Interview: Judy Berger


Berger's Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair is hosted in 17 city venues, including Lincoln's Engine Shed. Photo: Natalie Littlewood

– by Natalie Littlewood

Cash-strapped students have a lot to thank Judy Berger for. The ex-Selfridges shopper has not only provided Britain with it’s largest clothes swap website, but she is also the founder of “The Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair”.

For five years the fair has been bringing the best of decades gone by straight into student unions around the country. Half a decade on, the success of the fair and Berger herself says that vintage still has a place in our wardrobes.

“I think the popularity of vintage clothing really started about ten years ago, but the publicity only started in 2003 with Sienna Miller and Kate Moss.

“The popularity of the fair has levelled out now, but the fair itself is still growing. We’re now in 17 cities. When we go to a city like Cambridge, where they have no vintage shops at all, they really do queue. They go mad for it”.

Vintage has a wide appeal, simply because even though it is a trend that has outlived dozens of others it can still offer something new. The appeal for many is the thought of owning something unique, a shining beacon of individuality in the swarms of high street pieces, as Berger says:

“When you look back at the history of fashion trends and social culture [you see that] teenagers and young people want to go against the grain, they want to feel like they have started something. It’s very difficult to start a new trend now, but vintage is something you can do differently”.

So has Judy’s fair turned every fashion lover’s wardrobe into a collection of classic vintage finds? Not quite.

“I think a lot of the time people don’t give vintage enough of a chance. People can be quite scared and they’ll come and just buy a bag because they wanted something vintage from the vintage fiar, and they’ve missed out on all the amazing dresses that would probably fit them perfectly. I think the big mistake is people not trying things on. Try things on! Give it a chance! …Just because it doesn’t have a size on it, it doesn’t mean it won’t fit.”

But even Judy still finds a place in her life for high street. Although she says about 70% of her expansive wardrobes (yes, plural), are made up of second hand pieces, ironically at the Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair in Lincoln last week her outfit was straight off the rails of popular chain stores.

“I’m all in high street, isn’t that funny! Apart from my scarf I’m in Urban Outfitters and Topshop. But for the Nottingham fair, my outfit is all vintage.”

Regardless of the season or the latest trends, vintage is going to be popular for a while yet, and Judy says that the Affordable Vintage Fair will continue too, in some form or other.

“We will have to move with the times…maybe in four years time they [shoppers] will want vintage but they’ll want it sold in a different way. Maybe they’ll want live bands playing whilst they shop. Maybe they’ll want more of a jumble sale type thing.”

For those who may be wondering, yes, it seems Judy’s fashion-focused life is just as exciting as it sounds.

“I love it. I love it more than going out… I make money out of my hobby, what person doesn’t ever want to do that? I don’t actually like time to myself, so If I have too much time I set up another business and I’ll just keep going. It’s constant”

Luckily for us, Judy must have had a bit of time on her hands recently, as she has just launched another business. Still vintage, still affordable, but this time it’s a clothes dump.

“I’ve set up a new event called “The Kilo Sale”. It’s with one of the wholesalers who sells to most of the stall holders of the vintage fair, and we put 2.5 tons of clothing into a venue and we sell it all by the weight for £15 a kilo.”

Judy has come a long way from frequenting charity shops as a penniless art student for clothes, and there’s no doubt that thousands of clothes lovers around the UK are glad she has.

Find out when the next Affordable Vintage Fashion Fashion Fair is at the Engine Shed here. Learn more about The Kilo Sale here.

Comments are closed.