Celebrating World Heritage Day by sharing our backstory

Celebrating World Heritage Day by sharing our backstory

Elspeth Walker

Portobello Vintage Market is all about connections. Connecting with people, places, artistic processes, and increasing positive connections to our communities, especially the environment. It’s no surprise then to learn that the business as it is today was built the same way.

When I met Rushab it was New Year’s Eve, and we were just chatting, sharing our work and creative ideas. This casual encounter turned out to be a serendipitous start to 2022. It’s the same way Rushab and Holly became partners back in 2020. At the time Holly was looking for a way to step out of the corporate world, and move towards making her passion for vintage clothes and ethical fashion a career. Rushab was looking for someone with the same drive to share the new online market with a wider community. An Instagram direct message asking about advice on selling on Depop turned into a conversation and cup of tea on Portobello Road. Sun shining, sat on stools, about to wander through the deadstock and vintage clothes Rushab’s father and uncles had remaining - it was a match. The result being the Portobello Vintage Market we see today. 

Authentic connections are key to this company. Something that I feel odd saying, as once you sit with both Rushab and Holly, explore the warehouse, and hear Rushab’s Dad talk about the origins of the stock, it feels like a community or family rather than the connotations you usually get with the term company. And, like any family it has a long heritage that still guides it today. 

The market began with Rushab’s father and uncles, who first established it at Kensington market in 1976. For years they travelled around, collecting signature items from other markets, or communities. They travelled across India, Afghanistan, Nepal to Pakistan. Collecting items of clothing that created a global network of fashion in their fibres. Taking the traditional or contemporary styles of places they knew and visited, they brought them to London, styling them in a new way that merged with the Western style to create a new look for the 70-90’s.


Shop front on Portobello Road with hundreds of clothes and fabrics draped chaotically outside, whilst Rushab's dad tends to the display

 I’ve heard snippets of stories, from Rushab being dragged along markets on holidays, to his uncle explaining how each part of a single jacket is the art of craft workers across India. The physical shop, Fusion, closed on Portobello years later, with lots of old items being stored away in a warehouse, left for many years. 

It was with this vintage collection, and a drive to move the clothes industry away from fast fashion, that the Portobello Vintage returned to operate as a digital market. Now with a keen commitment to share the cultures and histories behind each item, whilst cultivating a new community that focuses on an environmentally friendly future, yet keeping the reference to Portobello road as a nod to their heritage

The business is the clothes. Take their Afghan patch jackets and waistcoats. Each one of these items has a beautiful heritage in itself. Each item has upcycled velvet from India, which was also embroidered there, combined with patches of cloth from Afghanistan. These small patches go back to a wider tradition of travellers and nomadic life, creating clothes from smaller pieces of cloth. This combination of recycled materials, that are all different ages, from a variety of places and traditions, coming together to form contemporary styles for both the stalls of the 90’s and today, is a perfect mirror to the business.

A mix of cultures, histories, and knowledge combining together with one drive: to share these unique pieces with a conscious community.

This cyclical nature of rebirth and regeneration is integral to Portobello Vintage Market. From their Karma Credits and their logo being the endless knot symbol, to plans to collaborate with other creatives, to take what others would see as binable stock and make new items today, renewal is key to their ethos. 

Company logo derived from the endless knot symbol

 This duo, expanding and moulding to the world around them, are not just extremely friendly people who have created a business off of simple and authentic conversations, but are on a mission to create a world where fashion means community driven and eco-friendly choices, keeping that wheel of life turning by styling the old for the new.


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