Bristol constantly surprises me with the vintage shopping opportunities that lie within. Heartfelt is one such destination, a true vintage gem which I only had the pleasure of discovering a few weeks ago. Located on Clifton’s Alma Vale Road, a stone’s throw from Whiteladies Road, Heartfelt is a vintage boutique-cum-tea room where the focus is the overall experience of shopping for vintage clothing, which owner Mandy Hawkins is keen to create with an afternoon tea service and 50s music playing in the background.
I first heard of Heartfelt when I got chatting to a couple of bargain hunters in the queue for the recent Bristol Vintage Fair near Temple Meads, but it wasn’t until a friend told me about a one day flash sale in June that I finally discovered Heartfelt for myself. I fell in love with a 1950s circle skirt with white and blue stripes and a fruit print around the hem (trust me, it’s amazing!) and Mandy was kind enough to put it by for me.
Once the shop was back to normal – beautiful rails of colour-coded clothes and a cluster of art deco chairs and tables at the front of the shop – I popped back to pay for my skirt and chat to Mandy over a glass of elderflower fizz.
“I grew up with a mother and grandmother who constantly went to auctions and jumble sales so wherever I go, I’m always looking for new stock”
The key to Heartfelt working so well is that the customer really does come first – Mandy has dressed débutantes and actresses on the red carpet and her customers are loyal to her, following her from Somerset to Bristol where she set up shop two years ago. With over twenty years of experience in the rag trade, Mandy knows her stuff and is warm and friendly but not afraid to give her opinion if she thinks a garment you’re trying on could be improved somehow.
The vintage that has become a common sight on the high street isn’t what you’ll find at Heartfelt. 80s sportswear and batwing jumpers have no place here – the decade du jour is strictly 50s or earlier, with some ball gowns dating back 70 years and costing upwards of £300. But the boutique and tearoom are just the tip of the iceberg – Heartfelt is in fact a collective made up of milliners, make-up artists, florists, photographers and stylists. If you want a button moved or adress taken in, a seamstress is just a phone call away, and vintage tea parties for adults (and children) can be arranged without a fuss.
“I like making people feel special”
Any items that are too precious to sell can be hired out – while I was at Heartfelt a couple of young women came in enquiring about floral headdresses to take to Glastonbury – and if you just want to capture a vintage moment then Mandy and her team can put together a photo shoot for you.
The atmosphere of the shop is relaxed and friendly, not a vibe I always get from vintage boutiques, making it a delight to shop in, as if you’re not in a shop at all but in the dressing room of a glamorous Hollywood actress, or a child playing dress-up in your Grandmother’s wardrobe. While ballgowns may be out of reach for most budgets, there is affordable vintage to be found for around £30-£100, each piece with a distinct tale to tell.
Have you been to Heartfelt yet? What other vintage gems have you discovered in your neck of the woods recently?
Heartfelt, 32 Alma Vale Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2HY. Open 9.30am – 5.30pm Tuesday to Saturday.