Late last year I attended an event at the Fashion Retail Academy. In the reception area of the event there was a wonderful display of some really quite remarkable vintage pieces. I got chatting to the lovely couple responsible and was amazed that I hadn’t come across Mark and Cleo Butterfield, the couple responsible for the collection, sooner in my career. It turns out that the pieces shown at FRA were really not even the tip of the tip of the iceberg. These guys have a seriously vast and enviably high quality vintage fashion collection.
C20 Vintage Fashion is the “legendary secret Devon warehouse” of Cleo and Mark Butterfield containing one of the largest privately owned collections of vintage clothing in the UK. The ever growing collection has been put together during a 40 year career in vintage clothing and has featured in feature films and TV productions before becoming a fashion design resource 13 years ago, with clients ranging from well known high street names to internationally recognized design labels. The archive has an unrivaled range of garments spanning the entire Twentieth Century including collections by individual designers some of which contain more than 100 pieces including Alaia, Biba, Body Map, Bus Stop, Cardin, Ossie Clark, Comme Des Garcons, Courrges, Dior, Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Bill Gibb, Katherine Hamnett, Margeila, Mugler, Jean Muir, Issey Miyake, McQueen, Westwood & Yves Saint Laurent (and now breathe!). Plus stunning collections of 1920’s, 30’s, 60’s & 70’s British boutique movement and 80’s independent label clothes.
Museum collaborations include retrospectives of Bill Gibb, Horrockses and Tommy Nutter at the Fashion and Textile Museum, “From Beatles to Bowie” at the National Portrait Gallery and the Ossie Clark retrospective at the V&A. The collection features extensively in four books published by Carlton “Vintage Fashion”, “The Swimsuit”, “Vintage Fashion Knitwear” and “Vintage Weddings”.
We asked Mark about their recent projects: “We’ve done a lot of film work in the past, in fact when I married Cleo in 1997 the main business was supplying to film and TV, but now we mainly work with fashion designers. However, just recently we’ve supplied costume to a few films. We did clothes for the critically panned ‘W.E‘, Madonna’s film about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Tim Burton’s ‘Dark Shadows‘ and ‘Parade’s End‘, an HBO/BBC mini series due for screening this year.
Back in March 2011, American (twice Oscar winner) Colleen Atwood came down to us in Devon and chose pieces from our 1970’s collection for ‘Dark Shadows’ (set in 1972). At that point we had no idea which pieces were being chosen for a particular character, and actually many pieces have to copied, made to perfectly fit the actress, or they may need to made in a different colour to suit the character or mood. We were really surprised when, over a year later we saw the poster for ‘Dark Shadows’ displayed at our local cinema and there was Helena Bonham Carter wearing our Biba dress! Michelle Pfeiffer also wears a black Biba dress of ours in the film.
Aside from all of the amazing film and fashion work, the couple get to work on some more diverse projects too. Mark told us about the Great British Fashion stamps: “Again, this is a project which took a long time to appear in public after we’d worked on it. We knew how exciting it was, but were sworn to secrecy by the Royal Mail not to tell anyone until the official release date of the stamps nearly a year later.
Initially we were contacted by the agency working for Royal Mail who’d heard about our Ossie Clark collection. It seems that they’d originally approached museums for clothes but were prevented from using them as museums will not allow any of their collections to be worn. We were told that they were looking for 10 items in all, and they had already located the Westwood, McQueen, Paul Smith, Hardy Amies and Tommy Nutter outfits. John Stephen (the king of Carnaby street) was originally one of the designers chosen, but we suggested that our ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ jacket with it’s colourful William Morris print would look fabulous on the small scale of the stamp. The Ossie Clark was chosen for the dynamic movement of the fringing, and the Hartnell was selected for it’s vivid colour and voluminous shape.
And finally we come to the most recent, and perhaps the most exciting event for the Butterfield’s:
“We were asked by a work colleague if we’d get involved with a project presenting a display of British fashion design to the Queen and Prince Philip as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. She would be visiting Bromley and the idea was to present to her a collection of garments from each decade of her reign. We would provide 7 outfits from the 50’s to the 90’s and a whole list of contemporary designers (including Preen – Thornton/Bregazzi, Jean Pierre Braganza, John Rocha and Jeff Banks) would provide one outfit each covering the 2000’s and 2010’s. Our 7 pieces would be the first outfits the Queen would see on entering the Glades shopping centre, the venue for the event.
It was very strange dressing the mannequins in the deserted shopping centre on the night before the visit. But the atmosphere was very different the next morning with the centre filled with people and large groups of school chidren. As the time of arrival approached the tension mounted as we waited with all the other designers, standing in place behind their exhibits. A huge cheer went up as the Queen entered the centre and after she looked at our Hardy Amies dress (a designer she would have known personally as a young woman as he was one of her official dressmakers), she walked over and spoke to Cleo asking about the collection.
I have to say that I cannot wait for a good excuse to head down to Devon to spend a few day’s lost in this incredible collection. Thanks so much to Mark and Cleo and the time they gave us to create this post.
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