REGEN FASHION STORE OWNER ALLY BLACKGROVE GETS PERSONAL ABOUT SHOPPING.
From pop-up stall to leading modern vintage store, Handsome Freaks is that neon, shut-up and come and look at this regenerated clothes brand.
‘cene magazine first met Ally Blackgrove during a shoot at Dreamland last summer, but as one of the most recognisable brands in Margate Old Town, it was never going to be long that we met up once more.
Sat in Margate Location House, we got to the bottom of the business.
Ally will be recognisable to some as the bassist of former Margate surf punks Two Wounded Bird,s which had more than a little notoriety with a string of records and even an appearance on the Introducing Stage at Glastonbury 2011 (check ‘em out on YouTube).
And, as we discover, it was her time in the band that inspired Ally to start her own fashion outlet.
“When we were in the band, companies used to send us free clothes all the time,” explains Ally. “Say Top Shop would send us stuff and then we’d see loads of other people wearing it, and that used to annoy me.
“You don’t want to be on stage and have people in the crowd wearing all the same clothes as you.
“The value of high street shopping just totally went for me, so I started shopping in vintage shops. And now all my clothes are second hand or vintage. That’s what it came from I guess.”
Having parted company with band, Ally set up her stall at Thanet’s former indoor market, Rough Trade.
“I used to give away my clothes to my friends, but realised I could sell them and do it quite well,” says Ally. Just three months later the shop next door to the now Handsome Freaks store in broad Street came available and Ally snapped it up.
While the story behind name of the business is best left for the romance pages, Ally is far from random about the clothes she stocks, flying around the world to get a gander at every garment.
“I just really like shopping and travelling, so I wanted to put that into my life and my business,” she says. “I buy clothes that I like. But I’m super fussy. I handpick everything. Shopping, to me, is touching it and feeling it.”
However, you want to say it, vintage, regenerated or pre-loved, Ally sources high quality garments for her clientele.
“Most things are pre-owned or dead stock from stores. I don’t like wasting stuff. I would mend something rather than throw it away.”
Just waking into Handsome Freaks, customers will get the style straight away. There are huge influences from music, popular and retro culture and in your face branding.
“My influences are punk, hip hop, chav style from when I was younger and big America brands like Harley Davidson or Disney.”
“A lot of the time I get sad,” she says. “I have taken items back off the hangers and decided it’s not for sale because I love it so much.
With the miles that she travels and the time she takes to gather it, there’s no wonder that Ally gets attached to her stock.
“I have also had to take stuff off people in the shop before when it has sold online. Because it is not a range it is a one-off item.
“People are quite sweet about it rather than asking ‘why the fuck is it in the shop then?’”
Just don’t mention the “immaculate Chanel suit” which was sold for £150.
“There’s stuff that keeps me up at night. You are bringing it all back now!”
With its online store through Asos marketplace and an extremely popular Instagram account (good customers often star on it), Handsome Freaks has garnered some famous fans including Margatophile Pete Doherty and Jordan Stephens from Rizzle Kicks.
“I get to know my customers well, and I do buy for people who com in my shop as well.
“Because I have personally bought everything, I know exactly what’s in the shop and I can tell what sort of clothes they. There’s a catalogue in my mind.”