In the latest part of our series on vintage dealers, we meet Shoreditch-based Michael Levison who specialises in workwear, military clothing and classic tailoring
Introducing Meet the Vintage Dealers, a new series spotlighting the best vintage dealers in the business.
Name: Michael Levison
Location: 1 Cheshire St, London E2 6ED. And a showroom a bit further north in Hackney
USP: Workwear, military clothing, classic tailoring and knitwear from the 1930s to the 1960s
What do you love about vintage clothing?
Vintage clothing has its own inherent ‘power’ due to the quality of the fabric, design and its history. When finding an interesting item, even if it’s imperfect, the enjoyment for me is discovering clues about its life – whether from buttons, stamps or labels. Plus, it’s a great feeling to wear an original garment that you have a total respect for. As well as making you feel good, it represents a strong personal aesthetic.
When did you open your shop?
I opened the shop ten years ago, having spent many years prior to that selling vintage clothing, mainly from markets. I never planned to acquire a shop, but when I heard that this one was available it just felt right. It is full of original features and lots of character, a little ramshackle maybe but that’s its charm.
What was the first item you ever sold?
The first item I ever sold was my own pale blue and navy striped 1960s Fred Perry polo shirt that I’d worn for years. I decided to move it on but to my regret I’ve not seen another one like it since.
What kind of places do you sources your pieces from?
Most of my pieces are sourced in England but I also find great stuff in France. I’ve always liked going to flea markets and second hand fairs, I’ve discovered some fantastic items hidden amongst a pile of otherwise ordinary clothes.
What makes a good vintage dealer?
The main thing is being selective and able to curate the items well. It is important to have a good understanding of the clothes so you can impart knowledge to the customers on the history and how they’re worn.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
I love the whole process of sourcing items then presenting them and hopefully getting a good response. I also meet loads of great people and have made some lifelong friends along the way.
What is the most unusual piece you’ve ever had in your store?
It would have to be a 1950s blue cotton drill Atomic Energy worker’s cap from the period of the very first nuclear reactors in England. It’s got a skull and crossbones painted on it. I just love the gallows humour and it links in with teddy boy, ton-up and punk culture.
What is the most special piece in your personal collection?
This is really difficult but I think it would have to be a rare 1950s wool cardigan made by Jaeger. It’s Aero zip fronted with a shawl collar and epitomises British style from the late 1950s to the early 1960s.