From ‘Old England’ Comes ‘Souvenir’

Inside the store

Old England, an independent historical clothing store located on Via dei Vecchietti, 28, once popular among many Florentines, re-opened under new management on Sept. 8 as Souvenir, a contemporary women’s clothing boutique. The new store will continue Old England’s up-scale styles while adding a contemporary twist.

First established in 1924, Old England was like no other in the city, known for its English wool sweaters and other English-style clothing, fabrics and umbrellas. Aside from this, it also sold an array of jams and biscuits. It was really unique, Florence’s own piece of the UK. After being open for 100 years, it sadly had to close due to economic reasons.

Although many changes will be made, the overall feel for the store will remain untouched.

Under it’s the new management of Alessandro Santi and designer Roberta Meliciani, the boutique will produce classical and smart style clothes that will even appeal to the younger generation. From tweed jackets to velvet bodysuits and joggers, even from swing trousers to mustard jumpers, the designs highly resemble both modern and vintage English clothes.

When the original shop first opened, it took its space from the closure of the alley and court connecting via dei Vecchietti and via Brunelleschi, which is still evidenced in Souvenir’s high, curved ceilings and stone-like walls, despite having been ‘re-vamped,’ with brand new décor, furniture and fixtures.

The store, although appears small, showcases its designs with retro style glass cabinets and drawers, completely different from the average shop layout, the ambience is embellished with antique chandeliers and wrought iron sofas with overstuffed cushions.

Located at the back of the store are five changing rooms, tent-like draperies, made again from velvet. The curtain runs along a circular rail from one side of the wall to the other, with Victorian-like stool in the centre.

Every room has a different theme, with different floor tiles and coloured walls.  The middle room transmits a ‘conservatory’ feel, with a glass ceiling, green plants and blue walls embellished with painted trees.

Behind the cash register, is an entryway to an underground passage, once used as a wine cellar during the 16th century. Now, the area will be used for conferences, meetings and other events.

The proud new managers now have a wonderful team of a few shop assistants always dressed in quirky outfits. “The most important thing for us is having a small group of people who are passionate about clothing. They don’t have to know a lot about the history of Old England Stores or English fashion, but they must have the right personality.”

Souvenir’s priority will be bringing regular modern yet classic style lines to maintain their returning customers.

Old England’s signature products may not be available immediately. “Instead of selling jams and other food products, we would rather have them as an extra ‘gift’ for our valuable customers. For now we are focusing on the clothing, once we are established, we will think about any extra touches.”

Some jams and biscuits are, however, displayed amongst the clothes to help bring the ‘old England’ feel.

Souvenir is open on Mondays and every last Sunday of the month from 3:30 – 7:30 pm and on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 am – 7:30 pm. (karen gee)