Hubbard’s Cupboard: vintage fun in the High Street Arcade

It’s funny how much the High Street Arcade has changed since I first started doing this project.

Several shops have disappeared from this arcade, but happily, some more have appeared.

One of the new additions, opening just over a month ago is Hubbard’s Cupboard, another vintage shop new to the Cardiff shopping scene.
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Vintage Zizou: Beautiful, colourful, delicious clothes and jewellery in the Castle Arcade

It always thrills me to see a new shop opening up in the arcades, so full of hope and exciting spirit – and none possess this more so than the beautiful new vintage shop which can be found in the Castle Arcade.

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Ushi’s: Papier mache mannekins, beautiful clothes and chairs on walls

It seems odd to think of it now, but Ushi’s was actually the shop that inspired the whole project. Quite the accolade you might think – but it was an interesting display in the window that caught my eye way back when and set the ball rolling.

So when I got the chance to photograph Ushi’s properly I was very excited at finally filling the gaps in. Ushi’s is one of the bigger shops in the Morgan Arcade and is owned by Lynne Beresford who I met with when I was photographing the shop.

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Barker: from clothes to coffee – a mini department store in the Castle Arcade

It’s not all that often you see a clothing store combined with a coffee shop, except for perhaps the huge department stores like House of Fraser. But when you think about it, it does kind of make sense – tired from all that hard work trying on clothes and choosing an outfit… pop next door for a refreshing cup of tea and cake. And while you’re sitting down perhaps you’ll decide to get that top you thought was quite nice but weren’t sure of after all – savvy business thinking.

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Seren Boutique – fabulous clothes and a hidden gem upstairs…

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the lovely Seren Boutique over in the Morgan Arcade.

A beautiful shop run by Linda, the business originally started over in Tenby but was brought over to Cardiff a few years ago as the trade in Tenby was a little bit too seasonal. Before starting her clothing shop, Linda had been a myriad of things including teacher – something she shares in common with fellow clothes-shop owner Frederique from Rouge, who just so happened to be in the shop having a chat when I popped in – it’s a real sense of community round here.

The clothes themselves are sourced from all over the place but you’ll generally only find one or two of each design in the shop, and, pleasingly, it’s not as expensive as you might think for a small boutique like this. They do a good trade at this kind of year for things like wedding outfits and prom dresses, but there’s lots of gorgeous little bits and pieces that I reckon it’s well worth a visit no matter what the weather.

I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to jewellery, and this was no exception, I loved some of the gorgeous trinkets on display – I’m only sad I don’t have more money to splash out on this kind of stuff more often. Still, it’s a great place to pop in for something small even if you’re a bit short of cash for a whole outfit.

Whenever I see a set of stairs in an arcade shop, I tend to dash up there pretty quick to try and get an aerial shot of the shop. But upstairs in this shop is something rather special. Linda told me that I had to check it out, and what I found was fascinating. Basically, the upstairs (which is sometimes used as a – giant – changing room if the main one is in use) has been left untouched for over 100 years. What does that leave you with, original peeling paint and what must make for a fantastic portrait backdrop. Indeed it seems lots of art students and photographers like to use the space for their work – I’ll be tempted to pop back one day myself for just such a purpose.

So next time you’re in town, probably shopping at St David’s, why not have a quick diversion to Seren, it’s pretty close to the Hayes entrance of the Morgan Arcade, you never know what special little find you might discover… enjoy the pics, as always, feedback, comments etc very much welcome.

Rouge Boutique: a little corner of France in the High Street Arcade

Last week I popped into the delightful Rouge Boutique after chatting with the lovely owner Frederique a few days before on email.The boutique is a little corner of loveliness in the High Street Arcade, near to other fashion treats like Looby Loo’s boutique and Hobo’s Vintage just round the corner.

Rouge hasn’t always been in the High Street Arcade though, having moved from the Morgan Arcade around a year ago. If you pop into a Vintage Affair, you’ll notice some very similar wallpaper (there’s pics coming up on the blog soon, don’t worry).

Frederique tells me there’s a slightly different clientele in the High Street Arcade, although there’s some loyal customers that have followed the shop. Here she finds the customers to be slightly younger, perhaps a bit more trendy, although there is probably a smaller amount of footfall.

As you might have guessed from the name Rouge, the owner’s name and the Parisien influences in the shop’s decoration, Frederique is French. Making the (slightly mad?) decision to leave Paris for Wales some 30 years ago, up until fairly recently she was a French teacher in a school in the Valleys. Realising that she didn’t want to do it until retirement, and always having a fondness for clothes and fashion, she decided to set up Rouge around 2 years ago.

Drawing on designer and vintage influence, the clothes are sources from clothes fayres and so on, and most of the designers are European. Prices are varied, with some of the accessories ranging from as little as £8, so there’s something in here for most price points.

