Beautiful vintage shops are beautiful because their owners realise that they are not merely shopkeepers but curators of constantly evolving collections. At Make and Mend Vintage in Frome, Donna May Lynch’s understanding of this concept is evident at every turn.
St Catherine’s, known as Frome’s artisan quarter, has had me under its spell for some time now. I’m not entirely sure why it is that I feel so at home there. It could have something to do with the beautiful 17th and 18th century buildings that line the narrow cobbled streets, feeding my hunger for times gone by. It may be the fact that in addition to its beauty, St Catherine’s also has a gritty, intriguing side. The resulting atmosphere has a cool, edgy quality; a quality that inspires modern-day artisans to settle there and in turn is perpetuated by their very presence.
My most recent trip to St Catherine’s was to visit Make and Mend Vintage, where Donna May Lynch has created a very special place indeed. The invitation read “To celebrate our five years on Catherine Hill, the renovation of the shop and the successful launch of the Donna May Lynch collection, we will be throwing a relaunch party on Saturday 14th September from 7pm.” I didn’t need to be asked twice! “Dress code is suave and glamorous” the invitation continued. With that, I made a reasonable attempt at suave by reaching for my trusty John Collier jacket and jumped in the car, bound for Frome, just in time to be fashionably late.
On arrival, the double-fronted shop beckons you from across the narrow street, courtesy of a window display that harks back to the golden age of retail, when shopkeepers knew how to sell you their wares before you had even entered the store. Window displays are a real speciality in St Catherine’s with Deadly is the Female and Assembly, amongst many others, joining Make and Mend Vintage in keeping this art form well and truly alive. On this occasion, however, it was the music that made the first impression and, long before I reached the shop, Aretha’s unmistakable tones echoed down the hill and walked me to the door with a smile on my face.
The shop was crowded with the suave and the glamorous, sipping bubbly, browsing the clothes rails and making the most of the opportunity to soak up the vintage ambience. At the far end of the shop, through the haze of dancers, I could just make out music man Chris Large and the record decks responsible for the fantastic soundtrack. As tempted as I was to join the dancers, I found myself drawn towards the men’s clothes instead!
The shop has a great range of vintage clothes for men and women and I spent ages browsing through the jackets (I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much Harris Tweed in one place). There was also a great range of men’s shirts. Amongst others, I spotted a great Van Heusen and there was even an appearance from the patron saint of everyday wear, St Michael. I was also tempted by the range of accessories on offer, including some great hats.
When it comes to vintage outfits ‘for her’, the range is mind-blowing and it was this part of the shop that definitely saw the most action during the party. Complementing the vintage stock perfectly, Donna’s own creations are just stunning and, of all the labels on display that night, Donna May Lynch was, without a doubt, the pick of the bunch. In order to satisfy the demand for bespoke designs, MA fashion and textiles designer Donna, has created an open plan design studio within the shop. Here she produces her one-of-a-kind garments, each with that certain Donna May Lynch something.
In the middle of the shop there’s a wonderfully eclectic range of home accessories on display, from vintage cut-glass and silverware to industrial lighting. As well as adding to the great range of products on sale, the display also provides a stunning centrepiece to the room. One thing you can be sure of in Make and Mend Vintage is that nothing is placed by chance; it is arranged, considered, staged. And wow, does it look good!
The décor running through the studio and shop is an effective mix of 5 parts vintage to 1 part industrial, with gorgeous floral wallpaper and beaded tongue and groove combined beautifully with copper pipe clothes rails and the occasional scaffold board shelf. Period shop features include a fantastic time-worn parquet floor and a beautiful glass-fronted display counter bursting with vintage fabrics and Ortigia soaps.
It was soon time to go, so I took one last look at those jackets as I left the shop, having thoroughly enjoyed an amazing night thanks to great company, a fantastic shop and that unique St Catherine’s atmosphere.
If St Catherine’s is the place to be – and believe me, it is – Make and Mend Vintage is surely one of the main reasons it has earned that reputation. Go there. Go there now!
- Make and Mend Vintage, 28 Catherine Hill, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BY.
- 01373 228472.
- Opening times: Tuesday & Wednesday – 10am-4pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am-5pm.
- Follow Make and Mend Vintage on Twitter @makeandmend1