When an elderly woman dug out the 1960s black and white plastic Mary Quant mini-dress she had kept all her life, Elane Colville-Arthur was captivated to hear about the special memories woven into the dress.
It’s the fascinating stories behind people’s outfits that makes Elane jump out of bed each morning, don one of her favourite seventies style maxi dresses and turn the key in lock at The Closet – Vintage.
Home to a treasure trove of vintage clothes, footwear, hats, handbags, belts, gloves and jewellery, Elane’s sustainable boutique is quite literally one of a kind.
“I enjoy all of it and that might sound like a cop out but it’s not,” said Elane when asked what she loves about her job.
“It’s human nature to attach memories to clothing and if a person has held onto that piece of clothing it’s for a reason and it’s often attributed to a special occasion.
“When they tell me all the stories you see their faces light up.”
Growing up in an era where fashion was all about having an individual sense of style, Elane, 52, loved nothing more than customising her hand me down clothes.
“In my generation, we always wanted to be individual and be ourselves,” said Elane.
“I’m a middle child so I would get hand me downs and do a little bit of what we would call now as upcycling before matching it up with pieces I got from charity shops.”
During her twenties, fate led Elane to Australia where she got a job working in a vintage shop in Melbourne.
“I absolutely loved working in the vintage store as the vibe was totally bohemian, said Elane.
“I had all these cassette tapes with music from the 90s dance scene so I used to roll out these huge speakers into the streets and all these British travellers would gravitate towards the shop because they recognied the music.
“The after work we would all go out partying, it was absolutely brilliant.”
Vintage fashion boutique
Never in a million years would Elane have predicted that she would return home to run her own vintage shop in Aberdeen.
“The vintage shop in Australia was called Out of the Closet and incredibly a few years later I was in my own closet,” said Elane.
“It’s funny how things cross over in your life.
“You could say it was destiny.”
For the past 16 years, Elane has built up her boutique based on locally sustainably sourced fashion.
She also prides herself on the special relationships she has built with her customers and has even become a bit of an agony aunt.
“With the students they usually come from abroad and quite often one of the first shops they visit is The Closet,” said Elane.
“I always tell them that if they have any problems just to drop me a direct message on my Instagram page as I want them to feel that I’m always there for them.
“I know what it’s like to move to a new town so I just feel it’s nice for them to have someone they can touch base with.
The lovely thing is I’ll often get a message from the mum, granny or auntie saying ‘oh thank you so much for looking after my daughter, she loved your shop.”
Over the years, Elane has sourced some incredible vintage pieces.
“One lady had worked in TV production from the 1960s to the 1980s in London so you should’ve seen all the brands – my eyes were like out on stocks.
“She had some amazing labels such as The Universal Witness, a clothing boutique where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would hang about.
“So she had pieces from designer like Bill Gibb, Ossie Clark and proper vintage Laura Ashley”
1900s to 1930s
With rails bursting at the seams with colourful patterns and designs from every era, Elane also has a separate archive collection.
“I’ve got things in my archive which would never be out on the shop floor, they go way back to 1900s to 1930s and they are only brought for a specialist buyer and by appointment only” said Elane.
“I would only bring those pieces out for someone who knew how to appreciate them because otherwise they might get damaged and I feel like the custodian for these pieces.”
It may come as no surprise that Elane loves to dress up.
“I’m a 1970s girl so I absolutely love the maxi dresses and the bohemian and dreamy style, it just suits my body type,” said Elane.
“I love it because I can wear a big long dress with boots or trainers which brings it up to date for me.”
Proud to be part of a thriving network of local businesses, Elane gets disheartened when she hears negative comments about the city.
“What we need is people to support us and to keep going with that community spirit that we’re famous for.”