Also working in the shop you’ll find Frederique’s daughter, Sophie who is also training to be a teacher. The duo also live together, but Sophie tells me they’ve managed to maintain a great relationship.

Another great relationship is between the shop and the arcades themselves. Both Sophie and Frederique tell me how much they love the arcades, and how they couldn’t imagine their shop being anywhere else. A common (and nice to hear) theme for many of the shop owners I visit.

There’s more photos from the delightful Rouge below, and if you want more, please look in this Flickr set. And don’t forget to visit the Rouge website to find out more information.

Folk Farm: the most incredibly insane (in the best possible way) shop in Cardiff’s Arcades

Knowing where to start on this post is incredibly difficult. If you know anything about the shop, Folk Farm, or its charismatic owner, Chris Brick you’ll know why. If you don’t… well… prepare for something like you’ve probably never seen before.

Folk Farm is like no other arcade shop. In fact, it’s like no other shop. Certainly I’ve never witnessed anything like this before. Based around the theme of an old country farm, with sprinklings of the American mid-West liberally dashed around the place, this is a clothes-cum-record-cum-god-knows-what shop nestled away in the Castle Arcade.

If you’ve walked past it you’ve probably not really had any idea what’s going on in there. And if you’ve been brave enough to venture in, you’ve probably come out none-the-wiser.

It actually boasts Britain’s, if not Europe or the World’s largest collection of folk vinyl. Put simply there is a LOT here. It doesn’t seem to be in any order, so you will really need to root around if you’re looking for something in particular. There’s incredibly rare stuff here too, I’m not exactly in the know about this kind of thing, but you would hope a £100 record is £100 for a good reason.

On the other end of the spectrum, the clothes are amazing value. You’ll find mountains of t-shirts for £5. Or even £1 in some of the baskets. You’ll find random bits of clothing in the window that you could probably even haggle on the price of. You’ll also find random bits of whatever from all over the place floating around.

This isn’t the first time the owner, Chris Brick, has owned a shop of course. Oh no, far from it. Go in and ask if you want more details, honestly it’s really worth the chat. According to Chris, every 7-10 years he thinks up a new random idea, always based around a certain theme, and goes with it. He’s taken his shops to the US, notably in New York and San Francisco, but now, in what he thinks will be his last venture, he’s back in his homeland of Wales for Folk Farm.

Anyone familiar with his past might know of his previous ventures, Demob in London, Smylon Nylon in New York, Center for the Dull, also in New York and Teenage Millionnaire in LA. If you’re not familiar, now is a good time to get acquainted with the latest project. But even they weren’t his first ventures, he tells me, in his Welsh-American lilt that his initial business projects all collapsed, losing hundreds of thousands in the process. But he always picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got on with the next one. Until people started to cotton on and the shops became successful, a bit weird, a bit different, somewhere people just want to hang out.

He lives up by Abergavenny, the surrounding counties being the places he sources his crazy collection of goods from.  He tells me a lot of things in the shop are designed to evoke memories in customers. The tin bath for example, which you’ll find hanging off the ceiling as you come in the door (of course), reminds him of fireside baths as child.

Unbelievably, Chris says that not that many people have come to photograph the shop before for the press and so on. What?! I ask, probably 10 times during the course of our 2 hour chat. This can’t be possible. Why wouldn’t people want to photograph this? This is the most incredible place I’ve been in for a long time. Stand on one spot in the store and you can take 50, no 100 pictures and they will all be completely different. Honestly, try it out for yourself. Chris won’t mind, he just goes with the flow.

After leaving the States behind to come back, New York was the hardest market to crack apparently, Chris is less bothered about making money these days, so long as there’s enough to pay the rent and the bills and get by. This is clearly just about him doing what he wants to do and not worrying about what anyone else thinks – the best way to be.

His children, having grown up in America had to swap Malibu for the Welsh Valleys, love it all. They probably get their attitude from their father – it’s only his wife who would rather be back Stateside (on a rainy day would you blame her?).

You’ll see that I’ve taken a lot of portraits of Chris – all his idea. What can I say other than this guy’s a natural in front of the camera. He says he picked it up from watching the film extras that used to visit his American shops, but it’s obvious this isn’t the first time he’s been photographed. He asked to see one of the photographs I’d taken. “Look how old and fat I look!” he remarked. “Uh-oh…” went through my mind. “Isn’t it great!” was his next sentence.

Chris Brick and Folk Farm. Incredible guy, incredible shop. Go and check it out, now.

As you can imagine, I took hundreds of photos in this shop, of which I narrowed it down significantly. You can see a selection in this post, but there’s even more over on this Flickr set.

On this post, comments are, more than welcome, please share your thoughts, notes and insanity at the bottom.