the past, whether obvious or not, and that makes me smile as pretty much everything we like is a form of “vintage”.
How do you like to get dressed in the morning (and afternoon and evening)? Day or night, I always try to put on something that inspires and lifts me, usually something colorful and bright. I love working with layers and textures in clothing, finding different ways to wear multiple items. My style could be defined as “layered and patterned”. I am definitely not a minimalist!
What’s your favourite decade for style? That’s a tricky one! I have always had a huge fascination with the Victorian era, and period dramas. Design was hugely romantic, grand and extravagant, whether you look at interiors or fashion – think corsets and long flowing hair! The clothes were made to last and stood the test of time. But truthfully, I can find something wonderful in any era, but I have pinpointed the Victorian age above others as I have always liked the idea of being in a period drama!
What’s your favourite vintage shop in Brighton (and the surrounding area)? There are stacks of great vintage shops in and around Rye. One of my favorites is McCully and Crane , which has a great mix of objects and furniture. Marcus, the owner, has a way of putting random things together to make them look as if they were always meant to be side-by-side.
What’s your favourite online vintage shop? I’m not a huge fan of online shopping for vintage items as I love touching and feeling things. There is a bit of a barrier between you and the item when you are on the computer. That said, I do love Ebay!
Where do you like to go to eat and drink yummy things? There are some great places to eat and drink in Rye and the surrounding area. When in Rye, The Ship Inn and Tuscan Kitchen are a must for food and atmosphere. And there are also some fab pubs and inns out and about. One of my favourite is The Ferry Inn at Stone. There is nothing better than sitting in their garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon looking out onto the fields and drinking a chilled white wine spritzer!
Where do you like to go to listen to awesome music? I like so many different types of music that I prefer to listen in intimate spaces; probably the best place is in my living room, by an open fire with friends!
Have you been to any tip top vintage events of late? The last vintage event that I visited was a local village hall vintage fete in Winchelsea! Very low key, but I am always inclined to go to the smaller events, where you can still find lots of bargains!
What are your favourite vintage hangouts? I love a new shop that’s opened recently in Rye called Violetta (call on 01797 227232) which has some wonderful things that touch all the senses; gorgeous perfumes and candles to-die-for, and a great selection of vintage-style as well as authentic vintage jewellery and lingerie by Zoe Lloyd, which make great pressies. If I want some serious clothes fun, I tend to go to Hastings for my quick fix! The Old Town is filled with great boutiques and a friend of mine owns a lovely vintage shop called Little Treasures . I sometimes go there and we dress up and have a good giggle trying on all the stock!
Where do you like to go hunting for second-hand bargains?
This is a sore point for me at the moment, as I have been seriously deprived of my bargains recently! The boot fairs around here (at Icklesham and Brookland) are fantastic, but they finish for the season in October and we all have to wait till March for them to come back, so I have really been missing my boot fair fix and am longing for their return! Other than that, I feed my cravings with local charity shops and table sales and the odd auction when I have a few extra pennies!
What has been your best ever vintage/second-hand/charity shop find? It’s almost impossible to pick just one! All the things that I find become my treasures! Probably the most recent precious find was a long brown Victorian dress which looked very brown on the hanger, but it had beautiful tailored sleeves and when I tried it on, it fitted perfectly and I released that actually when it’s left undone, it makes a gorgeous spring coat. With a few vintage brooches and some colorful patterned layers underneath, I have a beautiful coat! I suppose that my greatest “find” is being able to see clothing and bits and pieces that can be reused in a different way!
Visit Laura’s website at www.lauraoakes.co.uk