In the heart of Folkestone's Creative Quarter, among independent food traders, galleries, studios and an arthouse cultural hub, lies Ben's Vintage. Founded by husband and wife duo, Ben and Svenja O'Connor, this store began as an online venture driven by their passion for unearthing stand-out apparel from the past, like European and American workwear, denim, and military attire.
Nestled just a stone's throw from the harbour, where distant views of France are possible on clear days, the shop has evolved to include contemporary clothing and accessories that harmoniously complement classic vintage pieces.
The philosophy at Ben's Vintage is simple yet meaningful: they curate their collection based on a genuine affection for each item, ensuring meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail. This approach is not only about breathing new life into old treasures but also about what will come to be seen as high-quality vintage in the future. That’s why they carry new brands too, like Uskees. We spoke to Ben to learn more about their story.
Could you share more about the journey that led Ben's Vintage from its online origins to a thriving physical store?
Ben's Vintage began as a digital endeavour fuelled by our shared fascination for authentic vintage pieces. Over time, our interest evolved, guiding us towards a curated blend of old and new, reflecting our belief in both craftsmanship and sustainability. This progression naturally led us to take on a brick-and-mortar presence, which allows you to connect with customers on a new level.
Your commitment to sustainability and quality craftsmanship is evident. How does your relationship with brands like Uskees resonate with your values and vision?
The starting point is the look and feel of things, but they have to be sustainable as well. Uskees sort of embodies that really, it's everything we look for in terms of quality and sustainability, but above all it just looks and feels great, the cut is perfect, everyone looks good in it.
Folkestone seems to have experienced a remarkable transformation. What’s special about this town?
Folkestone's revival has been extraordinary. After challenges posed by the closure of the ferry service – passenger ferry services from the Folkestone harbour arm ceased in 1999, having been unable to counter competition from the Channel Tunnel and increased frequency on services from Dover – the town embarked on a new phase of regeneration.
The restoration of the harbour arm and conversion of historic structures into new establishments breathed life back into the town. The high speed train service from London has meant the town's become a destination once again.
What should visitors to your store also do while they're in town?
We always recommend when people leave our shop they should head down the hill, past the resident Banksy artwork on our neighbour's wall, walk across the old railway viaduct now a garden bridge over the harbour and stroll along the harbour arm, effectively a pier. Halfway along steps lead down an Anthony Gormley sculpture gazing out over the channel and sometimes covered by the tide. After that, keep going to the lighthouse at the end of the arm, which is still a functional lighthouse, but whose lower floor now houses a champagne bar with the most fantastic views over the channel.
Shop Ben's Vintage online, or visit the shop at 56-58 The Old High Street, Folkestone, CT20 1RN.