ESP’s parents used to work in the antiques trade so spent a lot of their time at sales, auctions and car boot sales. ESP buys a lot of his wine at auction, and we regularly go to pre-auction viewings of big art sales – it’s like going to a gallery but not as crowded.
But today was the first time I went to a viewing of a fashion and textiles auction, at Kerry Taylor in Bermondsey. It was extraordinary in its accessibility – some of these pieces you think could be museum items, but they’re on hanging rails that you can rummage through as if it was a sample sale. It’s even possible to try some on, though you have to ask.
There were quite a few pieces by Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell and Biba, a Pucci velvet ensemble from the 1970s, and designs by other fashionista idols such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Zandra Rhodes and Balenciaga.
However, I made a beeline for the textiles. Some of the larger pieces were hanging on the walls, but most were in bags or boxes – a perfect excuse for a rummage!
Anyone who knows me is aware that it’s very difficult to get me out of a charity shop until I’ve scoured extensively every bin and rail, so this was my idea of bliss. And instead of turning up scraggy old vests and stained bibs, I was discovering lovely ikats and embroideries along with more experimental items. Most was from the 20th century, but there were some older pieces, like a striking 18th-century blue and white Chinese coverlet fragment.
Anyway, I left a bid on a box of shawls and stoles, mainly modern, including pieces by Yamamoto, Miyake and Kenzo. It includes a fascinating mix of items, from a collage badge stole and a feather-fringed silk shawl to a gauze stole with woven bamboo medallions and some splendid embroidery.
The auction is on Tuesday afternoon, so fingers crossed!
There’s no viewing on Tuesday morning, but you can go and have a look tomorrow (Monday 13 May), 9am-5pm.
Kerry Taylor Auctions is at 249-253 Long Lane, Bermondsey, London SE1 4PR.