Charming Magpies will charm your socks off!

Winchester is not only known for the Cathedral and its dramatic history; it is also famous as a haven of unique shops tucked away in the pretty side streets. Even so, walking down Parchment Street, you do not expect to turn a corner into a small cobbled yard and come upon a treasure trove of vintage pieces.

Karen and Emily Harris, owners of Charming Magpies, hand-pick every item, ensuring high quality and choosing pieces which they know will appeal to the people of Winchester.

“We try to keep an eye on main stream fashion and pick the original pieces of contemporary trends.”

This personal approach has not gone unnoticed; “People will come in for party outfits and ask us to style them [on] a particular theme.”

But they will not just kit you out with vintage dresses, jackets, shoes and handbags. The also carry several ranges of vintage-inspired jewellery, greetings cards and fascinators, all made by Hampshire locals. One particular necklace that I have fallen in love with is made from old watch parts, intricately pieced together to create a unique and original design.

These are provided by local designers who Emily and Karen work closely with. “We love to draw on the creativity in Winchester – it’s a city full of talent,” Emily says of people such as Jessica Wright and the creative minds behind Soobird and Forage & Find (the makers of the fabulous necklace mentioned earlier).

However, Karen and Emily emphasise that it has taken time to build these links and find people that will supply good quality products that live up to their standards.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but we love it. It’s such a buzz when you get a new shipment of clothes in and you are leafing through it.”

The sisters have been working in vintage for years, running a stall in the Winchester Antiques Market for a year and a half before opening the shop in June 2009. But even before this, they have always worn vintage “because it’s something different.”

“It used to be just called second hand, we’d go to charity shops and jumble sales” but now, says Karen, there is a “stigma” attached to these stores. “You can still find good stuff in them, but you have to sift through a lot of rubbish to get to it.”

At any one time you can find all sorts of bargains, even vintage from designers like Aquascutum, Chanel, Lanvin and Gucci.

“Everything has its place” from vintage to fast fashion and from designer to high street. However, they love the quality of vintage clothes; “things just aren’t made to last anymore.” Not to mention the unique items. “Every piece is individual. You look at some of the wild clothes and think ‘what parties has this seen?’ The history that comes with each piece is something to celebrate.” This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

They hope that the abundance of creative, individual people in Winchester will love their stock as much as they do, but emphasise that “Charming Magpies won’t just be this, we will expand and evolve because you can’t stay static”, and they are determined to be at the forefront of change.

words Bryony Symes

photographs Alix Rothnie @alixroth

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