From Sunderland To Spitalfields: Do attitudes to fashion change when you move to the capital?

Influenced by the idiosyncratic offerings of the Advanced Style ladies like Iris Apfel, Durham born Amber Bryan- Smith thoroughly believes in dressing to fulfill your own creativity.

Currently studying Fashion Styling at The London College Of Fashion, 20-year-old Amber (also known as The Original Vintage Queen) feels like a cultural chameleon. She is embracing the artistic avenues of the capital and feeling comfortable enough to push the fashion boundaries, perhaps juxtapose to her previous surroundings of the North-East.

Sitting down for tea with Amber and her mother in Sunderland, the room is entirely focussed on her presence. Giggling and sipping tea, her aesthetics are like a harlequin circus ringmaster meets 80’s Cleopatra on Wall Street meets Harajuku bubblegum nymph. Rapidly came the discussion of creative styling and how it is received in certain places, particularly in the North-East.

She commented that: “When I used to live at home it would always be a mixture of reactions. I would get so many nice comments but so many rude and nasty comments which would make me feel down and hold me back from wearing 100% what I wanted to wear.”

She went on to mention about her newly acquired cross cultural experiences in different areas of London saying: “Now, since moving here I haven’t had one negative or rude comment and it’s almost been 12 weeks. Here they’re all positive, I get so many positive comments from people and photographed a lot. I got photographed 8 times the other week on Brick Lane.”

Her explanations were even more visually apparent in the coffee shop. Her peacock like appearance caught lots of attention from passers by, both positive and negative, something she is very much used to, explaining: “When I’m at home I usually get comments like; ‘what the well is that?’ I’ve had so many comments I’ve lost count. I’ve even been called a man before in broad daylight because I’m tall in heels. ‘What the hell is that’ is a normal everyday occurrence when I’m at home.”

As she brushes her statement Chanel earrings she continues to explain how London brought out her fashion creativity in a way she didn’t realise possible: “I am very influenced by everyday surroundings and the places I’m at. For example, my new favourite places in London are Spitalfields and Brick Lane because I love the energy of the people and the area itself. I get inspired just walking around and seeing all the different people. Their styles influence me hugely.”

Why must I wear white when it rains 😳😳😳😳 #style #stylist #fashion #fashionblogger #retro #vintage #outfit

A photo posted by Amber Bryan-smith 💛💃✌ (@originalvintagequeen) on

Although Age UK on Sunderland’s Blandford Street is her favourite place on the planet to thrift, she still wishes she could bring the cultural acceptance of ‘out-there’ creative fashions to areas of the North-East without the stigmas and the criticisms.

She explained that: “I love the North East – it’s cheap charity shopping and normally friendly attitude but I feel like since moving there [London] being creative is celebrated differently. It’s a good thing to be creative and you are appreciated for being creative. People don’t stop you in the street to ask whether you are wearing fancy dress but to tell you that you have made their day better. Compared to home where you would be laughed at and insulted sometimes. I feel I can be my 100% creative with my work and styling here because I won’t get judged or insulted by people. I just feel so much more free to be myself.”

Amber’s mother, Jill, added: “I’m so proud of Amber achieving her dream of styling, we have always known that she had something different to give to the fashion world, even from a young age. I’m so proud to call myself the mam of The Original Vintage Queen! I just wish I could have her around home more but it’s so much better for her to be somewhere that ignites her creativity even more. I just wish places outside of London could be more accepting. I’ve been with her when people make negative comments and it is so frustrating.”

Like every enthusiast dedicated to their craft, Amber battled like many to keep the negative comments from originally changing her style when she lived in the North-East: “It has never made me want to conform more for some reason and I don’t know why! When they first make comments it upsets me a little bit and makes me question myself for a few minutes. But all the nice comments from people outweigh the nasty comments so after a few minutes I tend to forget about the comments and just get on with it!

“It’s never made me want to conform more because I am who I am. I wouldn’t be me if I dressed like everyone else does I wouldn’t be happy.”

Follow Amber on Instagram on @originalvintagequeen


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