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Velvet Vintage: Be As Bold As Your Lipstick

Accessories can make or break any outfit. You'd be surprised how much the right accessory can liven up your outfit, it can take you from looking like Plain Jane to Jessica Rabbit. I spoke to Vanessa Tiffney Smith - A jewelry designer known for her bold vintage-inspired designs about how she developed such a passion for it.

Vanessa Tiffany Smith, velvet vintage, vintage accessories,
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your life and how you started designing?

A: “Well, growing up I was always drawing or creating something. My mom was an artist and seamstress, she ran her own clothing company and my dad was a builder and always showing me how to make things. I think creatively I turned out a real amalgamation of both parents! All throughout school, I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I studied Fashion Design at both Mackworth College and Derby University. From there I continued to make my own clothes, launched my own label 'ROXY by Vanessa-Tiffany' which would sell in a couple of independent stores in town, and another collaborative label with my mother, ridiculously titled 'Long Haired Freaky People'. So I guess I don't really remember a starting point as such, designing was just always in me. I grew up around creativity.”

Q: Why did you choose to design jewelry?

A: "I remember reaching a point where I never wanted to cut and sew another dress as long as I live. Of course, I did do eventually, but for a while, I certainly felt like I'd overdosed on clothes making. I had always hoarded haberdashery, beads, broken jewelry, old belt buckles you name it. If I thought it was pretty or could be useful someday, I kept it. Even back then, about 12 years ago now, I was hell-bent on not letting these things go to waste. 'Upcycling' wasn't a known term then, but that's what I was doing. Taking all these old broken bits n pieces and giving them a new lease of life as something else. Eventually, friends would start bringing me bags of their old jewelry and say "Can you do anything with these?". It just grew from there."

Q: How did you get into designing?
A: "As soon as I left school I launched straight into fashion design study. Even at school, I had two teachers fight the powers that be for me to take their classes for my exams. I was the first student in the history of my school to take both Art and Textiles for GCSE (that's the UK equivalent to a US High school Diploma) thanks to them. Prior to that, students were only allowed to choose one or the other because both subjects fell in the same module of the curriculum. That's when I knew other people saw something special in me that I had to do something with."

Vanessa Tiffany Smith, velvet vintage, vintage accessories, velvet vintage,

Q: I noticed that a lot of your designs are vintage inspired, why is that?
A: "Definitely! I'm a huge vintage and retro fan! I've always drawn inspiration from the past for as long as I can remember, be it from films, music, old Hollywood movie stars or mid-century decor - I find it all so exciting! The glamour and silhouettes of the '40s, the kitsch and the color of the '50s, the swinging 60's - the decade that birthed the supermodel and the mini-skirt. The glittering disco, free love and psychedelic rock of the '70s. Even the '80s (the era that some say 'taste' forgot!) gave us punk, New Romantics and sizable shoulder pads! Nothing seems new these days, fashion moves far too fast! Fashion trends are advertised at us 52 weeks of the year in a way they never have been before. We no longer have Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons. A fashion trend only lasts a week before it's outdated by the next lot of targeted advertising. Because of that, fast fashion, 'style' has been lost, in my opinion. Back then, there was always style, above all else!"

Q: What are some of your favorite eras to design from?
A: "I'm definitely a 70's and 80's rock chick myself. Although my creations probably embody the 50's through to the '90s. "

Q: Do you wear your designs in real life?
A: "Yes, I do. I'm very guilty of making something or sourcing vintage to sell but then keeping them for myself. I'd say I use my shopper bags above all else, although I do often wear my own chokers and earrings."

Vanessa Tiffany Smith, velvet vintage, vintage accessories, velvet vintage,

Q: A lot of your designs are very bold and unique, Is that something you try to do or is that something that naturally occurs when you design?

A: "A bit of both. I'm naturally very drawn to color and pattern, so the jewelry I make in particular does usually end up being bold statement pieces. Because I upcycle so many of my materials, each piece I make is usually a  one of a kind. That's important to me. I would rather wear something that is 100% unique that nobody else in the world owns than something that is mass produced."
Q: In your opinion what’s the best design so-far?

A: "It's hard to say, I have several answers for that. The giant hair bow is the backbone of The Velvet Village, it's what put TVV on the map! I started making them 11 years ago from vintage fabrics and remnants but today they are mainly PVC. Drag queens, club kids, and fetish folk LOVE them. My all-time favorite design is probably the shaggy cardigans I introduced in 2018. Each one is upcycled, handmade with love and totally unique. I think they're beautiful. But, I'd say I get the most joy out of making bespoke jewelry or wack headwear."

Q: Any up and coming sales or designs we can look forward to?

A: "Yes! I have big plans to push the arty side of The Velvet Village. I'm going to be introducing my art prints to the shop and with that comes a whole new realm of TVV. My plan is to expand into T-shirts with my illustrations on and homewares such as table mats, coasters, wall hangings, lampshades, etc. I'm really excited about this next chapter. I've been sitting on ideas for far too long, it's time to break them out!"