The exposed stone walls of the Georgian building housing rural boutique Boheme lend a cool backdrop to a vividly comprehensive timeline of Vivienne Westwood womenswear. That a range of the punk doyenne’s rebellious creations should be housed in stately 1820s premises in the Cambridgeshire village of Wansford might initially seem incongruous, until you recall the designer’s fascination with period dress.
Boheme’s owner, Dagmar Price, sits before an original, gilt-framed, Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen poster sporting a tailored, ruffled white blouse and cropped trousers, a Westwood belt knotted loosely at her side. “When I first opened the shop in 2000, it was the world’s first independent Vivienne Westwood store,” recalls Price. “But we decided to become a vintage-only stockist in 2015. In many ways, the shop is now a revolt against the commercialisation of the brand.”
This renegade remark aside, Price holds an obvious affection for the designer to whom her shop is devoted. Chancing upon a photograph of Jackie Onassis in stunning red tweed within the pages of a Vivienne Westwood monogram, she remarks: “It was Malcolm McLaren who urged Vivienne to pursue the punk look, but that association makes it easy to lose sight of the elegance of her work.”
She pulls a bottle-green and scarlet Harris tweed skirt (£195) from the Gold Label rack, revealing a deeply vented, fully lined piece ideal for autumn. A lighter-weight Lochcarron tartan wool skirt (£220) from autumn/winter 2012 presents a sharply silhouetted alternative, with a shorter length and shallower vent. A cropped-sleeve blouse (£95) features a design modelled on Sèvres porcelain, and a quilted pastel blouson (£195) is lent a faintly anarchic air by its asymmetric front and pop-stud closure.
A full-length black viscose-knit gown (£3,370) with Swarovski crystals is ballroom-ready, its side-tie bows like an homage to the punk safety pin. This gown, like select other pieces, has never been worn. But at the heart of the establishment is pre-loved clothing that Price ships worldwide to a diverse clientele. And with Westwood’s current focus on environmentalism, she would probably appreciate the reuse/recycle ethos. Visitors to the shop include punk and new-wave luminaries, and though Price is the model of discretion, it’s clear that they come not just for the womenswear, but to rifle through Boheme’s bijou backroom menswear collection too.
A stroll across the shop floor reveals the more playful end of Boheme’s inventory: a Westwood-branded bottle of Chivas Regal whisky (£500), a signed limited edition Swatch watch (£495) – its face a giant Westwood orb – and baby-blue vinyl heels (£40) decorated with the designer’s signature red heart.
Price is a collector as much as shop proprietor, and this emporium is filled with the energy of her punk spirit and devotion to Westwood’s empire. “This really is my passion project,” she says. “I’m not ready to retire just yet – I’d rather grow old disgracefully. But in a good way…”