A new vintage shop has burst on to the Dundee fashion scene, seemingly without warning.
Perth Road newcomer SookSouk, a funny-named little outfit next door to gift shop Kist, launched on Thursday with a sparkling reception that was advertised quietly on social media and then spread like wildfire through word of mouth.
Filled with music, courtesy of local DJ Dee Boogaloo and Jack Le Feuvre from neighbouring Le Freak Records, and teeming with trendy bargain-hunters trawling the racks, it was an opening night that fit owner Sharyn Farnan’s character like a well-made glove.
“It was mobbed!” laughs Sharyn, who is a weil-kent face in Dundee, having waitressed in the Parlour cafe on and off for several years as well as leading community design projects in the city.
“And it was a really young, funky crowd. The music was totally pumping, we got some beers in and some prosecco… it was just really good!”
Meeting DJCAD graduate Sharyn, it’s clear the prosecco was the second-bubbliest ingredient of SookSouk’s grand opening.
Opening a vintage shop has been a dream of hers since she was a wee girl growing up in Dundee, and her passion and enthusiasm for high-quality, sustainable and fun fashion is palpable.
Vintage love born in Virginia Galleries
“When I left school in the nineties, I always wanted to be different,” says mum-of-one Sharyn, who is venturing into business while also raising a toddler. “I’ve always loved dressing up.
“There was a place in Glasgow called Virginia Galleries, which isn’t there anymore. It was on three levels, with a mezzanine. And I would just get on the bus, on my own, on a Saturday.
“I’d take my wages from wherever I was working at the time – which wasn’t much – and go through there.
Virginia Galleries, Glasgow. Home of AKA Books and Comics, Rub-A-Dub Records and Mr Ben. pic.twitter.com/gNRHQ4Ggvc
— PictureThis Scotland (@74frankfurt) January 14, 2019
“In fact, I’ve still got one of the jackets I bought there, a leopard print fake fur coat.”
After studying fashion design in Manchester and completing her masters in design at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone art school, Sharyn kept her eye out for the perfect space for her dream shop, but the time was never right.
After a stint teaching in the mountains in Spain – “I’d always wanted to live in one of those hippy communities” – Sharyn came back to her native Dundee, and this autumn everything fell into place.
‘I thought: Right. Just do it.’
“I had been looking at shops on the Perth Road, and I have done for years,” explains Sharyn. “I’m always looking, thinking, ‘Even if I don’t have the money, I’ll find the money, I’ll get something started’.
“And then my dad’s best friend died about six months ago and he left me a little bit of inheritance. Not much, it’s not much at all – but it was enough.
“My upstairs neighbour actually has Kist, on Perth Road, which is next door to SookSouk. She came to my door one night and said, ‘That wee shop is empty’.
“I had the money to put down a deposit and the first month’s rent, so I just grabbed it. I thought, ‘Right, just do it.’”
That was less than six weeks ago. In a flurry of DIY shopkeeping, Sharyn refitted the shop, which was being used by a hair salon during the pandemic to accommodate social distancing rules.
Then last month, she journeyed down south to a wholesalers to hand-pick each and every item of stock on offer at SookSouk.
Acceptable in the ’90s
Leaning into the current “thrifting” trend for ’90s and Y2K fashion, SookSouk is a world away from the vintage shops Sharyn grew up visiting.
“Vintage clothing is a really fast-growing market,” she explains. “I think with Covid hitting, people are a bit more conscious sustainability-wise, but also folk are tightening their belts.
“The road I’ve gone down, it is more of a ’90s route, rather than the ’60s dresses and things I would’ve worn as ‘vintage’ years ago.
“Everyone seems to be into the branded sweatshirts like Fila and Kappa now. I’ve mixed them with a lot of nice knits as well.”
With the return of wide-leg jeans, baggy sweaters and claw clips, the ’90s look has dominated pop culture in the last two years – Grammy-winning Taylor Swift’s 2020 lyric “I come back stronger than a ’90s trend” has graced zillions of teenage Instagram captions the world over – so it’s no surprise that Sharyn is already having to restock after being open less than a week.
But with sustainability and quality at the forefront of her mind, Sharyn won’t be rushing to fill up the stockroom.
“I do want to get in some of those beautiful, classic, timeless pieces, like a Balenciaga suit jacket or something,” she muses. “But I didn’t want to buy loads of so-called ‘vintage’ stuff just for the sake of having a vintage shop.
“Things were just made a bit better a long time ago. So I’m trying to bring that element of value back, where you buy something and it’s not fast and it’s not disposable.”
What’s in a name?
Indeed, it seems the shop is living up to its name, which combines Sharyn’s Scottish heritage (“sook”) with the word for traditional Arabian bazaars.
“In Marrakesh, they have the ‘souks’,”explains Sharyn. “I’ve been there, and I loved that they’re a bit of a mishmash. So I wanted to create that market feel – really vibrant and fun.”
And as in an old-school marketplace, Sharyn places as much value on face-to-face interaction with her customers as she does on the clothes.
She hopes the shop will become more than just a retail outlet, with plans for community workshops already in the works.
“Space is so important to me,” she reveals. “People were saying to me, ‘Oh it’s a big risk, taking on a shop. Wouldn’t you be better doing online to begin with and maybe doing some pop-ups?’
“And I’m like, ‘Do you even know me?!’
“I’m a people person, I need to speak to people. And everyone that’s been coming in, I’m like, ‘Is this your vibe? What do you want? Are the clothes right? Are the prices right?’
“I want people to tell me! And we can work around it.”
SookSouk is at 153 Perth Road, Dundee.