Word of mouth: Vintage heaven

He builds hot rods. She likes pretty dresses.

Together Brook Bodiam and Emma Hinchcliffe are a match made in a vintage-lover’s heaven.

The couple is behind Tighes Hill’s MisKonduct Klothing – a vintage fashion and tea house on the corner of Elizabeth and Union streets.

The grand old building was an art gallery in a former life.

Now a weathered Coca-Cola sign adorns the wall above retro tables and chairs in the cafe.

A chandelier and an old-style bike hang from the ceiling.

To a soundtrack of rockabilly tunes, shoppers kick back with a coffee or tea and a macaron in the cafe or little courtyard before flicking through the racks of retro and vintage-inspired clothing and accessories.

‘‘I didn’t really know much about ’50s style or retro fashion until I met my partner Brook about five years ago,’’ 37-year-old Hinchcliffe says.

‘‘Brook builds hot rods, so we’d go to car shows where I would see all the girls really dressed up, and I just fell in love with the fashion.’’

Having worked in real estate, then human resources, Hinchcliffe began MisKonduct Klothing as an online business selling vintage and retro fashion reproductions.

She spoke to the women she met at the car shows to find out what they were looking for, what they liked and what they didn’t like.

When clients started emailing to request opportunities to try on the clothes, she found herself setting up a small space in her converted warehouse home to accommodate.

Hinchcliffe also set up stalls at markets and car shows.

‘‘Brook built me this little warehouse, which was great for a while, but then I outgrew it,’’ she laughs.

‘‘We’ve got so much stock now.’’

Although many urged her to just enjoy the luxury of an online business with its smaller overheads, Hinchcliffe was sure a shop front could also be successful.

‘‘I despise going to shopping centres at the moment,’’ she says.

The hassle of finding a park, only to find carbon-copy colours and fashions, holds little appeal.

‘‘Ladies are now looking for different prints, something a bit special, and I think they just want to look like ladies again,’’ she says.

MisKonduct Klothing is a ‘‘destination shop’’, but since opening in September, business has been good.

‘‘People will wander in and find something they love, then talk about it to their friends,’’ she says.

‘‘So just through word-of-mouth we’re steadily building a good customer base. Then we’ve still got the online side of the business as well. I think they complement each other.’’

Some customers have driven from Sydney and from as far as Canberra to rifle through clothes by the likes of Pinup Couture and Bernie Dexter.

Hinchcliffe imports most of her stock from the US.

‘‘It takes a lot of effort to source vintage-style clothes that aren’t made in China,’’ she says. ‘‘So they are probably a little bit more expensive, but they will last, and they won’t date.’’

The space upstairs at MisKonduct Klothing is often used as a studio for fun, tasteful pin-up photo shoots.

Recently it was used for a retro glamour hair and make-up workshop by the Lindy Charm School For Girls.

‘‘It’s such a pleasure to come to this beautiful building every day,’’ Hinchcliffe smiles.

‘‘Having a shop like this in Newcastle is pretty special, because people are travelling from all over to access it,’’ she says.

MisKonduct Klothing, 15 Elizabeth Street, Tighes Hill, is open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday until 4pm. Visit miskonduct.com.

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