Two months ago, Charlie Chaplin appeared from behind the window polish of the apparently empty number 14 Hatter Street. Gradually he was joined by mannequins wearing clothes of every colour, by garden furniture, and by baskets of flowers tumbling out into the street.
Danielle Grey runs Huxster, a vintage shop of objets trouvés, vintage gowns and clothing, hats, shoes fashion, gardenaria and crockery. Danielle exudes the energy and enthusiasm that you would expect of someone who loves and understands fashion, but you are left thinking that there is more to her. So, when you learn that she has taken on, and beaten, cancer twice in her young life you understand a little better what it must be like to do something you love in a time you didn’t know you might have.
At 17, her early career as a dancer was curtailed by Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The loss of hair inevitably associated with the treatment was turned from a stigma into a positive feature, with Danielle designing and making head adornments from pashminas and rosettes and from denim, for herself and her fellow patients, to replace the usual hairpieces that cancer patients end up wearing. She introduces a line of thought, which recurs throughout our talk; that you do not have to do what is expected. Wear a pashmina. Look people in the eye. Wear orange with green, if it pleases you. As if she has been through a journey, an ordeal, which gives her the right to do what she pleases. It is refreshing and humbling.
A great deal of effort goes into sourcing the items and ensuring their provenance. Vintage items may be abundant but Danielle puts great emphasis on quality, and particularly on finding unusual items and those that might even be unique. This is clear from looking at the clothing rails in the shop where the clothing is clean, well presented and well-protected in cellophane. I ask her what defines her shop. There’s a pause. “Vintage, obviously; quality. I have a... quirky, well… emporium.” She lights her face: “I have an Emporium of Quirkiness!”
Located as it is a few hundred yards from the town centre, the ambience of the shop is well-suited to Hatter Street, away from the intensity of the Buttermarket and the Arc. Danielle enjoys the curiosity of young customers and explaining artefacts to them, encouraging them to try on colourful garments and to express themselves through what they wear. The thought, “You don’t have to do what is expected,” arises again.
Her credentials are impressive. She has worked with Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton, designed garments for Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model, and shadowed the designer Wendy Elsmore.
Among her inspirations are Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin, for the hard work they did to achieve their ambitions, and in Chaplin’s case, for his optimism: “Look up to the sky; you'll never find rainbows If you’re looking down”.
And who, exactly, is Charlie Huxster? I won’t be telling you. You’ll have to visit 14 Hatter Street for yourself, to find out. You won’t be disappointed.
Huxster is open 09:00 – 18:00, Tuesday to Saturday. Fleamarket in shop last Sunday of every month. No 14 Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1NE. 01284 489734.
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