Tucked away and hidden down an old passageway is Ding Dong Vintage, the first vintage shop to appear in the centre of Durham City. The quaint city centre has been long awaiting this shop, which opened in September 2009 to coincide with the return of the university students.

‘We wanted the residents of Durham to be able to access more than Jack Wills and a Burberry cap!’ said Lydia Johnson, the owner of Ding Dong Vintage.

The window display made up of fox stoles, witches and a mannequin kitted out in a quirky mismatched outfit, draws you into the shop to view the treasures inside. As soon as the door to the shop opens it is obvious that it is like no other shop in the city, crammed wall to wall with shoes, fur coats and jewellery. The shop is a real Aladdin’s cave!

The owner and inventor of Ding Dong Vintage Lydia Johnson appears from behind the hoards of clothes, hair piled up in a bun held up with her large framed glasses wearing a number of vintage items. It soon became clear that Lydia was very passionate about the shop.

‘I have lived in Durham my whole life and I felt like something was missing, all the shops were main stream and did not allow for a wide variety of clothing to be purchased. I wanted local fashion conscious individuals to be able to express themselves through more original and expressive clothing. There was nothing like this before and I wanted to bring something new to the city.’

Lydia has really made the shop into something special; the walls are adorned with quirky memorabilia from the 1920’s right up to the 80’s that show various styles and trends, which demonstrate to teenagers how to create their own vintage looks. Another very striking feature of the shop is the décor; the walls are covered with a variety of contrasting wallpapers that bring a sense of authenticity and age to the store.  Hanging from the ceiling and peering from the corners’ of the shop are several witches riding broomsticks, on first glance they appear to be menacing however Lydia was quick to say,

‘The witches are Pendale Witches and they are meant to be good luck charms. They all have their own names and I feel they give another dimension and add personality to the shop.’

The clothing sold in the shop is found from a variety of sources; some specialist items are bought in while others are scouted from charity shops and some garments and accessories are brought into the shop as donations from members of the public. The garments that are bought in by the shop tend to be the designer pieces from well known names such as Karen Millen and Dolce and Gabanna. By having a range of sources to receive the clothing from it allows customers to access the whole spectrum from bargain charity shop finds to higher end designer items.

During my visit to the shop their was a constant stream of customers coming in to view the vintage gems available, ages varying from mid teens to late 50’s as there is something in the shop that appeals to people of every age. When asked which products the shop sold most of Lydia giggled,

‘Well you would be surprised! I have actually sold quite a few fur coats to environmentalists! They said that they are so warm when they stand outside all day and they think that vintage garments should be appreciated! But all of the garments seem to sell, the women’s fur coats and men’s thick knit jumpers seem to be selling well at the minute, young girls seem to be buying the fur stoles to wrap round their necks, it looks very stylish at the minute!’

Aside from the style of the clothing and décor of the shop the only noticeable difference between Ding Dong Vintage and any other high street shop is the average size of the clothing.

‘We are brought up in a society where small dress sizes are the norm, but older styles of clothing tend to have been made for larger women. We try to get a range of sizes in the store to give everyone the same chance of finding a garment they will love!’

When routing through all the clothes it was noticeable that bigger clothing sizes were more readily available. Where this could be an issue for all those skinny women today who want to be able to wear vintage clothing…do not panic, the shop offers to do alterations on clothing for just a small fee.

With such diversity and with the range of products meaning there is something for everyone, Ding Dong Vintage is sure to be a hit. Only time will tell if the shop will be able to earn its own name in the vintage industry.

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