My earliest shop venture was called ‘Tigerlily’ – a first-wave vintage clothes shop, on Mill Road, Cambridge. I signed a lease on the building along with a couple of friends in Oct 1974. I had a six week old baby, so it was madness, but my energy was running high. Helen and I took over the large upstairs room for our ‘period’ clothes (the term ‘vintage’ was unknown then, likewise ‘retro’). Downstairs, Paul and Arunee ran their jewellery business, selling gems and fine jewellery from Thailand. One of the first things we noticed was that the walls sprouted a fine crop of fungi, and throughout our tenancy of about six years, we had to call up the landlords constantly with reports of leaking roofs and dripping ceilings. Still, it was cheap. We did excellent sales of granddad collarless shirts, 1940s crepe dresses, 1930s chiffon ball gowns, Victorian nighties and petticoats, Hungarian smocked blouses, deco scarves, demob suits for men and, come May Ball time, old but rather stylish djs and tailcoats. 50s gear was not yet back in fashion, though we risked a few baseball jackets and full flowered skirts.
Sourcing it was fun. I would get up about 3am on Sunday morning and drive down to the Cheshire St area, near Brick Lane in London, where clothes were sold out of bales in old warehouses and derelict shops, and often off the pavement itself. I discovered ‘rag warehouses’ too in places further north, especially Batley in Yorkshire, where the kindly women would save ‘the hippy stuff’ for me. All this required a lot of laundering – my washing machine worked day and night, and we had a paid team of part-timers to help out with the sewing and ironing. At the other end of the scale, I attended costume auctions held by Phillips and Christies in London, and creamed off all sorts of costumes, embroideries and lace that weren’t of interest to the specialist buyers.
Our customers were varied and included students, teenagers, costume dealers, and mums or grannies buying an antique christening robe for a new baby – born at that time in the Mill Road Maternity Hospital opposite. The shop turned a good profit, partly because it cost very little to set up, since we simply acquired clothes rails, a curtain for a changing room, a couple of old haberdashers units with drawers, (bought from a gentleman’s outfitters over the bridge in Mill Road which was closing down), an antique counter and an elderly till. My children, then very young, remember playing hide and seek among the clothes on the rails. It was great fun, and when I’d had enough after five years or so, I handed my side of the business over to a woman called Caz, who’d worked for me. The jewellery business downstairs had moved earlier to new premises in the Burleigh St area, re-named itself ‘Rosecut’, and the Afghan import business (from Cambridge market, I think) took it over for a number of years.
I would love to read other people’s memories of Tigerlily, and to see any more photos. Scroll down to see what they've already been saying on Facebook!
My favorite shop in my teens. Bought a Chinese silk jacket and thought I was the bee's knees!
I loved Tiger Lilly. Was a brilliant 'alternative' shop!
Loved it! - Lived on Tension Rd at the time so was always peeping in the window. I bought a jewel green velvet jacket from there - was around 14 yrs old at the time, so was a big deal for me -used all my cash but was worth every penny
Tiger Lily, make your own earrings, satin espadrilles, and patchouli oil downstairs and vintage heaven upstairs. Loved it
Tiger lily ... Patchouli, a great second hand airforce jacket with a customised "tail", my first ball gown, a pair of gorgeous vintage winkle puckers,, incense, and best of all .. My black velvet Chinese shoes with black soles ... I loved them .. Circa 1982-5
Yes, I bought two dresses there that have huge memories, one was black satin with cream lace back and diamonte buttons, I wore it to gatecrash the mayballs on a punt, punk era, siouxsie sioux hair, the second was a pale pink cream muslin boned dress that I wore to dance in the streets or Paris
I remember Tiger Lily. I moved to the Mill Road area in 1977, so it looked just like that! I remember the shop as bohemian and a bit hippy. It would probably now trade as "vintage".
I shopped there all the time!
(‘Mill Road History’ Facebook 2015)