Sonia Boriczewski, owner of The Old Haberdashery in Ticehurst tells us how she’s developed her business since opening in 2012, and how a chance encounter at a fair led to a dream collaboration…
I trained as a textile designer specializing in Knitted Textiles and left Chelsea College of Art and Design with a first class honours degree back in 1997. After graduating I set up on my own designing paper yarn accessories of which two pieces are held in the Crafts Council permanent collection and I produced some for Shirin Guild. I then spent nine years living abroad, teaching Textiles and Costume History in Shanghai and then four years in Barcelona taking time out to have a family.
On returning to England I knew I wanted to use my creative talents and knowledge and start my own business. I had spent a lot of time foraging in the antiques markets in Shanghai, finding beautiful old textiles and antiques and have always had a passion for the old and unloved, coupled with an inherent desire to make things. I began sewing when I was six learning from an old lady in my village. Bringing all this together led me to my current path.
I started small by way of local fairs and renting a small space in a local vintage clothes shop. This gave me the confidence I needed and a chance to try out my style of vintage and haberdashery, marrying the two.
What I wanted to create was a space where people could come and experience something. A spot of retail theatre, some treasure hunting, colour therapy and leave filled with ideas of things to make and projects to begin. Where possible I source vintage but this is not always achievable so I also stock things that fit in with the ethos of the shop. Most of the things in my shop tell a story and that’s what makes it different whether its how it’s made or who is the personality behind the product.
It took me a good year to develop my own ‘Old Haberdashery’ style. The biggest compliment I received recently was from a fair organizer who invited me to one of her events saying ‘there’s no one doing what you do’. Knowing where you fit in and finding a different take on what you do has been so important.
People’s reaction to what I was and am now doing definitely inspired me. People’s enthusiasm drives me. Since opening I have continued to exhibit at events such as The Decorative Living Fair. These have been invaluable in letting people know where I am and also all sorts of contacts can be made. I love the camaraderie of it too. I think a lot of small businesses assume that people will find them but I’ve learnt that you have to do a little bit of shouting from the rooftops.
For a year I produced a range of vintage haberdashery for Liberty. Unbeknownst to me, head buyer Julie Hassan came onto my stand at the first Decorative Living Fair I did back in 2013. She initially put in an order for some handmade cards but then a few weeks later invited me up to London to discuss creating a range of vintage haberdashery for them. The range consisted of sourcing vintage buttons, lace trims and fabrics which was all packaged under The Old Haberdashery name. It was very exciting working with such a prestigious London store and a great experience – it was such a thrill to climb the famous wooden stairs to the fourth floor and see your own products on display in the haberdashery department. So, it goes to show, you never know who will walk onto your stand and what that might lead to!
Sonia will be exhibiting at the Decorative Living Fair at Eridge on May 13 and 14.